Posts tagged with pasta:

Creamy Mac and Cheese


Discovering I have a surplus of various leftover cheeses in the drawer in my fridge always inspires and justifies me doing one thing…making a pan of mac and cheese!

While I already have a couple recipes for yummy mac and cheese on the blog you know I am always interested in trying or adapting new recipes.

In the November issue of Saveur magazine I found the inspiration for my Creamy Mac and Cheese you see in the photo above.

I used a combination of white cheddar, Fontina, and Monterey Jack cheeses along with a mixture of whole milk, skim milk and half and half.  I often find that mixing non fat milk with whole milk and/or cream will give you the rich taste without all the fat.

The addition of the minced onions sauteed in butter, a half onion studded with cloves, and a couple of bay leaves  in this recipe gave me pause as I have never included those ingredients in my previous mac and cheese dishes, but then I thought all the more reason why I should try it. 

And I wasn’t sorry.  It added a subtle layer of flavor to the sauce that I loved, and by straining the finished sauce, the resulting sauce remains very creamy, fully blanketing the pasta.

As soon as it came out of the oven I helped myself to a taste which somehow turned into a large section missing from the pan before it even had a chance to cool. 

I packed up some to take to my son and his girlfriend in LA whom we were visiting the next day, and quickly froze the rest until my other son and his girlfriend come to visit us next. 

You might say I don’t trust myself with an entire pan of this yummy stuff sitting around, or I’m just a good Mom???

Here’s the recipe…and do allow yourself to be creative with whatever cheeses and milk/cream you prefer and/or have on hand.  Just be sure to include a favorite creamy type cheese such as the Fontina I used here.

Creamy Mac and Cheese

(adapted from the recipe for Macaroni au Gratin, Saveur, Nov, 2014)

(serves 8-10)

1 to 1 and 1/4 pound macaroni ( I used a combination of Ziti and Cellentani (a pasta tube that has been twisted to resemble the shape of a corkscrew)

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

12 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium yellow onion (1/2 minced, 1/2 whole)

1 cup flour

6 whole cloves

2 bay leaves

8 cups whole milk ( or a combination of whole, skim and half and half)

1 and 1/2 pounds combination of Fontina, white cheddar, and Monterey Jack, grated

1 tablespoon finely grated fresh nutmeg

1/4 cup Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

Cook pasta in a 6- 8 qt. saucepan or stockpot of boiling salted water until al dente, according to pkg directions.  Drain and transfer to a bowl.  Stir in 2 tablespoons of butter and set aside.


Add remaining butter to the pan; melt over medium-high.

Cook minced onions until golden, 6-8 minutes.


Stir in flour; cook 3 minutes.

Stud remaining onion half with cloves and add to the pan with the bay leaves.

Add milk/cream, and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Strain sauce through a fine-mesh sieve over the pasta. 

Stir in 3/4 of the cheese, the nutmeg, salt and pepper; transfer to a 9”by 13” baking dish.




Top with remaining cheese and the breadcrumbs; bake until golden and bubbly, 40 to 45 minutes.




Meat Kreplach


Kreplach are small dumplings filled with ground meat, chicken or potato.  They are typically served in soup or fried, and are sometimes called  “Jewish wontons”.

They are often served at the Jewish New Year, beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur.  Since Yom Kippur is traditionally a day of fasting they are served at dinner the evening before.

This year for our dinner before Yom Kippur I had planned to serve chicken soup, noodles and matzoh balls, a filling meal as is. 

As an after thought  I decided to add some meat kreplach  to the mix and found a fairly simple recipe online using ground beef.  It just so happened I had some ground chuck defrosting in my fridge.  Perfect!

Although many recipes for meat kreplach are made with leftover braised chuck or brisket, sauteed ground beef can be substituted as long as it is well seasoned.

It is a simple preparation.  A soft dough is made of flour, eggs, and water.  It is rolled out, cut into small squares and filled with the minced or ground beef mixture.

These squares are moistened and sealed forming small triangles which are then boiled in simmering water before being served in soup or fried and served with gravy, sour cream or apple sauce.

With apples and honey, fresh homemade raisin challah (egg bread) lovingly baked by a friend, and a bowl filled to the brim with chicken soup, matzoh balls, noodles, carrots and kreplach it is safe to say we had no room for dessert!


