Tag Archives: ragu

Rich Sausage Rigatoni – Truly Scrumptious (serves 4)

This dish should not be overlooked!

If you are on the hunt for a dish that packs boatloads of sumptuous flavor with a minimum of ingredients and effort then your search is over. I am transported to a little Osteria in Tuscany by just looking at the picture below! It is so rustic and has that quintessential Italian peasant food feel; robusto!

Truely Scrumptious

truly Scrumptious

This dish is another great example of me butchering a recipe to suit my needs and tastes. It is from Mario Batali who was undoubtedly inspired by some dish or other he tried in some hole-in-the-wall jewel in Italy. My irreverence for his recipe doesn’t spring from the fact that I think I can do it better. I am so grateful for his prodding my imagination when my mind was blank.  I constantly make decisions as I cook, and if I don’t have something, or want to add something, I just go ahead and do it. If you cook as much as I do you learn that most dishes are variations on some sort of standard that can be endlessly changed.

key ingredient in this dish (along with the red wine)

key ingredient in this dish (along with the red wine)

The key elements in this dish was the combination of sausage and heavy-duty tomato paste which clung like a magnet to the pasta. That is something I didn’t mess with. I did however change the quantity of milk, used red instead of white wine, added garlic and thinned out the dish with hot pasta water, oh, and changed the bucatini-style pasta in favor of a textured rigatoni and chopped a little fresh basil as a garnish (just because I had it!); Splendid!

I couldn’t believe how good this tasted and was so relived that I had documented this recipe so I can make it again and again.

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You will need:

 2 tbs olive oil

1 tbls unsalted butter

1 1/2 lbs Italian sausage meat – mild or spicy (if they are links, remove from casing)

1 medium sweet onion – small dice

2 garlic cloves – finely chopped

6 tbs tomato puree

1/4 cup red wine (whatever you’re drinking!)

1 cup whole milk

1/2 to 1 cup hot pasta water (reserved from draining pasta)

1 lb rigatoni pasta (I use Barilla brand)

Several grinds black pepper

Parmigiano Reggiano  – grated for serving

A handful of chopped fresh basil leaves (if you have it, but not necessary)

Method:

*Add the pasta to the boiling water about 12 minutes before you want to add it to your sauce. This would mean adding it right around when you add the milk to your sauce (step 6 below). Reserve a cup of the hot pasta water before draining. Do not rinse pasta with cold water (the pasta will not “cling” to the sauce the way it should if you do!)*

1 – Put pasta water on for rigatoni and put large saute pan (big enough to hold the complete dish) on medium heat. Add the oil and butter.

Add butter and oil

Add butter and oil

2 – When it has melted add the onions and garlic and cook for about 6 or so minutes, stirring frequently.

Add onions and garlic

Add onions and garlic

3 – Add the sausage meat by pulling off with your hands or with a scissors into little chunks. Turn the heat up near high when it begins to release its fat.

Add sausage

Add sausage

4 – Cook, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes or until sausage begins to get nice and brown.

Cook until starting to get well-browned

Cook until starting to get well-browned

5 – Add the tomato paste and cook for another 6 to 8 minutes (again stirring frequently), before adding the red wine. Lower heat if necessary. Cook for another 2 minutes or until wine has mostly evaporated.

Add Tomato paste

Add Tomato paste, then wine

6 – Add the milk and stir. Turn heat down to low and cover with a lid for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Turn heat off if cooked before the pasta.

add milk

add milk

7 – Add the drained pasta directly into the sauce – DO NOT RINSE with cold water. MAKE SURE TO RESERVE 1 CUP OF PASTA WATER!

add pasta and pasta water

Add pasta and pasta water

8 – Stir the pasta into the sauce and add some or all of the pasta water if you want a “looser” sauce.

Serve with a few chopped basil leaves

Serve with a few chopped basil leaves

Serve in warm shallow dishes with fresh basil (optional) and/or freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (also optional).

Or, gild the lily with a grated of Parmiagiano reggiano too!

Or, gild the lily with a grating of Parmigiano Reggiano!

Quick Pork Ragu (serves 6 with Pasta)

Okay, this is a crazy weekend with far too many things on my plate to wax on about how great this easy-peasy (lemon-squeezy!) pork dish tasted. As is pretty obvious I love to cook, but sometimes the pressure of time makes it an activity that is squeezed in between all the other things that are part of my life.

