Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Not the Kind That Comes in a Jar

A fresh ragu doesn't mind waiting in the refrigerator for a few days before its grand unveiling.

In fact, it likes to bide its time. Let everybody mingle, get comfortable, loosen up. Pork, meet beef -- you've met before, remember? Hey, it's my buddy garlic! WassUP!

So on the third day, we began to eat it. It was ready.

Margy loves ragu. You could also call it Bolognese. You could probably also call it gravy, but that's another conversation. It was a staple in our house for a while, but we took a break. Of late I had been keeping "meat sauce," not ragu, in the freezer (there's only enough room for one or the other). Though both sauces are tomato-and-meat based -- and both are essential to true happiness -- meat sauce is made with meatballs, pork ribs, big pieces of sausage, and whatever else looks good, while ragu is made with ground meat and a mirepoix of onion, carrot, and celery. I had been distracted by meat sauce for a year, but I hadn't forgotten about ragu. Margy wouldn't let me.

My blueprint takes a few ideas from Marcella Hazan (cooking the meat in milk) and a few from my Italian friend Giuliana (wrapping garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns, and rosemary in cheese cloth and letting the flavors simmer into the sauce). If meat sauce transports me to my mom's kitchen, ragu transports me to northern Italy. Like I said, both are essential.

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