Growing up in an Italian-American household in New York City, food was love…. And PASTA (especially with meat sauce) was the purest form of that love. Whether it is a Bolognese, or a ragu, the combination of savory tomato sauce, and the richness of slow cooked meat is a match made in heaven. For my family this recipe is the best of all of that, bringing delicious wild game flavors, tons of fresh herbs, more than a fair helping of garlic, a bit of heat and a sharp finish of good, imported grated cheese. It is not a recipe you can rush. It takes time to develop the favors, and also for the meat to reach the point where it is super tender and falls apart when you hit it with the forks. Take it out too soon, and the meat can be tough as nails, so put it in the oven, pour yourself a glass out of that bottle of wine you need for the recipe (another good reason to ONLY cook with wine that is good enough to drink from the glass) and relax while it does its thing. All in all, it is a very easy recipe, but don’t tell you friends that. Just invite them for dinner and let them think you slaved over it all day long!
Slow Braised Antelope Ragu
- 3 Lb. Antelope Roast – cut into large cubes (any venison is great for this)
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- 2 Carrots, diced
- 2 Celery stalks, diced
- 1 Large sweet onion, chopped
- 8 Cloves of garlic, pasted, or finely minced
- 1 Small can tomato paste
- 2 Cups hearty red wine (I prefer a Malbec or Barolo)
- 1/4 Cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 Large can crushed tomatoes (28 ounce)
- 2 Cups stock (I used game stock, but beef will work well)
- Fresh Rosemary (1 – 6-inch branch, leaves pulled and chopped)
- Fresh Sage (6 to 8 leaves, chopped)
- Fresh Thyme (1 – 6-inch branch – leaves pulled)
- Fresh Basil (8 to 10 large leaves)
- 1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes (to taste)
- Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano to serve
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Heat a couple of turns of olive oil in a large oven-proof Dutch oven on medium-high heat.
- Salt and pepper the meat liberally.
- Brown the meat on all sides in the hot oil. Brown the meat in batches, so that the oil stays very hot, and you get a nice crust to the meat.
- Remove the meat to a plate and set aside.
- Reduce heat and add the carrots, celery, and onion to the pot. Sauté until veggies are just beginning to brown. Add garlic and stir until it softens.
- Add the tomato paste, stirring constantly to cook the paste, this will bring out its sweetness.
- Add the wine, scrapping up all of the browned bits.
- Add the vinegar, return to a simmer.
- As the liquid in the pan reduces a bit, to about half, add the meat back to the pot.
- Add the tomatoes and stock. Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium high heat.
- Cover the Dutch oven and place it in the hot oven.
- Cook for 2 1/2 hours or until the meat is very tender.
- Remove meat and shred with two forks. I find the more you shred it, the better the flavor. Venison has no fat, so the smaller shred allows for it to mix better with the sauce to stay nice and moist.
- Add the meat back to the sauce and stir well to coat completely.
- Salt & pepper to taste.
- Cook the pasta, according to instructions on the package, but make sure it is al dente.
- Drain the pasta and toss with a light coating of olive oil.
- Place pasta in a bowl, and top with a big helping of the ragu, being sure to scoop up plenty of sauce as well.
- Top with grated Parmigiano Reggiano and EAT!