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.

Pick a Peck of Basil & Make Pesto!


I bought a huge bunch of basil at the farmer's market.  The smell of fresh basil is wonderfully pungent and a welcome burst of flavor as seasoning or garnish, but the herb itself has a very short life in the fridge.

To make the most of my purchase, I used it in a coconut fish curry, in pomodoro sauce, and finally to make a little pesto for a quick lunch of pasta with fresh ricotta.

I'm really not supposed to eat cow's milk products.  I like them, but they don't like me.  Next time I'm going to use goat cheese. I promise.

There was a bit of pesto left over, so I threw that in a container and stashed it in the freezer for another quick meal.

I still have some basil left, just beginning to discolor, so I'm going to add that to the leek greens, carrots, onion and thyme that will go into making a vegetable stock to freeze for soup bases.

My freezer is beginning to burst at the seams, but I'll be glad of it on those fall nights after school and work when there's barely time to turn around before bed.

My mother is of the waste not, want not school of thought. I learned my lesson well too. Quick meals ought not to come at the expense of  nutrition or pinch the purse.  With a little planning and foresight, you can have it all -- quality food high in nutritive value, economy, and speed.