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    Venison ragù

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    Venison ragù

    Gary Usher puts a seasonal, gamey twist on a hearty Italian pasta sauce. 

    'As the weather cools, I’m always looking for wholesome meals to warm me up. There’s something fascinating about watching this ragù develop into a rich, hearty sauce.'

    Makes: 6

    Ingredients

    3 x 300g packs venison mince

    2 x 77g packs diced pancetta

    5 tbsp vegetable oil

    4 garlic cloves, crushed

    1 carrot, finely diced

    1 celery stick, finely diced

    1 small onion, finely diced

    1 bay leaf

    small handful thyme sprigs

    small handful rosemary sprigs

    4 tbsp tomato purée

    500ml red wine

    500ml fresh beef stock

    400g can chopped tomatoes

    a little olive oil, plus extra to serve

    500g dried egg pappardelle

    50g salted butter

    chopped flat leaf parsley and grated parmesan, to serve 

    Method

    1. Preheat a large casserole over a high heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the mince, pancetta and 2½ tbsp vegetable oil. Stir for 3-4 minutes, until browned, using a spoon to break up the mince. Transfer to a plate and wipe the pan, then add the garlic, vegetables, and remaining 2½ tbsp oil; season and cook over a low-medium heat for 6-7 minutes, until the onion is translucent.

    2. Tie the herbs in a bundle with kitchen string; add to the pan with the tomato purée, then stir. Return the venison mixture to the pan, add the wine and turn the heat up to bring it to the boil. Add the stock and tomatoes and return to the boil. Turn the heat down and leave to simmer, uncovered, for 2-3 hours, stirring now and then and topping up with water if it looks dry, until you have a thick, glossy sauce that coats the meat. You can serve the ragù straight away or leave it to cool, then chill in the fridge overnight to let the flavours develop.

    3. When ready to serve, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil with a little olive oil. Cook the pasta according to pack instructions. Reheat the sauce if necessary, adding a ladleful of pasta water to the ragù (this helps the pasta cling to the sauce and makes it creamier), plus the butter. Drain the pasta and add to the ragù, tossing together. Divide between plates and scatter with some freshly chopped parsley, grated parmesan, a drizzle of olive oil and plenty of ground black pepper.

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