A great speedy ragu

A great speedy ragu

The same goes for the writing. I have only time enough to give the recipe before zooming off to do the million things that very inconveniently came crashing down on me all at one time! I don’t like when my weekend is taken up with things that are not so important to me but still need to be done.

On the bright side, if you only came to my blog for a recipe then it will be convenient as you to not have to scroll through a lots of extra stuff to get to it!

This is a great dish if you too find yourself short on time this weekend. You can also double up and feed a crowd!

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You will need:

1 lb pork tenderloin, thinly sliced

3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

2 stripes bacon, roughly chopped or sliced

1 medium sweet or yellow onion, small dice

1 tsp finely chopped rosemary leaves

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (chili flakes)

1/2 cup white wine

28 oz can tomato puree

1 tbs tomato paste (regular or smoked)

1 tsp salt

several grinds of black pepper

Method:

1 – Put sauce pot or deep saute pan on medium heat and add oil. When it warms add the onions and cook for 2 minutes before adding the chopped bacon. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally before adding the rosemary. Cook for another minute.

saute onions, bacon & rosemary

Saute onions, bacon & rosemary

2 – Season the pork with the sea-salt and pepper and turn up heat. Add the pork and cook for 5 minutes until it takes on a light brown color. Add the wine and turn the heat up to high. Let it bubble for about 1 minute.

add pork

Add pork

3 – Add the tomato puree, paste, and chili flakes and bring to a boil. Turn heat down, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

et voila!

et voila!

Serve with spaghetti, ridged penne or pasta shells. A salad on the side would also be a nice addition.

Escape To New York and Wildly Good Bucatini al Ragu – Inspired By Pasta Bought From Eataly and Of course ITALY!

Chelsea Area, NYC

The Flatiron district, NYC

I escaped to New york City for 24 hours this week to soak up some much-needed cosmopolitan energy and culture. Being stuck in a provincial town as I am, I need to get away to satisfy that part of my that longs for something other than fields of cows, unexciting restaurants (an understatement!), and generic big box clothing and food stores. To have such a wonderful city so close by is a glorious comfort when I need that jolt of stimulation.

The Flatiron Building at the intersection of 5th Ave & Broadway (completed in 1902)

The Flatiron Building at the intersection of 5th Ave & Broadway (completed in 1902)

This trip was planned around not much more than where to have breakfast and where to have dinner while I visited my friend Bird on the Upper West Side. The worst thing you can do in a city like this when it comes to food is to wander the streets and hope you hit on something fabulous. This is a bad approach when it comes to any city, and yes, while it is true that you can stumble upon something great, you are more than likely to end up somewhere a little disappointing or lacking in one way or another.

Balthazar Bakery in Soho

Balthazar Bakery in Soho (established in 1997 and going wildly strong ever since!)

I lived in Manhattan for 8 years and have been visiting it ever since, and my friend has lived there over 20 years, so between the two of us the only problem we have is deciding between the great places we know and the great places we have heard about that are new. We settled on doing a bit of both, having coffee and sticky buns at Balthazar’s in Soho, and eating dinner at the pizza place in Eataly in the Flatiron District. I had never been to the infamous Balthazar’s and I wanted to revisit Eataly (This giant marketplace is the result of the collaboration between two rock stars in the world of food, chefs Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich – press here to read about my last Eataly visit) to buy pasta and see how the pizza there compared to all of the wonderful pizza I ate in Italy (click here for that story!) last year.

Across from the Flatiron is lovely Eataly; one of my destinations this past monday

Across from the Flatiron is lovely Eataly; one of my destinations this past monday

Suffice is to say that the coffee and pastry from Balthazar’s on Spring Street was divine and I am in shock as to know how I had never been there before? In between lunch and dinner was spent helping my friend shop for clothes in the cool boutiques in Soho before hopping on the R train for my Italian fix at Eataly.

