Half the bad stuff, plenty of the good stuff and lots of flavor. Have you tried bison?

On a daily basis, I handle the cooking around our house. I enjoy it, get home earlier than Mr. Whipped and have a big enough repertoire to churn out tasty weekly meals efficiently. Though the kitchen is mostly my domain, it is NOT because Mr. Whipped can’t cook. I like to juggle a thousand things, improvise and usually leave the counter top looking like a hurricane just came through. When Mr. Whipped cooks, he hones in on something with precision, planning and executing in a methodical, neat manner.

A few weeks ago, the man of the house announced that he was going to make some Bison Ragu. I was intrigued by his proclamation as bison is not something we have prepared before.  Mr. Whipped had enjoyed some succulent bison short ribs on a business trip to Canada and had subsequently learned that bison has significantly less fat and calories than beef or pork while still being high in protein and nutrients. Sounded like a perfect after-holiday-gluttony kind of ingredient!

After a day of planning, researching and shopping, Mr. Whipped set about preparing his mise en place early last Sunday morning. The ragu cooked for hours filling our house with a rich and enticing aroma. We were treated to a Sunday supper of hearty, flavorful ragu atop a bowl full of pasta.  Best of all, thanks to our new nutritional knowledge, this satisfying super was not one that we need feel guilty about.

Though this was a first and we ate it all in the following days, I would bet that this recipe would freeze well. We found the bison at a local butcher in Chicago. I’m not sure how hard it is to find in a regular grocery store. If you are feeling extra ambitious, make your own pasta while the ragu simmers!

Bison Ragù
Adapted from this Foodie Reflections recipe
makes 10 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 large carrot, peeled and minced
1 pound ground bison
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup red wine
2 cans petite diced tomatoes
1 6-ounce can tomato paste (about 10 tablespoons)
1 cup tomato juice
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 4 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 pound fresh or dried wide pasta (fettuccine or tagliatelle), cooked and drained
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (for garnish)
Fresh basil, thinly sliced (for garnish)

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion and carrot and sweat until soft, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Stir in the ground bison and use a wooden spoon to break the meat apart. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes, then stir in the minced garlic. Cook for 1 minute then pour in the red wine.

Simmer the wine for for 5 minutes, then stir in the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato juice, thyme, bay leaf and basil. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer the sauce for 2 hours, stirring once every 30 minutes.

Uncover the pot after 2 hours and season the sauce with sugar, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package instructions if using dried or for 2 minutes if using fresh pasta. Drain the pasta and top with the bison ragù, garnish with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.