Ragu alla Bolognese

I went to a wedding recently, and the man giving the homily said this thing that I wrote down, he said, "Tell each other the story of being someone who has been loved well." 

Or something like that. 
And I thought, what a beautiful thing. 
The story of someone who has been loved well. 

I've been thinking a lot about marriage recently, maybe because all of a sudden, people my age and a little older are starting to get married, and I’m seeing all these newlywed people pop up in my facebook feed, and also in my real life. 
Some of them are even having babies. 
And it's all so magical and wonderful, but at the same time-- 


I mean. 


And the sort of quiet realization that the people you meet and maybe wake up next to and spend your minutes and hours and days with, does it all suddenly matter more? Is this the big leagues of life? Has it always been the big leagues and I just haven’t been paying attention???

It all suddenly seems much, much more real. 

The story of someone who has been loved well. 

In addition to being recently obsessed with the whole concept of marriage, I've also been obsessed with recipes that are stupifyingly simple. Because painfully and perfectly simple things are usually the best. So fuck crazy spices, fuck elaborate and trendy and especially fuck everything to do with quinoa. (I keep trying and I keep wishing and the supposed actual taste-goodness of quinoa keeps not happening.) 

But this ragu. 
This humble meat sauce with pasta. 
This is it. 
Like most painfully perfect simple things, it takes time and a little heartache and attention and also confidence. Because you have to be gentle with it, and you have stir it for forever, and you brown everything, and let juices evaporate, and then, most importantly, you let it simmer for a million years.
By the end of making this ragu, you’re basically in a relationship with it. 
And that’s okay. 

Baby, I’m wishing you good things. 
But more than that, I hope you know that you already own the story of being someone who “has been loved well.” 
You are already that person. 
You really are. 
But if you feel like maybe you need a little boost of confidence, then make this ragu.  
You’ll like it so much, you’ll wanna put a ring on it. 

I love you. 

Ragu alla Bolognese 
via TheWednesdayChef.com and her book My Berlin Kitchen 

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 large yellow onion, finely minced
2 large carrots, finely minced (you want roughly equal amounts of minced onion and carrot)
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1/2 cup red wine (open a fresh bottle and drink the rest with dinner)
1 28-ounce can peeled San Marzano tomatoes, pureed
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1) Put the oil and butter in a large cast-iron pot over medium heat, to melt the butter. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for about 7 minutes, until the onion is well cooked. Do not let it take on any color. Add the minced carrots and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring now and then.

2) Add the ground meat to the pot, and using a wooden spoon, stir and chop up the meat so that it cooks and breaks down into uniformly tiny pieces. Raise the heat to medium-high or even high as you do this. It takes a good amount of elbow grease and a little bit of time. Continue to stir and cook until the meat is no longer pink (at no point, however, should the meat be browning). There will be liquid at the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook until that liquid has mostly evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes.

3) Add the wine and stir well to combine. Simmer until the wine has mostly evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.

4) Add the pureed tomatoes and the salt and stir well to combine. The sauce will come to a simmer almost instantly. Lower the heat to the lowest possible setting, put the lid on the pot, and let the sauce simmer for as long as you possibly can, stirring it occasionally. Seven hours would be wonderful, 5 hours is pretty good, but any less than 3 and you're really missing out. The longer you cook the sauce, the richer and more flavorful it will get. At some point in the cooking process, the fat will separate from the sauce and float at the top, so just give the sauce a good stir every so often to reincorporate the fat.

5) At the end of the cooking time, taste for seasoning and add more salt, if needed. Then serve tossed with pasta or use in a classic lasagne (this recipe makes enough for a 9 x 13-inch pan).

How to Be Brave With Squash

A letter to my brothers:

I miss you.

I miss your hands and your smiles and the real talk and I miss how noisy you are and how nosey you are, and even though we live in the same city, I'm living such a different life now, and I wish I could share the best bits of it with you, because I know you'd like it.

I want to tell you some stuff that has been in my head.