Meat Kreplach

(adapted from Fried Meat Kreplach, NYT Cooking, Alex Witchel)


2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup minced onion

1 small clove garlic, minced

1/2 pound ground beef chuck

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For Dough

1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 extra-large eggs

Kosher Salt


1.  For filling:  In a small skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion, and saute until well browned,   6 to 8 minutes.  Toward end of cooking add garlic, and stir well.

2.  Add beef, breaking it up well with side of wooden spoon.  Saute until it has lost its raw color.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, and saute another 2 minutes.


Remove from heat and let cool.

3.  For dough:  Mound flour on a wooden board or in a large mixing bowl.  Make a well in center.  Break eggs into well, then add 2 tablespoons lukewarm water.


With a fork, beat eggs and water together, incorporating a bit of the flour.  As liquids blend, continue to push flour into well.  Drizzle in 2 more tablespoons water, one at a time, or as needed to make a cohesive dough.



4.  When dough is well blended, mix it by hand, then begin to knead it on a flat surface.  With a bench scraper, turn dough and press it with your fingertips, then knead a few strokes again.  The dough should remain slightly sticky but become smooth and elastic; if dough is very sticky, lightly sprinkle work surface with flour.  Form dough into a ball and let rest on board, covered with a bowl or a piece of plastic wrap, for 30 minutes.


5.  Using half the dough at a time, and keeping other half covered, roll out very thin on floured board.  You may need to stretch as you roll. 

6.  To fill and shape kreplach, cut rolled dough into approximately 3-inch squares.  Put one rounded teaspoon of filling in center of each square.


With a brush or a finger, moisten edges of squares with water.  Fold dough from corner to corner, forming a triangle, and seal carefully.


7.  To cook kreplach, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.  Working in batches, if necessary, add kreplach— do not crowd pot—and boil until dough is cooked and tender to taste,  6 to 8 minutes.


Drain and cool.  Serve in soup. (Kreplach can be frozen at this point.  To use, thaw in refrigerator or at room temperature.)



Ruth Reichl’s Spaghetti Carbonara ( or in this case Linguini Carbonara


This is a quick dinner for those nights when you don’t know what to make, you are hungry, and you don’t want to fuss.

 My husband had a meeting to attend a couple of evenings ago so I was dining solo.

Since he has been watching his carbs lately, and I have been hungry for pasta, but not wanting to sabotage his efforts, this was my moment.

So I decided Ruth Reichl’s recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara met all my requirements for my dinner.

It is super quick to make.  I had all the ingredients on hand except for the spaghetti, but linguini filled in nicely,  and cleanup time is minimal.   

And Ruth Reichl would never steer you wrong.  Here is her recipe in her own words…

Spaghetti Carbonara

Serves 3

Contrary to the recipe so often used in restaurants, real carbonara contains no cream. The real thing also uses guanciale, cured pork jowl, but to be honest, I like bacon better. I think of this as bacon and eggs with pasta instead of toast. It’s the perfect last minute dinner, and I’ve yet to meet a child who doesn’t like it.

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/4 to 1/2 pound thickly sliced good quality bacon (I prefer Nueske’s)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 large eggs
  • Black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano cheese, plus extra for the table

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. When it is boiling, throw the spaghetti in. Most dried spaghetti takes 9 to 10 minutes to cook,and you can make the sauce in that time.

Cut the bacon crosswise into pieces about 1/2 inch wide. Put them in a skillet and cook for 2 minutes, until fat begins to render. Add the whole cloves of garlic and cook another 5 minutes, until the edges of the bacon just begin to get crisp. Do not overcook; if they get too crisp they won’t meld with the pasta. Meanwhile, break the eggs into the bowl you will serve the pasta in, and beat them with a fork. Add some grindings of pepper.

Remove the garlic from the bacon pan. If it looks like too much to you, discard some, but you’re going to toss the bacon with most of its fat into the pasta. When it is cooked, drain the pasta and immediately throw it into the beaten eggs. Mix thoroughly. The heat of the spaghetti will cook the eggs and turn them into a sauce. Add the bacon with its fat, toss again, add cheese and serve.

A few notes:  I used thickly sliced applewood smoked bacon, and my favorite Pecorino Romano cheese.