Lovely pasteries to devour with coffee from Balthazar's

Lovely pastries to devour with coffee from Balthazar’s

With time to kill before Pizza I took a gastronomic stroll through the many sumptuous displays of merchandise on offer in Eataly’s Market. I bought some great dried pasta from a company called Rigorosa di Gragnano which hails from the town of Grangnano in the province of Naples. The pasta variety I choose was bucatini, which looks like a thick spaghetti but has a tiny hole running through the center. It is extruded through bronze dies giving the pasta a rough texture which is marvelous for sopping up thick sauces and has a lovely toothsome bite. Of course the next day at home (last night) I had to cook it with just such a sauce, and it was heavenly (recipe below!). This pasta was really great and so worth it ($4.80 for 17.6 oz). My next visit will include more than 1 measly package!

Bucantini

Bucatini pasta by Rigorosa di Gragnano

I also found a pear juice, Succo di Pera, that I had not seen since being in Italy last year, and even thought it was a woefully ridiculous price for a bottle of juice (nearly $7!) I had to buy one as it was the drink my daughter ordered every time we were in an enoteca or cafe  (Which was quite often I’m happy to report). You should have seen her delighted face when I pulled it out of my bag when I arrived home. One would think I gave her permission not to do homework for a week!

Succo di pera Foto,  Succo di pera

Eating pasta in Eataly was delightful. The restaurant was located between the rows of dried pasta and the bakery area of the market. You still got the exciting buzz from the whole place but it felt intimate and cozy at our table (and our server Francesca was adorable!)

Getting rrady for Pizza in Eataly

Getting ready for Pizza in Eataly (the freshly baked bread comes to your table in neatly wrapped parcels)

 The pizza is classic Neapolitan style from their brick ovens, made with fresh mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes. My pizza was scattered with artichokes, black olives and mushrooms, and, as big as it was, I ate the entire pie without a modicum of guilt!

Eataly

Eataly

I returned thinking what I always think when I leave Manhattan: it was too short a trip. However I cannot even think about complaining as I am so lucky to have the chance to go there as often as I do. Stayed tuned for more vicarious visits to this wonderful city!

Wildly Good Bucatini al Ragu

Wildly Good Bucatini al Ragu (Dinner last night)

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Recipe for Bucatini al Ragu (serves 6)

You will need:

1 1/2 lbs sausage meat (I used a mild Italian chicken sausage, but you can use any sausage you like; a mild, sweet or spicy Italian pork sausage would work fantastic too), casing removed and broken into bite-sized pieces (you can break it straight into your pan as you cook this dish)

3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium sweet onion, small dice,

2 celery ribs, including leaves, small dice,

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped,

3 tbs tomato pasta concentrate

42 oz of tomato puree or crushed tomatoes (3 14 0z can or 1 1/2 28oz cans OR 1190 grams)

1 1/2 cups veggie or chicken broth (or bouillon cube and water – my bouillon cubes by Rapunzel are large so I only used 1/2)

1 tsp sea-salt (more to taste)

freshly ground black pepper (more to taste)

1/2 to 1 tsp pepper flakes (optional, but great addition!)

1 lb bucatini pasta (spaghetti will also work)

Method:

* About 5 minutes before you turn off the sauce, put the pasta water on and cook according to instructions. Before draining pasta, scoop out at least 1 cup of the water and reserve to add to your finished sauce if need be*

1 – Put large pot or deep saute pan (mine is 3″) on medium heat and add the oil. add the onions, celery and garlic and cook for about 8 minutes. Add the sausage to the pan, breaking it up with a wooden spoon when it is all in the pan. Cook for about 12 minutes, stirring frequently and breaking up meat into smaller pieces as it cooks.

cook sauce

cook sauce

2 – Add the tomato paste, tomatoes and broth (or water & bouillon cube) to pan and turn heat up. Bring to a bubble, then turn down to a simmer (it should still “tremble” on top slightly). Add the salt, pepper flakes (if using), and several grinds of black pepper and stir. Cover with lid and cook for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Turn off sauce and taste for further addition of salt and pepper. Let it sit while pasta is cooking.

cook pasta

cook pasta

3 – Right before or right when you turn off your sauce, cook the pasta. When it is cooked, add drained pasta (not rinsed and remembering to reserve some pasta cooking water) to the sauce and stir. Toss everything together gently. Add some of the reserved pasta water if you want to thin the sauce.

