1. Season the beef generously with sea salt and set aside for 15 mins (this allows the salt to penetrate the meat). Place a large pan on a high heat. When hot, add 2 tbsps of olive oil followed by the seasoned beef. Fry the beef, turning occasionally, until well coloured all over. Transfer to a plate or bowl and set aside.
2. Return the pan to a medium heat, add the remaining 2 tbsps of olive oil and the butter. When just starting to foam, add in the finely diced carrot and celery, along with a pinch of salt. Sauté gently for 3 mins before adding the finely sliced onions and another pinch of salt.
NOTE: seasoning the veg is really important, not only for flavour development but also because it will help them cook. As it draws out the moisture from within, it softens the veg without them burning.
3. Cook the onions for 15-20 mins, stirring occasionally, until they’re very soft and have taken on a little colour.
4. When the onions are ready, add the beef back into the pan, turn up the heat, and add in the white wine. Leave to cook for 2 mins (you want the wine to reduce and the alcohol flavour to disappear - keep tasting until it has!). Season with some freshly ground black pepper, add in the bay leaf, and cover with water (about 1 litre).
5. Leave to cook on a very low heat for about 4 hours. The liquid should be just bubbling so that the water evaporates.
NOTE: the water is used purely as a way of cooking the beef until it's tender. Eventually most of it will evaporate and you’ll be left with the flavour of the sweet onions.
6. After 4 hours the meat should be soft enough to break down with a wooden spoon. Push down on the pieces of meat so that it breaks and combines with the onions to form a sauce. The water should have mostly evaporated and you’ll have a thick sauce. Leave on a low heat while we cook the pasta…
7. Add a large pan of salted water to a high heat. When boiling, add the pasta and start a timer for 2 mins less than the instructions on the packet state for ‘al dente’.
8. When the timer goes off, use a sieve or large slotted spoon to transfer the pasta to the pan of ragù. The starchy pasta water that gets transferred with the pasta is essential to finishing the dish.
Turn up the heat on the sauce and continue to cook the pasta for another 2 mins, stirring or tossing rigorously as it cooks. The process of stirring/tossing at the final stages of cooking helps to emulsify the sauce and combine it with the pasta.
9. Add in the chopped parsley and stir through (you can also add an extra knob of butter to make the sauce extra luxurious). Finally, divide between bowls and, if desired (which you should), grate over some parmesan.