Pecorino Romano from Fromagerie Sophie

The past couple of weeks we have found ourselves up to our ears in unpacking since having moved into our new home in San Luis Obispo’s downtown on November 24th. 
It is a labor of love seeing for the first time in a long time so many of our possessions.  Uncovering  my dishes, utensils, cookware, small appliances, vases, flower pots, etc. is like being reunited with an old friend after a long separation.
Our new kitchen has a hard act to follow since as you know I loved my former remodeled kitchen dearly.
Leaving it was equivalent to leaving a very old friend with whom I spent countless hours happily cooking, baking and creating. 
So now I have another beautiful kitchen, a bit larger and a different layout with high ceilings and  lots of windows (which I love) in a totally different setting. 
It will take some time I’m sure for us to become as good friends, but with each dish I prepare I know I will be one step closer.
Two days ago I cooked Ina’s Real Meatballs and Spaghetti, a favorite recipe.
I realized I didn’t have any Pecorino Romano ( which goes into the meatballs as well as freshly grated on top of the sauce ) just abut the same time that my husband phoned on his way home to see if I needed anything.
Coincidentally he was just checking out a new little cheese shop in our wonderful downtown.  It was my lucky day!  He brought me home some delicious imported Pecroino Romano from Fromagerie Sophie which only opened a couple of weeks ago.
We stopped by yesterday on our way back from the Thursday evening Farmer’s Market and I got a chance to check out Sophie’s cheese shop myself.  I told them that I loved the Pecorino Romano and that I am in the neighborhood and they will be seeing a lot more of me!

Pan Fried Chicken Breasts with Orzo


I hate when this happens!  I haven’t posted on my blog for almost 3 weeks. We are approaching the home stretch of our upcoming move, and life cooking as I know it is no more. 

In the last few weeks my husband and I have made a trip to San Luis Obispo to check on the status of our future home. 

We were there for the required framing walk-through, which turned out to be a 3 hour procedure since it is very detail oriented, not to mention the time it takes to cover the endless lists my husband produces at such meetings. 

Seriously, I kid him about it, but when we had moved into our current home almost 25 years ago had he not been so on top of things our four bedroom house might have been a three bedroom house.

The boys and I were still in Chicago and my husband had driven out a month earlier to begin his new job.  He was living in an apartment (where we would be joining him for 3 months until the house was ready).

He would come by the construction site regularly to check on the status.  One day he discovered that instead of the fourth bedroom they had framed a sitting room off the master bedroom.

Fortunately for us, the mistake was caught in time, and corrected!

On this trip to SLO we found ourselves busy every day, but were able to see both of our sons and their girlfriends, which was the real bonus.  

Although it was exciting to finally have something to see, walking through rooms framed in wood without walls, ceilings, or a roof overhead is, for me, tough to envision as the place I’ll be calling home in just a few months.

(this is especially difficult since there are no models, and  we have only had plans and computer generated videos to go by)  BOLD, aren’t we???


I may have mentioned this before but this move will represent a huge lifestyle change for us. 

Our home is being built in SLO’s  charming downtown (no more suburbs!) and (lots more walking) and we are truly downsizing to about half the size of our present beloved home without the magnificent gardens we created (novices, though we were…fortunately we had plenty of years to learn).

 I will have a large deck, a small patio, and a tiny balcony that I intend to put all my energy into as soon as we are unpacked.  

It is a totally different type of architecture than we are used to here on the east coast called contemporary craftsman with lots of windows and a 10 foot ceiling. 

We even think we will have some beautiful mountain views from a few windows. That’s one of the things we discovered at the walk through!

We will not be visiting again until we move so that is when we will see our completed home for the first time.

The day after I got home  two of my cousins arrived from St. Louis for a weekend at my sister’s home in PA (all planned previous to my knowing the exact timing of our trip to SLO…oops!)

We crammed a lot into a few days.  I had dinner for them upon their arrival…appetizers on the patio until it got too chilly, and a meal of grilled Chicken Teryaki (I do the marinating, my husband does the grilling)


and Vermont Potato Salad.


For dessert…Chocolate Cake


The next morning we drove to my sister’s, went out to a great restaurant for dinner, and the next day we took a trip to the Chanticleer Gardens in Wayne, PA, a half hour outside of Philadelphia.  