Add pasta adn stir gently

Add pasta and stir gently

Serve in shallow bowls or big dinner plates with extra pepper flakes and Parmigiano Reggiano if you so desire.

serve with Parmiagiano Reggiano cheese if you have it

Serve with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese if you have it

Serve in shallow bowls or big dinner plates with extra pepper flakes and Parmigiano Reggiano if you so desire.

 

Light Chicken Ragu with Shells (serves 6) And a Word on Economy!

Here is a great pasta dish that feeds a crowd without spending a ton of money! Even if you are very well off and budgeting for food is not high on your list, I think there is always room for economy. When it comes to food, I am mindful of every scrap I decide to put into my shopping basket. Someone, somewhere in the world is hungry so buying food is a privilege that shouldn’t be taken lightly by anyone, regardless of their income.

Chicken Ragu with Shells

Light Chicken Ragu with Shells

With a little bit of though, the most lowly ingredients can be made to taste delicious, and this recipe is a prime example of Deliciousness and Economy.

When I sit around with my family over dinner we sometimes play the game of “how much did this dinner cost?” I really think it is important for my kids to have an understanding of how money plays a part in their lives but that it is certainly not the thing that defines their ultimate happiness. And this is not a big philosophical commentary on how money can’t buy you love etc etc. It is a very practical matter to me when it comes to equating quality food with money: I just don’t. 

My CSA Crop share this week!

Fresh Veggies from a local Farmer

My two children love that something can be made from so little and it excites them to think that as a very general rule, most people can afford to choose something good to eat over something mediocre.  How many times have we gone to restaurants and my kids leave saying that they could have had something better at home and not wasted money. To me, buying a nice bottle of wine and eating at home is far more satisfying than eating out.

That’s not to say that when the opportunity arises to eat some place fantastic that we don’t jump at the chance. What I am trying to say is that there is a difference between eating crap (whether bought ready-made crap, or from a crappy restaurant) or making it a rule to eat at home prepared with decent ingredients and eating out when you have chosen some place wonderful (this could be a crab shack on a beach or a fancy place in a city somewhere).

lots of peppers from my garden & from next door!

lots of peppers from my garden & from next door!

There are so many places to find good ingredients for very little. Besides shopping for bargains in the supermarket, there are all sorts of people in the summer and autumn selling produce from their own gardens: vegetables, fresh eggs, even meat. I have the puny-est garden myself but I grow as much as I can in the summer (especially herbs) to add to my meals. I’m not even that good at it but I get no end of pleasure out of whatever appears, however sad it may look!

The savior of last night's dinner (oregano & parsley)

Oregano from my garden (and a modest bit of parsley)

So maybe you might consider cooking a couple of times this week and be smug over how good it tastes and how much you saved!

This dinner cost (not including the fuel cost)

Meat – $4.99

Veggies – (garlic, carrot, onion., spinach – $2.25

Pasta – $0.99

Tomato puree  – $0.75

Broth (I used a bouillon cube & Water) $0.50

Milk – $0.44

Total $9.92 (that’s $1.65 per person)

Rosemary bush in the back garden

My mother’s rosemary Bush in Ireland

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You will need:

3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1lb Chicken sausage, removed from casing (I found a sausage seasoned with apple and onion, but there are lots of other ones out there, like a take on an Italian sausage or one with garlic & herbs)

1 med/lrg sweet onion

3 cloves garlic

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped celery, including leaves

1 tbs mixed chopped fresh herbs (use whatever you have on hand)

OR 1 tsp dried herbs (again whatever you have on hand)

1/2 tsp chili flakes (optional)

1/2 tsp sea-salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup tomato puree

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

5 cups chopped spinach or baby spinach leaves

1lb medium pasta shells (I use Barilla brand)

Method:

1 – Put big saute pan or saucepan on medium heat and add the oil. Add the onions, garlic, and celery and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn heat up slightly and add the sausage and as it cook, break it up into smaller pieces with your wooden spoon. Cook for about 10 minutes.

Cook veggies, add meat

Cook veggies, add meat

2 – Add the tomato puree, broth, herbs, pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and carrots to the pot and bring everything to a simmer. Cover with lid and simmer for about 25 minutes (the sauce should always have a slight bubble to it while it is cooking). Stir occasionally.

