Slow-Cooked Italian Meat Sauce
A classic Italian ragu--a rich, full-bodied sauce with beef, veal, pork, crushed tomatoes, spices, wine, and a whisper of cream to finish it. Perfect served over pasta, maybe with a glass of red wine, for a cold winter evening.
1 pound stew beef
1 1/2 pounds veal shanks
2 pounds country-style pork ribs
All-purpose flour for coating
4 strips thick-sliced bacon, cut in small dice
Salt and pepper
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 chopped celery
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 sticks cinnamon (or 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon)
1 cup dry white wine
2 cans (28 ounces each) crushed tomatoes with basil or Italian herbs
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley
Coat the beef, veal shanks, and pork ribs with flour, pat off the excess, and set aside.
In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan; set aside.
Working in batches, brown the meat lightly on all sides in the bacon drippings. Transfer the meat and the bacon to a 6- to 8-quart slow cooker and season with salt and pepper.
Add the vegetables and garlic to the skillet and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, until they are browned. Stir in the oregano, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Add the wine, stirring to loosen the browned bits from the pan. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the liquid has reduced to a syrupy consistency.
Add the cooked vegetables and their liquid, the tomatoes, and the stock to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 4 to 6 hours or on low for 6 to 8 hours.
Near the end of cooking time, skim off the excess fat from the sauce. Remove the shank and the ribs and take meat off the bones. Return the meat to the slow cooker (and discard the bones).
With the heat turned to high, stir in the cream and basil, cover, and cook for 15 minutes more. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper and serve over a hearty pasta like penne or rigatoni.