It's sauce season: ragu di carne

A big pot of simmering sauce

If the temperature dips even slightly below 70 at night, Iam ready to rattle my pots and pans to make hearty meat sauces and soups. It's not that I don't make sauces and soups in the warmer months, it's simply that there is something idyllic for me about simmering a large pot of sauce or soup on a long, cool afternoon or evenig.

Yesterday I made a ragu di carne in the Bolognese tradition. This meat sauce originates in the Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy. It is both familiar and comforting, and can be served with pasta - fresh or dry - as well as polenta and gnocchi. 

Variations of this sauce may be made with prosciutto, porcini or chicken livers.

Ragu di carneKey ingredients

3 oz pancetta

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1 stalk celery

1 small carrot

1 small onion

l/2 lb. ground beef

1/2 lb ground pork

1 tbs Italian seasoning mix (I bought mine in the Campo dei Fiori, but you can find yours at any well-stocked grocer or make your own.)

1/4 teas red pepper flakes

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 cup broth

1/2 oz butter

1 tbs tomato paste

1 32-ounce can crushed tomatoes (or 4-6 large peeled & seeded tomatoes)



Prepare a battuto (finely chopped herb mixture traditionally using a mezzaluna) with pancetta, celery, carrot and onion. Melt butter in a saucepan, add the battuto and the ground meats, brown well, then add the wine and half the broth as well as the Italian seasoning mix and red pepper flakes.

Continue to cook until the liquids are reduced, then add the remaining broth. Reduce again, then add the crushed tomatoes or peeled and seeded tomatoes as well as the tomato paste, and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

Cover saucepan and let cook over a medium heat for at least 2 hours. Add the cream, and correct salt and pepper to taste. The sauce is ready to serve over fresh or stuffed pasta.

What's for dinner: Bison burgers

Square like Wendy's but a whole lot better for you

Last Saturday we got up early to make it to the Durham Farmers Market before all the sweet corn disappeared. We were well rewarded with beautiful plump kerneled ears.

Soooo sweet silver queen  Overall, the market offers a good selection of fresh produce, baked goods, organic eggs, poultry, meats and cheeses. Additionally, we have soap makers (goat's milk!) as well as chocolatiers (DollyMama, a playful take on the Dalai Lama, whose chocolates include the Buddha box), and artists and craftsmen selling everything from jewelry to stained glass baubles to handmade cards to pottery.

But the booth that we kept gravitating to was Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farms' bison meat.  You too can buy Rocky Mountain Oysters (ugh, no thanks) as my younger brother did or you can be more conservative (a term rarely applicable to me) and buy kabobs or burgers, roasts or stew meat.

Bison is pricey. The average price per pound for most cuts is between $7 and $10.  Organ meats are cheaper, starting at $3.  Prime cuts like steak as high as $20. 

My son, the 11-year-old epicure, was dying to try bison.  We bought kabobs (and unbeknownst to us, my older brother had already been shopping and bought burgers). Around five, we got a call to come over for Buff Burgers on the Barbie. So, we did.

Loading up the bison burger

Bison doesn't look that much different from ground beef, but is leaner and nutritionally superior according to some experts.

Sunset Ridge buffalos are grass-fed, and are not given growth hormones, low-level antibiotics, or animal by-products

According to the National Bison Association:

Research by Dr. M. Marchello at North Dakota State University has shown that the meat from Bison is a highly nutrient dense food because of the proportion of protein, fat, mineral, and fatty acids to its caloric value. Comparisons to other meat sources have also shown that Bison has a greater concentration of iron as well as some of the essential fatty acids necessary for human well being.

Bacon-wrapped dove breasts

Bacon-wrapped dove breasts  

In our family, the start of dove hunting season kicks off the Labor Day Weekend.  All the licensed hunters head to the fields at noon, hoping to bag a bunch of doves. 

Usually kids join the hunt at about age 11. Their first job: picking up the kill and wringing the necks of birds still alive.

My son wanted to join the dove hunt, so I sent him with my brothers and father. I expected that he would be back at the house in less than an hour, especially since he hates the heat and detests bugs.  Surprisingly, he stayed for the entire day, bounded into the house with his catch and declared the day a blast.

After cleaning the birds, they are bagged and everyone gets to take dove breasts home.  We cooked ours right away using a simple Southern recipe that enhances the meaty game flavor of the bird and keeps it tender and succulent. 

We ate our dove breasts as an entree, but they are so small and delicate, they would make a great appetizer too.

Wrapped and ready for the oven

Bacon Wrapped Dove Breasts


12-oz thin sliced bacon

18-20 dove breasts, rinsed and patted dry

salt & pepper to taste


Wrap each dove breast with a slice of bacon.  Place on a lined baking sheet and broil  (500 degrees F) in the oven for between 10-15 minutes - until bacon is browned and crisp.

Broiled to perfection As an appetizer, serves 9-10.  As an entree, serves 5.

Serve with wild rice or saffron rice.  Pair with a robust red like a Chianti.

Angel hair pasta with shrimp and capers


I adore quick and easy meals.

Pasta is my go-to ingredient when I want something tasty and fast for dinner. I love pasta so much I think I must be an honorary Italian!

Angel hair pasta with shrimp and capers is a favorite in our house. It's delicious, nutritious and made in minutes.

The following recipe is so simple and so good.


1/2 of a box uncooked angel hair pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 pound large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 tablespoons capers, drained

4 cloves garlic, chopped

d 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 can (28 ounces) Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and return to pan. 

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp; cook 3 to 5 minutes, until cooked through - a translucent pink. Remove shrimp from skillet to avoid overcooking and set aside.

Add garlic and crushed red pepper flakes; cook until garlic is tender, about 1 minute, stirring constantly. (Do not let garlic burn.)

Stir tomatoes, wine, capers and basil into skillet. Continue cooking until liquid is reduced by half, about 5 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add shrimp and sauce to pasta and toss to coat well. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese or Grana Padano and additional chopped basil, if desired.

Season with salt and pepper as desired.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

What's for dinner? Supercook.com has solutions

Suoercook solves the dinner dilemma Everyone I know has had this  moment.  You stand staring into the refrigerator wondering what on earth you can make for dinner that will not only be interesting and taste good, but use ingredients already on hand.

The temptation to call for takeout is all too great.

Before you reach for the phone, try Supercook.com, a user-friendly website that quickly gives you thousands of delicious recipe ideas.

Type in your ingredient and in seconds, you have solutions.