I hope to post photos I took there on a future post.  It was the most beautiful day, and the 48 acres were lush with all the spring flowering plants and trees. Thanks to our cousin from the midwest for suggesting it.  

Back at home I have been busy with packing, etc and have had little time to cook or shop.  In fact I have been trying to use up my overloaded pantry. It seems I can’t resist a sale and whenever my favorite pasta was featured  I would stock up.  

With several boxes of orzo on the shelf I decided to make a quick dinner of Pan Fried Chicken Breasts with Orzo.

I usually reserve the boneless breasts in the freezer for chicken parmigiana or chicken stir fries, but with very few veggies for a stir fry and very little time for a parmigiana I decided to quickly marinate the chicken breasts Greek style with salt, pepper, lemon juice , minced fresh garlic and some oregano.  

While that was marinating I made the orzo, risotto style like I love to do.

 After sauteeing some chopped onion and garlic in olive oil for 5 minutes I add the dried orzo (about 1 to 1 and 1/2 cups ) to the saucepan  until it begins to brown.  

To that add some warmed chicken stock slowly in increments as if you were making risotto, and stir continually on medium to medium high heat.  As the liquid evaporates, keep adding more and stirring so it doesn’t stick.  

Repeat this until you have added about 3 cups liquid.  When most of the liquid is absorbed, season with kosher salt and pepper, and some dried or fresh thyme.  At this point  reduce it to low, and cover with a lid for another 10 minutes, checking to make sure it is not sticking.  When done, turn the heat off and keep warm til ready to serve.

To finish the chicken breasts, heat a large skillet with a bit of olive oil and butter to medium high.  When hot, add the chicken breasts and allow to cook on one side til browned.  Turn and cook until browned on the other side.  

Add a small amount of chicken stock to the pan and the juice of half a lemon.  When done, cover pan and let sit for a few minutes.  

Serve the chicken breast over a bed of orzo.

Garnish with fresh lemon and oregano.

Ina’s Linguine with Shrimp Scampi


Here’s a recipe from Ina Garten aka The Barefoot Contessa that never disappoints.  It is one I have made numerous times.  It is quick and delicious, and you will likely have most of the ingredients on hand, except the shrimp.

It’s a good idea to keep a bag of shrimp in your freezer for use in shrimp stir fries and other recipes that cook up quickly.

To make it even quicker Ina says you can use peeled and deveined shrimp, which I do. 

Costco, for example,  sells  a  2 pound bag of raw large shrimp already peeled and deveined, so all you need to do is remember to defrost the amount you need overnight in the fridge.  They will be ready for you the next day. (Do not use cooked shrimp).

Add a salad and some good bread and you have yourself a delicious dinner.

Ina’s Linguine with Shrimp Scampi (serve 6)

(Barefoot Contessa Family Style, Ina Garten)

Vegetable Oil (I used canola)

Kosher Salt

1 and 1/2 pounds linguine

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

5 tablespoons good olive oil

3 tablespoons minced garlic (9 cloves)

2 pounds (raw) large shrimp (about 32 shrimp). peeled and deveined

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)

1/2 lemon, thinly sliced in half-rounds

1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

Drizzle some oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the linguine, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or according to the directions on the package.

Meanwhile, in another large (12-inch). heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add the garlic.  Saute for 1 minute.  Be careful, the garlic burns easily!

Add the shrimp, 1 tablespoon of salt, and the pepper and saute until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often.

Remove from the heat, add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices, and red pepper flakes.  Toss to combine.

When the pasta is done, drain the cooked linguine, and then put it back in the pot.  Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well, and serve.


Baked Pasta with Sausage and Four Cheeses



With spring on the horizon there still remain enough wintry days to cook up some one dish meals such as this Baked Pasta with Sausage and Four Cheeses.

Soon we will be  turning our thoughts to all the great grilling possibilities, and endless salads and such that will be heralded by the opening of the farm stands everywhere.

Until then consider making this delicious baked rigatoni dish which is great for feeding a crowd ( just make several) or a family dinner (with leftovers for lunch the next day).