I want to tell you that people are awesome. That if you ask, people will tell you really magical things. That there is so much learning you can do, if you just listen. No one ever told me. 
I want to tell you that people are disappointing. That given the chance, people will disappoint you. And that this is the hardest lesson to learn. No one ever told me. 

I want to tell you that no one is actually judging you, and if they are: fuck 'em. 
I want to tell you that you should not be afraid, that whatever you are doing in this moment, is okay.
I want to tell you that sleep is really grand. 
I want to tell you to hold doors open. 
I want to tell you to stay away from users and losers. 
I want to tell you that making things is good. Even if what you make is shitty.

I want to tell you about this squash.

It was too big.


I bought it with some friends at the Hope Farmer's Market. I think the name of the squash is "Marrow Squash." It was huge. As big as a medium sized pumpkin. Which is very large for a squash. 
I called it my baby. 
Which was awkward when I cut it up and roasted it and baked it into a savory tart. 

And it was really fucking good. 

Darling boys, here is what I really want to tell you. 

Be brave. Be brave. Be brave. 

Be brave in the kitchen, especially with intimidating squashes. 
Be brave with putting yourself out there. 
Be brave with friends. 
Be brave with strangers. 
Be brave enough to go to the party, and brave enough to leave when you're ready.

And as we all run into strange new worlds, in which we lose touch more easily and speak less, I just want you to know this:

If nothing else, be brave with the squash. 


How To Be Brave With Squash

I cut my monster baby squash in half, scooped out the seeds, and rubbed the insides with olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, red pepper flakes, dried thyme and basil. I cooked it for half an hour, at 4oo degrees, until the flesh was soft. And then, when it was cooked through, I scooped the insides out, chopped them into a soft pulp, and added more salt. Then I patted it into a soft shell of uncooked pie dough that I hadn't used yet, grated Some Very Fine Irish Cheddar Cheese over it and baked it at 375 for 30 minutes. 

It tasted good. 

I was lucky. 

Pasta with Creamy Tomato Sauce

Here is the true story of me and this pasta:

I just finished my freshman year of college. Talk about VICTORY. 


Talk about time to de-stress,time to sing really loud 100% of the time, time to go to the pool, time to dance again, time to read a real book, time to sleep in, time to work, time to contemplate and party and not think at all, time to adventure, time to clean my closet, and perhaps most important, time to eat real food again. 

As my first meal back at home, it seemed appropriate to make pasta. I'd been envisioning it for several days. I wanted to make a bowl of pasta that was thick and rich and a little heavy, the sort of bowl of pasta that would take me half an hour to eat. A bowl of pasta I could luxuriate in. The kind of pasta I would want to take a bath in. I mean, it would be a sludgey bath, but a bath, nevertheless. 

I do not believe in many things, but I believe in kindness and more than 6 hours of sleep and dessert first and indulgence and comfort food. 

And for me, comfort food is this kind of pasta. It's flavorful but not overwhelming, not exactly healthful but there are vegetables in it so you can feel mildly virtuous, and  as with most foods, it's very filling if you eat a lot of it. 

This pasta heralds the depths of summer we're about to encounter, barely hints at all the homemade pasta and fresh tomatoes and salads I plan on eating, all the watermelon that I can't wait for, all the mangos that I'm going to devour, all the pies I'm going to make. 



Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce
from ThePioneerWoman.com

I added some fresh tomatoes and bell peppers to my sauce, but ended up blending them in, because sometimes I just can't handle vegetables. I topped the pasta with some arugula, because I like it, and some more cheese. I was very happy. 

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 whole medium onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic
2 cans (15 ounce each) tomato sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup heavy cream
grated parmesan cheese
1-1/2 pound fettuccine or bowtie pasta

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.

Heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute for a minute or so. Pour in tomato sauce and add salt, pepper, and sugar to taste. Stir and cook over low heat for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and stir in cream. Add cheese to taste, then check seasonings. Stir in pasta and chopped basil and serve immediately. (Thin with pasta water before adding basil if needed.)