September 14, 2015

Six Ways To Use A Beef Ragu

six? With so many combinations it is probably a lot more

By In Photographs, Recipes
My lodger, bless him, has but one recipe in his culinary repertoire. Not that he doesn’t like his food – he is rather partial to the chicken carbonara from our local trattoria and paid copious compliments over a lasagne I concocted the other month. Ots just he has never had the opportunity to learn to cook.

For him it is a time thing. He just doesn’t have the time and frankly, like so many other people, its just easier to get a takeaway than learn how to cook something. His solitary recipe is for Chinese noodles. Being a fussy sort of a guy he has to have them cooked in just the ‘right’ way.

His method involves taking two packets of Tesco Value instant noodles, discarding one slab of the dried noodles and using two packs worth of flavouring. The noodles are boiled at the highest hob setting until the water they are in has been reduced to a little more than a sheen.

I learnt to my cost not to interrupt this specific cooking method. I once turned the hob down to a more respectable gentle simmer and had a fork stabbed in my hand for my troubles. I once attempted to cook him the same noodles so they actually held a modicum of texture. Perhaps it was the runny boiled egg and serving of Kingham’s Chilli Sauce on top that put him off but he wasn’t impressed.

I fear the recipe(s) below may be too much for him but he did request recently a way to create different meals easily – little more than reheating if possible. So this post is dedicated to the time pressed, single, non-cooks and takes a basic meat sauce that, with various additions and serving methods, goes on to make several different dishes. The idea is to make the basic ragu on, say, a Sunday and then use the rest over the following three or four days.

The recipes make copious use of dried herbs and spices. No chance for fresh herbs being utilised – a pasta dish I once garnished with chopped parsley was deemed far too fancy and posh (!) – so it is dried herbs and spices from a collection by Cole and Mason nicely presented in a revolving carousel, which I hope isn’t too posh for some.

Basic Ragu Recipe

Basic Beef Ragu
Serves 5
500g of mince beef should be plenty to make 3-5 dishes from, all serving one person.
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Prep Time
35 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Prep Time
35 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
  1. 1 large onion
  2. 1 clove of garlic
  3. 500g pack of minced beef
  4. 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  5. mixed dried herbs - thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, basil
Optional Extras
  1. splash or two of red wine
  2. parmesan cheese as a garnish
  3. a splash of Worcestershire sauce
  1. Slice one medium sized onion and fry gently in a little oil, you are making it soft not trying to crisp it up. Once soft (you can slice a piece using gentle pressure from a wooden spatula) add a chopped/crushed clove of garlic. Continue frying for 1 minute.
  2. Add the 500g mince beef. Break it up from being one lump. The heat could be turned up a little here to brown the meat all over. If you have a spare glass of red wine add that now along with a pinch of Italian herbs from the Thyme, Sage, Oregano, Rosemary and Basil jars. A turn of pepper and a turn of salt can also go in.
  3. Add a tin of chopped tomatoes. Stir. Pour a little water into the tomato tin swirl it around to get all the residue from the sides and add this to the pan. You could also add a tablespoon of tomato puree (I like the sundried Gia) and/or a splash of Worcestershire sauce. Stir and set the heat so the liquid in bubbling at a gentle level. This should be cooked in about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally and if looking a bit dry add a little more water.
  4. Once cooked two or three spoonful’s should be enough to cover a 100g serving of pasta or top a baked potato. If not too fancy or posh a little grated parmesan can go on the top.
Spittoon Extra


Six Ways To Use A Beef Ragu

Veg-it-Up – everyone knows we should be eating more fruit and veg. To pimp this ragu up a level in the vegetable stakes cook some veg before adding and reheating a quarter of the ragu. A mix of diced carrots, mushrooms, courgettes, sliced red, yellow or green peppers or even broccoli can be softened in a little oil for 5-10 minutes before adding the mince to reheat. Can be served with pasta, rice or mashed potato.
Tex-Mex it – when reheating another quarter add a large pinch of chilli flakes (depending on how hot you like it), a little cumin and just a spot of cinnamon plus a pinch of cayenne pepper and paprika. I like adding a handful of frozen sweetcorn too. A further addition could be a small tin of kidney beans (drained). If you have a lime to hand a squeeze of juice adds much. Can be served with boiled rice or in a tortilla wrap (two or three wraps should be enough per person) with some crisp lettuce if you have any to hand and some grated cheddar cheese. Optional extras include mashed avocado, tomato salsa and a spoonful per tortilla of soured cream.
‘Creamified’ – Gently heat the final portion of the mince ragu. (You could go the veg route first) before adding a pour of double cream, how much depends on how much sauce you need, three or four large spoonful’s should be enough. Add some dried parsley too. Superb with pasta. Parmesan topping optional.

Cole and Mason Herb and Spice Rack

The Cole and Mason Herb and Spice rack is available from John Lewis. This 16 jar version is listed at £39.99. There are also a matching salt and pepper mill that come in at £32.50 each. What I liked about those is the ability to adjust the grinding coarseness, though this might be deemed a touch too posh for the lodger.

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  1. Meeta September 17, 2015

    Oh my! I had a real giggle as I imagined you being stabbed with the fork. But hey next time offer a straw to slurp up the noodles. As for beef ragu – it’s always a treasure to have in the freezer. I try to make big loads and freeze to use in a variety of ways. Great one!

  2. Rosana @ Hot&CHilli Food and Travel Blog September 29, 2015

    so funny! Love it! I am sure P… is thrilled to be featured on this blog post 😉 Great pictures as always! R


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