Baked Pasta with Sausage and Four Cheeses

(The Tuscan Sun Cookbook, Frances Mayes and Edward Mayes)

 serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for the baking dish

1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed, meat cut into small pieces

1/2 pound spicy Italian sausage, casings removed, meat cut into small pieces

1/2 cup red wine

2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

1 cup soffrito (see recipe in Giusi’s Ragu post)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

8 tomatoes or 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, juice included, chopped

1 pound rigatoni

1 cup (8 ounces) whole-milk ricotta

8 ounces Fontina or Taleggio, cubed

8 ounces mozzarella, cubed

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (I used Pecorino Romano)

1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs, toasted (I used Panko breadcrumbs)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bring the pasta water to a boil and add salt.

Ina large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat and cook the sausage, breaking it up as it browns, about 5 minutes. 

Add the wine, turn the heat up to boil, and cook until much of the liquid has reduced, about 10 minutes.

Add the oregano, soffrito, seasonings, and tomatoes along with their juices.

Simmer the sauce for at least 10 minutes, or until thick and savory.


Cook the rigatoni a minute less than the time required on the package (since it will continue cooking in the oven), then drain, reserving a bit of the pasta water.


In a large bowl, mix the ricotta with the fontina and a splash of the pasta water,


then add the drained rigatoni and continue mixing. 


Add the sausage mixture and mozzarella, tossing to mix well. 


Oil a 9x13-inch baking dish, and then pour in the pasta.  Sprinkle the Parmigiano and breadcrumbs on top.  Bake uncovered for 25 minutes or until golden flecked and hot.


Pappardelle with Porcini and Garlic


This is a delicious quick dish for any night of the week or for guests.  I’ve been making it for years.  Although the recipe suggests porcini and pappardelle almost any kind of mushrooms and most pastas will do.

You can’t miss with this classic blend of sauteed mushrooms, garlic, parsley, and Parmesan or my favorite Pecorino Romano.  Enjoy!

Papardelle with Porcini and Garlic

(adapted from Pasta, Food and Wine Books)

Serves 4

3/4 pound pappardelle pasta

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 pound porcini or other wild mushrooms, trimmed and sliced (I used a combination of shitake and cremini this time)

5 cloves garlic, lightly crushed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

3/4 cup chicken stock, or low-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving


In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pappardelle until just done, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan over moderately high heat. 

Add half of the mushrooms, 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper.  Cook stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.  Remove the mushrooms and if you want discard the garlic.  I prefer to leave it in.


 Repeat with the remaining oil, mushrooms, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Return all the mushrooms to the pan and add the stock, butter and parsley.  Simmer over moderate heat for 1 minute.


Drain the pasta.  Toss with the mushroom sauce and and the Parmesan or Pecorino.  Serve with additional grated cheese and cracked pepper.

Cheesy Mac and Cheese


Every now and then I get an uncontrollable craving for mac and cheese. 

Since my husband’s love for cheese is limited to a chunk of Jarlsberg  or melted mozzarella on his pizza or Chicken Parm I can’t use him as the excuse for why I would make this large pan of Cheesy Mac and Cheese in the photo above.

Yep, I must admit I made it for me…although I’m always willing to share with anyone who may walk through our door, including repairmen, painters, etc… and countless times I have walked out the door and down the street carrying something hot off the stove to share with our best friends. 

They have since moved away (too far a walk now), but for 20 plus years I could always count on them to enjoy a dish I was itching  to make that wasn’t on the top of my husband’s list, or if truth be known, not on his list at all.

But you didn’t think that would keep me from making this Cheesy Mac and Cheese, did you? For someone who loves to cook and try new recipes as much as I do, I find I subscribe to that tag line for Clairol…I’m worth it!

This is the second time I’ve posted a recipe for macaroni and cheese.  The previous one  is a bit different, but I use a variety of pasta shapes and cheeses in both.

In this one I added an over- the- top amount of shredded cheese to the bechamel sauce before adding the pasta to the sauce.  It is good enough to eat right there and then, or you can pour it into an augratin dish, cover it with Panko (coarse Japanese bread crumbs), and bake it off in the oven.

Either way…it is one cheesylicious Mac and Cheese!

Cheezy Mac and Cheese

(adapted from Homeroom’s Classic Macaroni and Cheese Recipe)


For the bechamel:                                                                               
4 cups whole milk (I used 3 cups skim and 1 cup half and half)

1 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons kosher salt (to taste)

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

To assemble:

Kosher salt

2 pounds assorted pasta (I used penne, cellantani, and gemelli)

8 ounces shredded extra sharp white cheddar cheese

8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese

4 ounces shredded Mozzarella cheese

4 ounces shredded Asiago cheese

2/3 cup panko (optional)

For  the bechamel:

1.  Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until it just comes to a simmer, then turn off the heat and set aside.