*In the meantime put water on for pasta and cook according to instructions. time the shells to be ready at the same time the sauce is cooked. Scoop out about a 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining and do not rinse shells in cold water.

add liquids

Add liquids

3 – Add the spinach and cover with lid. Cook for another 3 minutes. Turn off heat and stir sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Cook sauce, then add spinach

Cook sauce, then add spinach

4 – When pasta is ready pour the drained pasta directly into the cooked sauce, adding the pasta water if you want a looser consistency.

Serve

Serve

Divide between 6 warmed plates or bowls and pass some Parmigiano Reggiano to anyone who wants it!

Really Great Turkey & Bacon Ragu (serves 6)

 This was a great mid-week dinner. Wednesday is the day my kids are a little tired of the school week but in the evening are beginning to look forward to the weekend (I know that’s wishing their young lives away, but this is a hard lesson to teach little people who think they will live forever!).

This was a great mid-week treat

This was a great mid-week treat

I put this sauce together the moment I got in the door and that left me free to do all of those other things that needed to be taken care of (science project panic!). I wanted to use a lighter meat for the ragu and I had some turkey that I though would work. It was not ground, but that didn’t bother me (Ragu is made with ground meat but f you don’t have it, don’t worry about it).

I was a little concerned with the meat not having as much flavor as say lamb or pork, so I added some bacon. I think bacon is the secret ingredient that waylays lots of disasters!

It was really lovely and made the hum-drum feeling that Wednesdays can bring fade away.

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* This ragu sauce can be made the day before (or in the morning) and reheated slowly on the stove-top while the pasta is cooking*

You will need:

1 tbs olive oil

8 strips bacon (streaky), sliced into 1 inch pieces (approx.)

1 lb turkey cutlets, cut into bite-sized pieces (thin sliced turkey breast – if you can only find whole fillets, slice it yourself)

1 medium onion, cut into large chunks

3 cloves garlic,

1 carrot

2 or 3 tender inner celery ribs, including leaves

1 28 oz can tomato puree (894 grams)

2 tbs tomato paste ( sun-dried or smoky varieties are fine to use)

2 cups water

1 tsp sea-salt

1 tsp cayenne pepper flakes

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tbs cold unsalted butter (optional)

6 cups freshly chopped spinach

1 1/4  lbs rigatoni pasta, or another hearty pasta like bucatini, ribbed penne or shells (I use Barilla brand)

1 1/2 cups Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated (optional)

Method:

1 – Put large saute pan on medium heat and add the oil and chopped bacon. Cook until bacon starts to get crispy (anywhere from 8 to 10 minutes).

fry bacon

Fry bacon

2 – Season the turkey with the salt and several grinds of black pepper and add to the pan. You will have to turn up the heat slightly. Cook turkey until it takes on a white color (about 5 to 8 minutes). Stir occasionally.

add turkey

Add turkey

3 – While meat is cooking, prep the veggies: slice carrot, onion and celery into chunks and add to a food processor with the garlic cloves. Pulse until it resembles large rubbly bits.

chop veggies in food processor

Chop veggies in food processor

4 – Add the veggies to the pan and cook for about 6 to 8 minutes (adjusting the heat down slightly).

add veggies

Add veggies

6 – Add the tomato paste, tomato puree, water, and chili flakes. Bring to a boil. When it boils, turn it down, cover and simmer at a bare bubble for about 2 hours. Check every 1/2 hour (or less) and give it a stir. If it gets very thick, add a 1/2 cup of water at a time to adjust consistency. However, it should be very thick.

add liquids adn spices

Add liquids and spices

7 – Add the chopped spinach and stir. (*at this point put the pasta on and cook according to instructions – do not rinse pasta and reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water before draining to add to sauce if necessary*)

add chopped spinach

Add chopped spinach

8 – Cover and cook for a further 12 or so minutes, stirring once during this time. Turn off heat. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning if necessary (salt, and/or pepper). If it is thicker than you would like, add some of the reserved pasta cooking water. Stir butter (if using) into sauce.

cook a little more adn adjust seasonings

Cook a little more and adjust seasonings

Divide pasta between warmed shallow bowls or plates and top each with a helping of Ragu. Pass some grated Parmigiano Reggiano and pepper flakes at the table.

