Originating in Genova Italy this non tomato based beef and onion ragu is apparently usually served over pasta. This became news to me as I searched for recipes to compare with the one I learned to make from my mother many years ago.
We have been enjoying it over mashed potatoes for as long as I can remember totally unaware of any pasta connection. No mention of serving it over potatoes was found in any of the recipes I came across. I honestly don’t know where my mother got the idea of serving it over mashed potatoes but we can all agree meat and potatoes make a perfect combination. However, it’s puzzling to me why she didn’t serve this over pasta and am left wondering if this isn’t something she began doing only after immigrating to Canada…I must ask her.
Regardless of what it’s served over, the beef chunks become fall apart tender as they cook while the very finely chopped onions melt away into the delicious juices adding flavor and silkiness to the gravy. Simple ingredients but such complex flavor.
Although this ragu can be cooked in a regular pot, the use of a pressure cooker will cut down cooking time considerably and retain maximum flavor. There was no pressure cooker in our home while growing up but my mother’s rendition of what I would call a total comfort food left delicious memories in my mind.
Any favourite recipe of mashed potatoes will work here but Yukon Gold potatoes and a little hot milk make the fluffiest cloud of whipped potatoes ever!
Serving this over a bed of homemade noodles is sounding better and better to me!
Measurements of ingredients and cooking times will vary. I don’t have an exact recipe just the one I used to watch my mother make… as usual nothing written down. I’ve done my best to put together a recipe which approximately makes three generous servings served over mashed potatoes.
1 pound stewing beef
3 medium size cooking onions
3 to 4 tablespoons corn or canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon corn starch and add enough cold water to dissolve (this will be the thickening agent)
- Cut stewing beef into about 1 ½ inch chunks
- Add oil into a saucepan or pressure cooker and heat to very hot (this will ensure a good sear on the meat) and brown the meat on all sides.
- Slice onions very thinly (use a mandolin if you have one) then chop finely.
Add onions to the seared meat and stir in, cook for about a minute until the onion begins softening.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add enough water to cover the meat by a couple of inches. If using a pressure cooker water will not reduce as much as when using a traditional pot which must be checked periodically for water level.
- Cook 15 minutes if using a pressure cooker or until the meat is very tender if using a regular pot adding more water as needed not to let it dry out.
- After meat is cooked stir 1 tablespoon corn starch into about ¼ cup cold water to dissolve then stir into the meat until the juices begin to slightly thicken.
- Serve over mashed potatoes or pasta if you wish.
Whipped Yukon Gold Potatoes
4 to 5 large Yukon Gold Potatoes
about ¾ cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
- Peel and slice potatoes and cut into slices or chunks.
- Cook in plenty of salted water until tender. (If using a pressure cooker 7 minutes)
- Drain well and rice the potatoes to get all the lumps out.
- Heat milk to very hot.
- Season potatoes with salt and pepper.
- While gradually adding the hot milk beat with an electric mixer adding enough of the milk until the potatoes are light and fluffy. (Amount of milk required may vary depending on the dryness of the potatoes.)
Notes Tips and Suggestions
- Searing the meat in 2 batches ensures a good sear.
- Make sure the milk added to the riced potatoes is very hot. Cold milk will produce a gluey, unappealing texture.
- Use cold water to dissolve corn starch.
- Delicious served over fluffy cooked rice.
- To cool off a steamed pressure cooker quickly it’s recommended to place it in a a sink filled with cold water. Today I took advantage of the snow on my deck which worked twice as fast! Hope the neighbours weren’t watching!