2.In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture turns light brown in color, about 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

3.  While whisking constantly, slowly add the hot milk to the flour mixture until evenly combined and smooth. (It will get very thick when you first add the milk, then thin out.)

4.  Return the saucepan to medium-high heat and while whisking constantly, cook until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in 2 to 3 teaspoons of the salt, taste, and add the remaining salt as desired. Stir in the cayenne and nutmeg.  Remove from the heat and set aside.


To Assemble:
1.  Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until it’s almost al dente (just on the edge of being underdone), then drain and rinse with cold water; set aside.

(If you plan to top the mac and cheese with panko and bake it, heat the oven to 400 degrees and arrange a rack in the middle.)

2. Place the reserved saucepan of bechamel over the medium heat and stir in the cheeses just until melted and smooth.  Add the pasta and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is heated through and steaming, about 2 to 4 minutes.


Serve immediately, or, if baking, transfer to a large baking dish, sprinkle with the panko, and bake until bubbling and brown on top, about 25 to 30 minutes.


Giusi’s Ragu



I’ve really been enjoying The Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances and Edward Mayes this past week.  So far I’ve posted the Chicken with Olives and Tomatoes  recipe which includes the Roasted Tomato recipe.

Now I’m sharing with you Giusi’s Ragu.  Giusi is one of the authors’ close friends whom they met early in their move to the Tuscan countryside, and who, like the others, has  shared passed-down, hallowed recipes each with their own creative touch.   To quote the author…

Slow and easy-long-simmered ragu is the quintessential Tuscan soul food. There are as many ways with ragu as there are cooks. This is ours, learned originally from Guisi, who’s made it a thousand times.  By now, I think we have, too.  On many Saturday mornings, Ed makes a huge pot of ragu-tripling, quadrupling the recipe-and another of tomato sauce.  We consider these our natural resources. For lunch, while the pots are still on the stove, we spoon ragu over bruschetta, add some cheese, and run it under the broiler.  By  afternoon, we’re ready to fill several glass containers of different sizes and freeze them.  We’re then free to pull out one during the workweek.

Serve ragu in lasagne or over spaghetti and, as you eat, you know you’re participating in a communal rite that’s being enacted all over the Italian peninsula.

Now for the ragu

Giusi’s Ragu

(serves 10)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound ground lean beef

1 pound ground pork

2 Italian sausages, casings removed

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

1 to 2 cups red wine

1 cup soffritto (recipe follows)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

16 to 20 tomatoes or 2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, juice included, chopped

Pour the olive oil into a 4-quart heavy pot with a lid.  Over medium-high heat, brown the meats, breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon, about 10 minutes. 

Add the salt„ pepper, thyme, and 1 cup of the red wine.  After the wine has cooked into the meat, about 10 minutes, add the soffritto, and stir in the tomato paste and tomatoes.



Bring the sauce to a boil, and then lower to a quiet simmer.  Partially cover, and continue cooking for 3 hours, stirring now and then.  Along the way, add the remaining cup of wine if you think the sauce is too dense.



A quick saute of carrot, onion, celery and flat-leaf parsley starts off many sauces and meats.  It is similar to mirepoix in France.  Depending on the recipe, you can add a variety of other ingredients to the soffritto:  2 minced cloves of garlic, 4 or 5 torn basil leaves, or other aromatic herbs. 

Use this in ragu or soup and  as a seasoning for zucchini, peas, or other vegetables.  Mix some with breadcrumbs and stuff tomatoes with it.  Add a cup of chopped, oven-roasted tomatoes to a soffritto, and you have a perfect sauce for spaghetti.

For a quick dinner, make a big batch ahead of time and freeze in 1/2 cup portions for you to grab for your recipe.

The following makes 1 cup of soffritto

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, minced

1 carrot, minced

1 celery stalk, minced

1 handful of flat-leaf parsley, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

(You can mince by hand or in a food processor)


Saute the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until they begin to color and turn tender, 5 to 7 minutes.


Proceed with your recipe, or cool and freeze.