Before I could push the thought through to completion and fingertips to mention it to you, friends, those clever little bee's at Saveur Magazine had a similar thought regarding my disturbing run in with the $19.00 plate of lasagna bolognese. And when they investigate a thing, they really deconstruct, reconstruct, and talk to every Nona in Bologna and now we have a comprehensive collection of ragu's to be used and then placed in a glassine envelope and preserved like every precious recipe of your Grandma's. And if you are a member of my family, also taken to the safe deposit box; One of the reasons I began this blog file is that all of our family receipts which were not held in our mind's burned in a catastrophic housefire at Christmas in 2006, or were removed in error had anything survived, during the gutting which followed after, including a precious 1934 printing of the Boston Cooking School Book of 1912 which belonged to my Grandmother Christine.
I have just told you the one very serious and decisive element of placing many more of our precious recipes in your strong hands: This recipe box is impenetrable now. Both because it is here for us all to view and failing that, now hundreds of you have these filed. For my Mom and I, this is a small bit of relief and the beginning of an agonizing rebuilding far more difficult and personal than just putting up a new home: We lost their handwriting, you see, all of it. And that is truly unbearable for women that cook from one another, and looked upon those recipes time and time again not only to follow a formula reaching the same comforting dish that one's heart sometimes needs, but to be reminded of all the meals we shared together over those dishes. They were guideposts for me as a new wife. They were a last earthly touch of a Mother's hand and pen to a piece of paper for my Mom. They were everything. So, that is what we lost in the fire and I hope we are the last to experience this void in our spirits, I wish this emptiness on no one. Kind of a heavy thought but now you see something of the people behind the recipes herein.
I love this Saveur piece for more than just thoroughness though. It went so deeply into the history of a thing so precious to so many and declined, as magazines rarely ever do, to publish one "definitive" recipe for a dish. Had they chose to, it would have been unfair to every other family that had a recipe different from the one published. So, there are 6. 2 of which I (unfairly, probably) dispensed out of hand because I do not eat chicken livers in sauce (surely, my Mom is feeling a bit vindicated right now, but Mom, just because the magazine did it does not make it right.) and because one was too far off the path of what I like real bolognese to be. One of the bunch seemed to make my eyes and ears spring up because it generated a bit of wonderment on my part and it is there where a new journey is about to start.
Ragu. I have made it dozens of times and I have loved it more than most other things since my college roommate, Amy, showed up at Providence College with her Mom's recipe. Amy's Mom's was so much thinker than any tomato sauce I had ever known, and it tasted like actual tomatoes. Imagine. We ate this cold like a jam on English muffins for breakfast, on every piece of pasta we could find and sometimes, ate it directly out of Tupperware for a snack. That love began before I got to actual Italy, and tasted actual ragu. You know, the long, slow cooked sauce meant to be a budget staple of sorts, which really does seem to conflict with that $19 dish.
I have made enough of these recipes now that I had, previously, landed on a favorite which was an amalgam of several others. It involved milk, red wine (generally a no-no), and coffee (for which I might actually be unceremoniously removed from Bologna for even referring to this dish as a ragu). But, I digress. The point is, now, I have a new cadre of potentials and I am once again picking up the ragu torch. I advised my new butcher of this on Monday when he agreed, though concerned regarding my mental welfare, to give me a good deal of ground skirt steak on Wednesday (today, yippee!). He has never had a request to grind a skirt before. That, my friend Todd, is what makes this so appealing. And to his credit, he did not go six rounds with me about why I actually needed that cut in that way, unlike that butcher in Corpus Christi involved in that unfortunate duck incident in 2006. But, a story for another day.
So, pals of mine, I am off to see Todd and look over the ground skirt steak and drill down on this ragu thing one more time, just to be sure I have the one I really like. I make a mountain in a slow cooker (oops, that will not be popular with Nona's either) and freeze what I can pull myself away from. Stand by, for what I hope causes a rash of pasta eating and lusty red-wine drinking depravity in our house and throughout my esteemed readership.