Turkey & Bacon Ragu

Turkey & Bacon Ragu with lots of grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Rich Meaty Ragu In Baked Pasta (serves 12-14)

If you love rich pasta dishes, then this is the dinner for you. It seems to please the biggest to the smallest. I made this several times over the holidays (and again last night!) when crowds of people were dropping by continually, and it was a life-saver. It takes a bit of time (and a very large wooden spoon for wielding all of that meat!) but when it is done, you are off the hook for the whole evening, or for several days if you just cook it for the family for future meals.

This is addictive

This is addictive

I made this with a mixture of beef and lamb for extra flavor, and added special things like sun-dried tomato paste and smoky bacon to give the sauce a complex richness. Once you get the hang of making meat sauces they can be used in so many other things, Bolognese, Shepard’s pie, not to mention how they can be made ahead, frozen in 4 serving sizes to be drawn upon when you are in a hurry or you decide to ask the friend that came over for a quick chat after lunch to stay for dinner! All very handy indeed!

serve with lots of greens for balance (and guilt-free gorging!)

serve with lots of greens for balance (and guilt-free gorging!)

When I write about stuff like this I have to admit to feeling like some overly fastidious housewife and I have to scream out loud (mostly for myself) that it isn’t true!!! I don’t spend my days planning meals, and making mountains of food which get stored in Tupperware containers, neatly labelled with the contents. I only make giant amounts of food when I end up with a pile of something unexpected that needs using up (like 3lbs of ground meat last night).

Parsley, lemons, garlic & wine (great combination flavor)

Parsley, lemons, garlic & wine (great combination flavor)

I do however think about food quite a bit. Food just reminds me of everything that is good about the world: the pleasure of eating in the company of like-minded people, the smells bursting from my kitchen when I zest a lemon or chop fresh basil, the people I get to chat with who are drawn in by the activity and energy in my kitchen, cooking with friends, family and strangers, traveling anywhere and everywhere for that perfect meal, knowing that feeding someone who is down and out that day can change them for the better. It is a simple thing and not the most complicated thing to ponder on as I go through my day, but it is something that I can do everyday and it makes me feel good. You don’t need much to make something pleasing to the heart and soul, it can be as simple as a potato with a little blob of butter and salt – bliss.

Toss potatoes into parsley butter

Potatoes tossed in parsley butter

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You will need:

For meat sauce:

1/4 cup olive oil (extra-virgin is fine too)

3 lbs ground meat (beef, lamb or combination of the two – I buy 15% fat content when using beef)

4 or 5 stripes bacon (I used a flavorful smoky variety)

2 large onions, small dice

3 celery ribs, including leaves, diced

3 carrots, diced (I did this in my food processor – much faster!)

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 28oz can (793 grams) tomato puree

1 1/2 cups water

3 tbs tomato paste (or sun-dried tomato paste)

1 tsp sea-salt

1 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (optional)

freshly ground black pepper

2 cups white or red wine

For Béchamel sauce:

1 stick butter (4 oz/ 113 grams)

1/3 cup + 1 tbs all-purpose flour

3 1/2 cups milk

1 good quality veggie or chicken bouillon cube (I use Rapunzel Brand)

1/2 tsp sea-salt (I use Maldon sea-salt flakes) – NO salt if your bouillon cube is salty!

freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

3 lb pasta (I recommend any tubular pasta: rigatoni, large penne, ziti)

Method:

1 – Prep all veggies for meat sauce and set aside. Put large deep saute pan or large casserole on medium heat and add 2 tbs of the oil. Add the chopped bacon and fry until getting crispy. Pour off some of the bacon fat.

fry bacon

Fry bacon

2 – Next, add the rest of the oil, then the onions, garlic, carrots, celery and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally for about 12 minutes.

add veggies

Add veggies

3 – Add the ground meat and cook until it has all browned. sir and break up meat as much as possible during the cooking. This will take about 12 minutes.

add ground meat

Add ground meat

Cook until browned

Cook until browned

4 – Turn heat up to high and add the wine, water, tomato puree, and tomato paste and stir until everything is well incorporated and starting to bubble.

add liquids

Add liquids

5 – Add the salt, several generous grinds of black pepper and cayenne pepper flakes (if using)

add seasonings

Add seasonings

6 – When the mixture is bubbling, cover with the lid partially off, turn down and cook, stirring occasionally for up to 2 1/2 hours. The sauce will have thickened and become deeply rich.

