Slow-Cooked Venison Ragù

You may have noticed that I’ve got a bit of comfort food obsession of late, but then again you can hardly blame me at this time of the year. We may have had a few nice sunny days here in Dorset but they’ve been bloody cold. With a particularly biting wind. The last thing I’ve wanted to come home to is a light, summery plate of food. I pretty much need hale and hearty to survive. In this case that comes in the form of my Slow-Cooked Venison Ragù. Served here with thick ribbons of pappardelle. Talk about a proper winter warmer!

In common with many rich meat dishes this is something that you can’t really rush. The low-and-slow cooking method used here really does help develop the flavour. It also ensures that the meat remains tender. Essential in the case of venison, which is incredibly lean and can really toughen up if you’re not careful. The meat I’ve used here is both local (well, from Hampshire which is right next door) and shot in the wild, rather than being farmed. You can’t get much more sustainable than that and it shows in the quality of the end product. Of course, you could use good quality diced beef here if you prefer.

It’s not just about the meat though. The sauce in which it’s cooked is also something with which you don’t want to cut corners. It starts with a fairly standard mixture of carrot, onion and celery. You see these three vegetables crop up a lot together as the base for many dishes, as they give a good base of flavour from which to build out the rest of the recipe. As an aside, for many years I have called this a mirepoix, from the French, but I guess I should call it a soffritto here to respect the Italian inspiration for this recipe.

To that I’ve added a few herbs, Bay Leaves and Thyme, and a cinnamon stick for a bit of warmth. The liquid comes in the form of equal parts stock, red wine and vermouth, to avoid it being dominated by a red wine flavour, along with a generous helping of passata. I find that this is sufficient liquid to keep everything just right, even after 3 hours in the oven. But do check it now and then during cooking in case you need to add a splash or two of water to stop the sauce from drying out or burning.

When you’re ready to serve it be generous with your portions – this should make four good sized bowls of food. (Which means I have second helpings in the freezer for another day). Oh and remember to add the pasta to the sauce and mix together well before serving. Don’t put the pasta in the bowl and top it with the sauce. I believe that tradition dictates the use of pappardelle or similar wide ribbon pasta, with a sauce like this, but if you can’t find it then any big shapes should work just fine.

Even though this Venison Ragù needs a long time in the oven, it isn’t a recipe that needs constant babysitting. So you’ve got plenty of time to get on with other things as it cooks. Michael was away on the night I cooked this – which meant I had the kitchen to myself for the evening. I managed to prepare both my Lamb Curry and Chilli Pork Ramen while this was in the oven and still had time to sit down and watch some TV. That’s my kind of multi-tasking – especially when it ends up with three really tasty plates (or bowls) of food.



Slow-Cooked Venison Ragù

Rich, flavoursome and deeply comforting. Perfect as the nights draw in and winter approaches.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time3 hrs
Total Time3 hrs 20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, Venison
Servings: 4
Calories: 484kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 500 g Wild Venison cubed
  • 65 g Bacon Lardons or Pancetta Cubes
  • 1 medium Onion peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 stick Celery finely chopped
  • 2 medium Carrots finely chopped
  • 2 cloves Garlic peeled and crushed
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 2 sprigs Thyme
  • 200 ml Vermouth
  • 200 ml Red Wine
  • 200 ml Beef Stock
  • 350 g Passata Rustica
  • Freshly Chopped Parsley to garnish
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese to garnish

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 150°C
  • Heat the oil in a large oven-proof pan over a medium-high heat. Add the venison in batches and brown until sealed all over. Remove from the pan and put to one side.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the lardons. Brown them for a few minutes, then add in the onion, carrot and celery. Cook for around 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender. Add the crushed garlic to the pan and cook for a further 2 minutes until fragrant, ensuring the garlic doesn’t burn.
  • Return the meat to the pan, along with the cinnamon, bay leaves and thyme. Mix well, then add in the vermouth, wine, stock and passata rustica. Stir thoroughly and bring to the boil.
  • As soon as the pan comes to the boil cover and transfer to the oven. Cook in the oven for 2½ to 3 hours until the meat is tender and the sauce thickened. Stir every 30 minutes and add a little water if needed, to save the sauce from getting to thick or burning.
  • Serve stirred through a bowl of piping hot pasta of your choice, topped with some fresh parsley and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Notes

As this takes around 3 hours to prepare you’ve probably guessed this isn’t something you can make on impulse.
If time is on your side you can serve it straight from the oven, stirred through the pasta of your choice. I personally prefer to cook dishes like this the night before, so that it’s pretty much available on demand when needed.
If you choose to do this remember to store it and reheat it properly. Remove the casserole dish from the oven and allow the ragù to cool to room temperature. When cooled cover it tightly, or transfer to a storage container, and pop into the fridge for up to 2 days (or freezer if you want to keep it longer).
When reheating, make sure it’s fully heated through before serving.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION

Estimated Values per Serving
Energy2,025kJ
484kcal
Fat15g
of which Saturates5g
Carbohydrates20g
of which Sugars7g
Fibre3g
Protein46g
Sodium366mg
Note: Nutritional information shown is per serving of the above recipe. Any side dishes or garnishes shown in photos are not included in these values, unless they are specifically listed as part of the recipe.

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