Chicken Thigh Ragu Bolognese

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There’s not a whole lot that’s more satisfying than a steaming plate of spaghetti with meat sauce – especially if it’s piled with fresh grated cheese.  This recipe is a play on one of the, if not THE classic meat sauce – Ragu Bolognese – but of course, it’s made with chicken thighs.

A dish made with chicken thighs, of course, isn’t an authentic Ragu Bolognese (though I have seen recipes use ground poultry as one component), but it uses some of the techniques and flavors that appear in that unctuous sauce to turn inexpensive chicken thighs into something really delicious.

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Over the past few months, I’ve been experimenting a lot with using chicken thighs as a replacement for pork.  This isn’t because of some health or religious reasons, but because … well, this is a website dedicated to chicken thigh recipes.  In this recipe, the chicken is a perfect stand in for the pork, and in some ways – because a long cook really makes the ground chicken unbelievable tender – it’s even an improvement.

I add a small measure of fennel seeds to the sauce.  It’s up to you whether to include them. I’m a fan of fennel and in this case it adds an “Italian sausage” like flavor to the whole mix that I find really satisfying.  I also recommend using as dry a wine as possible.  The chicken and all the sugars in the vegetables make for a rather sweet sauce, and a bracing high acid red wine really helps temper that sweetness.

Chicken Thigh Ragu Bolognese

Recipe by DrewCourse: MainCuisine: Italian American, ItalianDifficulty: Medium
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

30

minutes
Cooking time

1

hour 

30

minutes

A take on the classic, made using chicken thighs instead of pork and or beef.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs

  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes

  • 1 can tomato paste

  • 3 cups chicken stock (light or dark)

  • ½ cup red wine

  • 1 medium onion

  • 1 medium carrot

  • 2 stalks celery

  • 4 cloves garlic

  • 4 dried shitake mushrooms

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 2 sprigs thyme

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 2 tsp kosher salt

  • 1 tsp dried basil leaves

  • ½ tsp fennel seed (opt)

  • ½ tsp red pepper flake

  • ½ tsp ground black pepper

Directions

  • Add the dried mushrooms to 1 cup of boiling water and allow to rehydrate for 15 minutes.
  • Peel, trim, and coarsely chop the onion.
  • Clean, trim, and coarsely chop the carrot.
  • Clean and coarsely chop the celery.
  • Peel, trim, and crush or microplane the garlic.
  • Add the onion to the bowl of a food processor.
  • Pulse until finely minced.
  • Remove and set aside.
  • Add the carrot to the food processor and process until very finley chopped.
  • Remove and set aside with the onion.
  • Add the celery to the food processor and chop finely.
  • Remove and set aside with the other vegetables.
  • Cut the chicken into 1 inch pieces, and process in the food processor until very finely ground.
  • Remove the mushrooms from the water and chop very finely.
  • Preheat your oven to 350°F.
  • Add 2 tbsp olive oil to the bottom of a Dutch oven or other oven proof pan over medium heat.
  • Once hot, add the onions, carrots, celery, and mushrooms.
  • Cook until the onions are translucent and just starting to brown.
  • Add the tomato paste, and cook until the paste begins to form a darkened, but not burnt, layer on the bottom of the pan. This is called a fond.
  • Deglaze the pan with the red wine, scraping up the fond.
  • Add the stock, and immediately add the ground chicken, stirring well to break it up.
  • Add diced tomatoes, the garlic, salt, basil, fennel seed (if using), black pepper, and red pepper flakes.
  • Bring the mixture to a simmer and stir to ensure the chicken is completely broken up.
  • Transfer the pot to the oven and cook uncovered for at least 90 minutes and up to 3 hours, adding additional liquid if necessary.
  • Serve over spaghetti or other pasta of your choice.

Notes

  • If you want to give the sauce a little funk and smoke, as would be imparted by using pancetta or a smoked pork product, try adding 1 tsp of fish sauce and or a drop of liquid smoke.

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