cook for 2 to 21/2 hours

Cook for 2 to 21/2 hours

7 – While sauce is cooking put big saucepan or saute pan on medium/low heat and add the butter. When it melts, swirl in the stock cube until it dissolves completely. Add the salt and several grinds of freshly ground pepper.

melt butter, add bouillon cube

Melt butter, add bouillon cube

8 – Add the flour and stir with a whisk until it becomes a smooth paste. Add the milk 1 cup at a time, and cook on medium, stirring continually until it the sauce becomes thick. Taste and adjust seasoning. Cover and set side.

Add flour, then milk

Add flour, then milk

Preheat oven to 400*

Boil the pasta noodles right before you want to cook this dish (the rest can be made ahead) Do not rinse with cold water.

9 – Stir Béchamel sauce into meat sauce

add bechamel to cooked meat sauce

Add bechamel to cooked meat sauce

10 – Mix the hot pasta with the ragu. Butter a very large casserole (or several dishes) and pour pasta mixture into baking dish. Top with cheese (if using)

mix with any pasta you like

Mix with any pasta you like

11 – Place in oven until getting crispy on top (start checking after 30 minutes)

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes

Serve with lots of greens, more cheese, pepper flakes and black pepper!

Spaghetti With Turkey Ragu (serves 4)

Spaghetti with Turkey Ragu

Today was a lazy Sunday. I dubbed it a lazy day when I watched my daughter cutting long strips of pale lilac paper, stopping short at the end, and then cutting another strip until the whole sheet looked like the fringe of a fancy dress. She then cut them across and the pieces fell to the table in a cascade of tiny squares. I inquired if she was making confetti, and if so, “why”? She said “yes”, and “because it was something to do”.  That made it official. If someone resorts to idly making confetti, you can be sure they have nothing to do.

Hand-cut lilac confetti

I didn’t see this as a bad thing. We have been busy for far too long, and this action indicated to me we had begun to exhale, to relax, to breath. The piles of paper dropping from her scissors reminded me of the campo in Siena, where only a few months earlier I watched my daughter collect the tiny colorful confetti that lay in every space between the bricks and then fling it all into the air for the pure fun of it (type “Lunch in Siena; Spectacular” in search box to read more). Now everyone is in bed as I write, all the while itching to fling into the air her painstakingly made confetti that sits on the table beside me. I just can’t do it, as then I will have to clean it all up in case she races down the stairs in the morning to find it.

The confetti-covered campo in Siena

Thinking about Siena, made me think about Italy, and that made me remember how much this daughter of mine always ordered ragu everywhere we went. I had ground turkey in the fridge and a can of tomatoes in my cupboard, and so, I was going to make ragu for dinner, all because of confetti. It was the perfect dish to end our lazy day (and delicious).

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You will need: 3 or 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil,2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, 1 large sweet onion, diced, 1 thinly carrot, sliced or diced, 1 stalk celery, chopped, 3 slices streaky bacon, chopped, 1 lb ground turkey, 1 28oz can tomatoes and their juices, chopped, 1 tbs tomato paste concentrate, 2 tbs freshly chopped oregano, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes, 1/4 cup heavy cream (optional), 1 tsp sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, 1 lb spaghetti pasta (I use Barilla brand).

1 – Prep all ingredients as instructed above.

Saute veggies

2 – Put large saute pan on medium heat and add oil. When it warms, add the bacon,  garlic, onions, celery and carrots. Saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add oregano, pepper flakes, salt and several grinds of pepper and cook for another 2 minutes.

add turkey, then tomatoes

3 – Add turkey and cook for another 5 minutes (turn heat up if you need to). Add the tomatoes, paste and bring to a boil. Turn heat down until sauce reaches a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.

*while sauce is cooking, put pot of water on for pasta and cook according to instruction. time the pasta to be ready when the sauce is completely finished. Reserve a cup of pasta water in case you need it to loosen your sauce*

Serve plain or with cheese

4 – Stir in cream and take off of heat.

To serve; place spaghetti in the bottom of a bowl, top with sauce, and add cheese if you like.

Things to do with cut-up paper and a single flower petal!