Neapolitan meat and tomato sauce
Although “ragù” owes its name to the French domination, it is the most Neapolitan of dishes, and excites more emotion and poetry than any other dish. Since it takes hours, and great patience, to cook ragù properly, it came to symbolize loving and caring. Eduardo De Filippo criticizes his wife’s attitude, not her cooking skills, when, in a little poem, he tells her that when his mother cooked this dish it was a real ragù, her version is only meat and tomatoes. The dish used to be prepared for a special family lunch at the end of the week, and the heady aroma drifting up the narrow alleys and steep steps joined with the Church bells to signal Sunday morning in Naples.
This recipe was given to me many years ago by Pupa Sica, who learned to cook the real ragù as an engagement present for her husband, Lucio.
750g leg of pork, tied with string
300g pork ribs
1 Neapolitan salami, skinned (if available)
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4 T extra virgin olive oil
100 ml dry red wine
100 ml dry white wine
4 T tomato paste, (3 times concentrated) dissolved in 300 ml boiling water
1 bay leaf
salt and black pepper
In a large pan melt the butter in the oil and add the meat, salami, onion, carrot, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Cover and begin to cook very slowly. Turn the meat over from time to time so that it browns. This initial cooking period takes about 2 hours. As the meat browns the onions seem to “melt.” Take off the lid, and very slowly, a few drops at a time, begin to add the white wine. As the meat begins to stick scrape with a wooden spoon. When the white wine has evaporated, start adding the red wine in the same way, scraping the juices from the bottom of the pan. Gradually stir in the tomato sauce. Cover and continue to cook slowly, adding a little lukewarm water every 15 minutes. This procedure usually continues for about 3 hours. At the end of this time the sauce is a very dark red, and it can be left to finish cooking on its own. Add about 1 1/2 litres hot water, cover and cook for another 4 or 5 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. As the meat begins to come away from the bone remove the pork ribs. The leg is usually removed about 1 hour later. At the end of this time season the sauce to taste.
This sauce is usually used to dress dry pasta like “ziti”, or “paccheri”. The meat is sliced and served separately as a second course.