(Taken from Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home by Nigella Lawson)

So soothing is the process, so welcoming and enveloping the savoury smells emanating from stove and oven as this risotto cooks, so ambrosial the taste, so universally rewarding the experience, that the labour involved can be embraced gladly. If you don’t appreciate this, then you don’t deserve it.

This is really a meat sauce risotto, but that makes it sound too sloppy, too unspecial. This is no run-of-the-mill meat sauce, not least because it contains veal stock. (I buy jars of good-quality veal stock to have on standby.) And if it seems unorthodox to be cooking the meat sauce in the oven, I agree, it is. You can ignore me, and just cook everything on the hob. But putting the pot in the oven and leaving it there to cook is hardly what football managers would call a Big Ask. Besides, the method is vastly superior: flavour is intensified, texture is more melting and tender. If I have the time, this is now my ragù route of choice.

The meat sauce here, that ragù which for us is always bolognese, is runnier than you would make if this were dressing pasta, and pointedly so: it is all these meaty juices with which the rice will become so delectably swollen later.

A final note: I have marked the anchovies ‘optional’ simply because I know that some people have a thing about them, although as a general rule, I would advise you to pay no heed to such faddiness, not least because good anchovies just melt into the sauce, bringing their salty resonance with them. However, if you are feeding children with laser detectors in place of palates and who cannot cope with fish of any sort, give up now.

Ingredients

1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 carrot, peeled and halved
1 stick celery, halved
1 small clove garlic, peeled
handful fresh parsley
75g rindless streaky bacon
4 anchovy fillets (optional)
50g unsalted butter, plus 1 x 15ml tablespoon (15g)
½ teaspoon regular olive oil
250g minced beef, preferably organic
80ml marsala
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 x 15ml tablespoon tomato purée
2 x 15ml tablespoons full-fat milk
2 litres veal stock (500ml plus 1.5 litres), preferably organic
2 bay leaves
500g risotto rice
6 x 15ml tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve
salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Put the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, parsley, bacon and anchovy into a processor and whiz to a fine mush. Heat the 50g butter and ½ teaspoon oil in a deep, heavy ovenproof casserole with a lid. Tip in the contents of the processor and cook for about 5 minutes until softened.

Add the meat and let it brown a little, breaking it up in the pan, then add the marsala.
Process the tomatoes until smooth, and add to the meat.

Stir the tomato purée into the milk and then add this mixture to the pan, along with 500ml veal stock and the bay leaves.

Bring to the boil on the hob, then clamp on the lid and transfer the casserole to the oven for 1 hour.

Once the meat sauce is out of the oven, fish out the bay leaves. Heat the remaining 1.5 litres veal stock in another saucepan and keep that warm over a very low heat, then put the meat sauce on a low heat next to it.

Stir the rice into the meat sauce, and then add a ladleful of the hot stock. Stir until the rice and sauce become thick again and then add another hot ladleful of stock.

Continue to add the stock as needed, though only a small ladleful at a time, stirring all the time as you go. Check to see if the rice is cooked after about 18 minutes – you may not need all the stock before this happens.

When it’s ready, turn off the heat and stir or beat in, with your wooden spoon, the cheese and the extra tablespoon of butter before seasoning to taste and doling out into shallow warmed bowls. Serve with extra parmesan, if you like.

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