February 19, 2008
With the long weekend, I decided to make Sunday dinner on Monday and invite our friend Lucio and his family to join us. I think you can imagine my brother’s reaction when I told him I was going to make ragù for Lucio. You are?, he replied with a mouthful of skepticism. I said, sure why not? I had nothing to lose. If I failed to impress Lucio, the son of Mama, with my meat sauce, nobody would be surprised. But if I succeeded, I would savor the victory. I was the underdog. Ragù is an Italian term for a meat-based sauce, which is traditionally served with pasta. Etymologically the word derives from the French ragoût, a noun derived from ragoûter (to revive the taste). A ragù is usually made by adding meat to a soffritto (a partially-fried mixture of chopped onions, celery, carrots, seasonings, etc.) and then simmering it for a long time with a bit of tomato sauce. (A soffritto is the Italian equivalent of the French mirepoix.) I substituted a little ground turkey for some of the ground beef. But to make sure there was plenty of flavor, I browned the meat with some pancetta. Before Lucio has his taste, I needed to make sure Isa, his young daughter, had her bowl of pasta with olive oil. I was careful not to over cook the rigatoni, I think a felony crime in Italy, and took it out of the water when it was still al dente. She ate it all. So far, so good. Now it was Lucio’s turn. And now it was Lucio’s second turn. I think he wanted a third bowl but held back. Victory! I proclaimed quietly. We finished the meal with a green salad and some delicious La Tur cheese, acquired by my wife, our resident cheesemonger. A creamy Italian cheese made of blended sheep, cow and goat's milk. “Made in Italy's Piemonte region, at a dairy near Alba, La Tur provides the kind of sensory experience that makes tasters roll their eyes skyward and lean back in their chairs.” We actually did lean back, and watched Isa’s puppet show about two sisters and their almost vacation. It was a great Sunday dinner, even if it was on Monday.