The "The Way We Eat" section of the New York Times' Sunday Magazine can be a hit or miss proposition for me. That's not say that I don't the stories aren't interesting or compelling. But often I find myself reading the article saying to myself "well I'll never make this ... interesting though." (The recent story on curried pork katsu being a prime example.)
In February though, Christine Muhlke's story on ragus sent most of the foodie blogosphere, myself included, scurrying for their kitchens. I've now made two of the ragus (the beef and the lamb) in the story twice and encourage you to jump on the ragu-makin' wagon.
The benefits: These recipes yield sauces with incredible deep flavor and richness. Just a cupful or two makes for a decandent and satisfying pasta dish. They freeze *very* well so you can double or triple the recipe and stockpile these glorious sauces in your freezer.
The negatives: If you double the recipe (as I have), it takes a long time to make. The sauce should simmer for at least 3 hours to develop the full flavors and silky texture you want in a ragu. However, once you double the recipe, you should extend that simmer time to at least four hours, if not longer. But before you even get that far, everything needs to be browned, and reduced and browned again. That takes time, a lot of time. Use two frying pans to speed up the browning step, deglaze with the wine called for in the recipe, and then chuck everything into a big stockpot. Worth it though.
I have used these ragus to sauce homemade fresh pasta, artisan-quality dried pasta and regular old Barilla from a box. Each has resulted in a gorgeous meal. My finest moment was when I took lamb ragu, layered it between slices of roasted eggplant and then topped it with bechamel: a moussaka to please the gods (and since the sauce came from the freezer, it took about half and hour to pull together).
The link to the recipes is here. As the weather chills down and you start to shiver, go and try these sauces out, you won't be sorry.