I didn’t wait long though and thank goodness. From the moment I started reading, I couldn’t stop, and I blew through my jet lag by reading the entire book the first weekend I was home. The simple earnestness of the writing, the lyricism, the push and pull of various cultures and people and food; it all rang true to me. Her book, much like her blog, felt a little bit like home.
I inserted little sticky notes on every recipe I wanted to try, but after reading the book, put it on the shelf in the kitchen with all the other cookbooks and went about living my life, almost, but not quite, forgetting about the ragù that first arrested my interest when I read it.
The list of ingredients seemed deceptively simple: 1 kilo of meat, an onion, a couple of carrots, a bit of red wine, tomatoes and salt. How could those humble ingredients make such a compelling sauce, one that carried Luisa through some of her most difficult moments?
I’d had that ragù in the back of my mind for weeks, and only one thing kept me from making it right away: Luisa recommends simmering the sauce for a full seven hours. I didn’t think I had the time, or the concentration, or the discipline, really, to commit a full seven hours to a meat sauce.
But lately I’ve been feeling flighty, a bit anxious, and I needed something to ground me, something to make me feel and embrace the place and space I’m in. The sauce, I decided, was perfect for a Saturday, when I could slow down a bit, commit to this project, and dedicate my day to the creation of something fulfilling.
So yesterday morning I set about slowly chopping an onion, then a couple of carrots. I sautéed the onion in olive oil and butter, then added the carrots. The meat came next -- all beef, as I had no access to pork -- and I used a wooden spoon to break it up, dividing it into small pieces, as small as the finely diced onion and carrots. I added half a cup of red wine, then the pureed tomatoes and salt.
And then I lowered the heat and put on the lid. Seven hours to go and counting.
I went about my day, doing laundry, watching the news, tidying up the living room, playing with the cats. But instead of rushing from one task to the next, in a flurry of indecision as to what I wanted to do, I felt the pull of the slowly simmering sauce telling me to take a breath, to savor the day, to really participate.
After the seven hours were up, the house smelled simply heavenly, and the sauce quivered in the pot, ready to be spooned over a fresh pot of penne pasta. We poured some red wine, sat at the table and enjoyed.
Ragù alla Bolognese
Adapted slightly from My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss of The Wednesday Chef
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 large yellow onion, finely minced
2 large carrots, finely minced
1 kilo mince meat (kiyma)
½ cup red wine
1, 800-gram can of peeled tomatoes, pureed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Put the oil and butter in a large cast-iron pot (or any large pot, really) over medium heat so that the butter melts. Add the onion and cook for about 7 minutes, stirring often. Then add the carrots and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Add the mince meat and, using a wooden spoon, stir and chop the meat so that it breaks up into small, uniform pieces about the size of the carrot and onion. This will take several minutes and will require some elbow grease. Stir and cook until the meat is no longer pink, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the wine and stir well to combine, then simmer for another 2-3 minutes. Add the pureed tomatoes, salt and pepper, stir well, and lower the heat to the lowest possible setting. Put the lid on and let the pot simmer as long as you can, ideally 7 hours, but at a minimum, 5.