Paleo | Sauces & Stocks
Growing up in an Italian family, tomato based sauces like ragu were a regular menu item for family gatherings. Grandma regularly cooked spaghetti for Sunday dinners and I always loved the combination of great food and family together, spending time with each other. To this day, Italian cuisine makes me think of my childhood and is a great comfort food. One thing we do miss in our Paleo & Keto lifestyle, though, is really good pasta - but this recipe makes up for it with a fantastic ragu meat sauce served over zucchini noodles.
Ragu is a traditional Italian meat sauce, usually made with chopped or ground meat, sauteed vegetables, and cooked in a liquid. The type of meats can vary and could include pork, beef, chicken, veal, or even lamb. We prefer ground pork with our Italian Sausage spice mix for our simple ragu. We also include a basic mirepoix of carrots, celery, and onions along with mushrooms and canned diced tomatoes. Believe me, this recipe makes the house smell so very good, you'll want to cook it just for the aromatics. But once you taste it, you will fall in love - it is the epitome of hearty comfort food.
One of the keys to getting this meat sauce to come together is to finely chop your vegetables. They cook down into the sauce to create a mix of flavors, but if you leave the pieces too large they will not incorporate as well. We have a Pampered Chef Food Chopper that makes quick work of the veggies and chops them very, very fine. Another key is to make sure to use a large stockpot so nothing gets overcrowded and that you are patient when cooking the veggies - the goal is to cook them slowly until they are soft and turning towards translucent rather than to saute them too quickly. Cooking them slowly with a bit of salt will help bring out their sweetness, especially the onions and carrots.
We like to mix the ground pork and spices separately before adding to the pot to cook. Mixing the Italian Sausage spice mix into the ground pork ahead of time seems to help to distribute the flavors better. This meal really does come together relatively quickly once you have everything chopped. Once you get everything into the pot, you can sit back and relax and enjoy the amazing smells!
In addition to the smells, the best part about this ragu recipe is that it makes a large batch - we usually get 8-10 cups of finished sauce, which translates to 8-10 servings per batch. We freeze the extra in 2 cup portions, creating a super quick weeknight meal option. Just pull a package out of the freezer, reheat on the stove top in a matter of minutes and serve over your choice of "noodles".
Speaking of noodles...we have explored a lot of different options to replicate "pasta". We have tried a few commercially produced gluten free pastas, but most of them just don't have the same texture as traditional pasta. After a lot of experimentation we have found that spiralized zucchini noodles makes the best compliment to our ragu (We use a Paderno World Cuisine Spiral Vegetable Slicer but there are several different models to choose from).
The first couple of times we made this recipe, we tried cooking the zucchini noodles first - that resulted in noodles that had lost their texture. What we have found, and the way that we now prepare this meal, is to spiralize the zucchini as soon as the sauce starts to simmer. Sprinkle a bit of kosher salt on the noodles once spiralized and then let them sit on the counter to come to room temperature. This is especially important if they are coming out of the fridge. When the sauce is ready, spoon it directly onto the zucchini in your favorite pasta bowl - the heat from the sauce will warm the noodles without losing their texture.
recipe has become a staple in our house - we always have some in the
freezer for quick weeknight meals, and we love to cook up a big batch on
a weekend afternoon to remind us of family and friends.
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