I think my ultimate comfort food is mince. I used to ask for mince and potatoes (with peas) for my birthday tea pretty much every year and I once made a friend for life when I discovered he served his version with suet dumplings as well.
So in the drab grey and anxious week when my therapist was leaving due to ill health and I was forced to take my inner child back out into the world alone, I went to the butcher and bought a kilo of steak mince to soothe myself.
And I wanted ragu with it. Deep rich meaty sauce to wrap around pasta and remind myself things are fine even you’ve lost a mental health professional and a hairdresser in 24 hours. But how do you make ragu when you can’t eat onions, garlic, tomato puree or red wine?
The answer is bacon. Pancetta to be precise. And tomato juice and a low slow simmer while you paint your nails. It all looked watery and insipid and in need of an extra anchovy to begin with, but when I came back two hours later the meat was plump and the sauce was rich and glossy and it smelt terrific.
I left it overnight to let the flavours mingle further and then made a lasagne with it and it was magnificent. Genuinely better than any other ragu I’ve ever made in both flavour and texture. I’m not sure I’ve ever nailed another fodmap adapted recipe first go before but this was perfect.
Fodmap Friendly Ragu
- 75g pancetta
- 1 medium carrot, finely diced
- 1 bunch parsley stalks, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon garlic infused olive oil
- 500g beef mince
- 3 anchovy fillets
- salt and pepper
- pinch MSG
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- grating nutmeg
- 200ml tomato juice
- 75ml milk
In a heated frying pan, cook the pancetta cubes for a minute or so and add the carrot and parsley stalks along with the garlic oil. Allow it all soften and cook for about five minutes without colouring.
Add the mince, breaking it up as it browns. I know people say sauce like this should have a mix of pork and beef or veal and beef, but all beef is just fine if that’s what you have. We’re clearly eschewing authenticity for digestive ease already.
Pile in the anchovies and season the mix well. I went heavy on the pepper and less on the salt but added a pinch of MSG. This gives the savouriness of salt without the saltiness per se and it’s a very similar flavour profile to parmesan which works well here.
Add the sugar, oregano and nutmeg here. Then pour in the tomato juice and the milk and mix it all well. Both the sugar and the milk mellow the tomato into something well rounded like a sleepy cat on a sunny patio rather than the slightly punchy acidic tomcat yowling in the bins in March that it can be.
You need just enough sweetness in the ragu to miss it if it wasn’t there but not to seem sugary. If you don’t do milk (and it’s the lactose needed here) then simply add an extra half teaspoon of sugar instead.
Put your frying pan on the lowest heat of your cooker possible and stir the ragu a couple of times and then when it all settles down to barely a blip from the heat, leave the pan well alone for about two hours. If you are me you’ll come back after an evening in Weatherfield and Walford and with awfully fancy looking finger tips and your ragu will be perfect.
Allow to cool and pop in the fridge overnight to mingle all those big flavours together. This is important even if you are freezing it. That overnight step makes everything harmonious instead of clamouring for attention.
Reheat gently and serve. Mine made a blissful lasagne with second helpings requested. The pancetta gave a great performance and the umami elements were like excellent backing singers. Nothing about this dish felt like a substitution in the end but an addition to a sauce that often gets treated shabbily in this country.
baconbeefbrown foodcarnivorecomfort foodfodmapfodmap friendlyfructmalfructose malabsorptionlow fructosemeatminceno onionsimpleSlow Cooked