This recipe has a bit of a story behind it so please bear with me. Just over five years ago I met one of my loveliest friends at a business networking event. At the time he was your average geek ~ pale, pasty, not used to daylight and painfully shy. Over time as our friendship grew and he also met the wonderful woman who was to become his future wife (incidentally one of my best friends) he started to come out of his shell. There was a memorable evening when this wonderfully geeky man decided to host a dinner party and invited myself and our other lovely friend (way way before they started dating). The meal served was a plate of pasta with a jar of sauce on top. It was tasteless and horrible and it inspired my  next Christmas gift to him of a cookery book.

Fast forward five years and my splendid friend has changed in so many fantastic ways, he has a quiet confidence and  he has come out of his shell so much, he will always be slightly shy and most definitely a geek (which is great for me and my regular tech issues) but even better he has learnt to cook and is bloody awesome at it. He outshines my paltry culinary skills on a regular basis and one of my absolute favourite recipes of his is the one I am going to share today.

Pappardelle Ragu


30g (1oz)  butter
2 tbsp olive oil
100g (3 1/2 oz) pancetta, diced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
400g (14oz) lean beef steak, minced
100ml (3 1/2 fl oz) beef stock
2 tbsp tomato puree
400g can chopped tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
75ml (2 1/2 fl oz) warm milk
450g (1lb) dried papperdelle pasta
Parmesan cheese, greated, to serve

Optional extras
More garlic, I love to add lots
Dried Mixed Italian Herbs


  1. Melt the butter with the oil in a deep, heavy saucepan and fry the pancetta for 1 – 2 minutes. Add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic, and continue to fry, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until softened but not browned.
  2. Stir in the meat, breaking up any lumps, then cook for a further 10 minutes, or until it is evenly coloured, stirring frequently. Stir in the stock, tomato puree, and tomatoes, season to taste with salt and pepper, then bring to the boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to very low, cover the pan, and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours (this is sheer torture as it smells absolutely divine when it is cooking). Stir occasionally to prevent sticking, adding more stock, if necessary. Stir the milk into the ragu, cover, and simmer for a further 30 minutes.
  4. Bring a large pan of boiling, lightly salted water to the boil. Add the pappardelle and simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until cooked but still firm to the bite. Drain well, spoon the ragu over, and serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

This meal is best served at a table which is surrounded by wonderful friends, has a couple of bottles of red wine for you all to share, and lots of talking and laughing. Oh and if you have a slightly shy geeky friend who you are worried rarely sees daylight make sure you invite them.

Go ahead and enjoy.

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