Alas, I don’t think I’ll be boarding a plane to the UK anytime soon. Not with my pitiful bank account.
And alas, that means I won’t be dining anytime in the near future, either, at the acclaimed Fat Duck restaurant.
So I did the next best thing.
I made “New Style” Ragu alla Blogonese, a recipe published a year or so ago in Saveur magazine that was inspired by one in “In Search of Perfection” (Bloomsbury), the book by the Fat Duck’s award-winning chef, Heston Blumenthal.
A Brit cooking an old-school Italian dish?
A Brit adding ketchup, fish sauce, and star anise to ragu?
Along with Worcestershire sauce, those ingredients heighten the meaty or umami taste of the dish. In fact, I even added a tad more fish sauce to up the ante.
I can’t say that this particular bolognese edged out my favorite one, Perbacco’s 5-Hour Pork Sugo. But it’s a definite contender. Unlike the Perbacco version that calls for ground pork, the Blementhal one uses boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1/4-inch dice. Whereas the Perbacco version cooks up into a cohesive, thick, rich sauce, the Blumenthal one has a texture more like chili, with distinct chunks of meat.
It’s quite hardy, and will satiate like nothing else on a blustery evening.
You don’t even have to bother with a plane ticket to enjoy a big bowl of it, either.
New Style Ragu alla Bolognese
(makes 4 cups)
4 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 fresh bay leaf
1 sprig tarragon
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1/4-inch dice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 large carrots, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed
1 cup white wine
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and crushed
2 tablespoons ketchup, or to taste
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 to 1 teaspoon fish sauce, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Using kitchen twine, tie together thyme, parsley, bay leaf, and tarragon. Set herb bundle aside. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add pork, season with salt and pepper; cook until browned, 12-15 minutes. Remove meat with a slotted spoon; set aside. Heat remaining oil in pot; add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, cloves, star anise, and coriander. Cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 15 minutes. Add wine; cook until evaporated, 4 to 6 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium. Add herb bundle, tomatoes, ketchup, Worcestershire, fish sauce, and Tabasco; season with salt and pepper. Simmer until tomatoes break down, 12-15 minutes. Stri in pork and milk, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until very thick, 3-3 1/2 hours. (Add a little water, if needed.) Discard herb bundle; stir in vinegar. Toss with fresh tagliatelle or pasta of your choice. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Adapted from a recipe from Saveur, inspired by Heston Blumenthal