Anne's Blog

Near Assisi, Cooking to Affront the “the Hard Fight”

Date: March 22, 2020 - categories: - 3 Comments

At lunch today, Pino raised his vino rosso to every one of us, his closed fist affirming “lotta dura senza paura” (“a hard fight without fear”).

Yes, we’re all affronting “a hard fight.”

Many have discovered ways to ward off what I’ve dubbed a “CPA” (Coronavirus Panic Attack).
On the Net, opera singers are singing to us, actors are reading classics to children, doctor/musicians are joining to play and sing for us songs of strength (from their homes), archaeologists and museum personnel are giving us virtual guided tours through museums and ancient ruins.

I, too, wish to do something to offer diversion to others while we are all in zona rossa (or in “shelter in place,” as “lockdown” is called in the US).

A small contribution might be the sharing of recipes. Showing how to make simple dishes – with simple ingredients – that families can cook together and then share at table. I’ve shared recipes in the past (many are on this blog and on the RECIPES page of my website): now I’m inspired to share additional recipes during these coronavirus constrictions.

I experimented a bit today, creating a ragu’ as I’d always make it – the Umbrian way – but with an added “bolognese” touch.

I had learned to make ragu’ (meat sauce) years ago from farm women neighbors. Ragu‘ the Umbrian way. Today, I opened my computer to see how ragu’ is made in its region of origin, Emilia Romagna: in Bologna, specifically, as this sauce is also called “ragu’alla bolognese.

If your family might wish to cook up a ragu’ together, you’ll need: about 3/4 lb of lean ground beef, a bottle of tomato sauce, a celery stalk, a carrot, 1 small onion, 2 or 3 garlic cloves, extra-virgin (ONLY!) olive oil, salt, pepper, red wine……and…..milk (the Bolognese addition).

After washing the vegetables, dice celery, carrot…

…and onion..

Peel garlic cloves and dice:

In Emilia Romagna – but also here in Umbria – the diced vegetables are sautéed in olive oil. But when possible, I try to cook in a “heart healthy” mode, avoiding frying or heating oil at all.

Easy to do and here’s how: put the ground beef in the pan, covering with red wine (white can be used if you wish)

Simmer at medium heat…

….until the meat cooks and the wine has evaporated:

Add diced carrot, celery, onion and garlic…

…..and tomato sauce

(Set aside the bottle, pouring water into it and shaking brusquely as this tomatoey water can be added later to the sauce as it cooks).

Put on the pasta water to boil and to ragu’, add olive oil, q. b. (“quanto basta” – or “as much as it takes”) – probably about 1/2 c. Let sauce simmer on medium heat:

Add black pepper, q. b., and drop heat a bit as the liquid begins to evaporate:

(The ragu’ alla bolognese takes over an hour to cook as ground pork is also included. Our ragu’ today bubbled at medium-high heat for just over 1/2 hour).

Do add a bit of water, now and then, to keep the ragu’ moist:

Just before the pasta water begins to boil, add the “bolognese” addition: milk. (I used about a cup today):

As the sauce continues to simmer and milk joins the sauce, cook the pasta in boiling salted water (I used penne today), 2 handfuls for every person.

Drain the pasta when al dente (“to the tooth”), saving some of the pasta water (in case you wish to add to the pasta with sauce to make creamier.)

Put a ladleful of the ragu’ in the serving bowl to “receive” the pasta:

Add pasta and mix:

Add additional ragu’, mixing in gently:

Serve hot.

Buon appetito!

Add Parmesan, if you wish:

Preparing our ragu, taking all the photos (and later sorting them), sharing our pasta and after lunch, writing this blog all proved to ward off a CPA.

I hope reading this will distract you from a CPA.

As Pino knows, this is a hard fight. But let us live it without fear.

Andra’ tutto bene. “All will go well.”

Click here for an easy, tasty recipe

Click here for another easy recipe to ward off CPA

Click here for a recipe of Pino’s mamma, Signora Vincenza (also helps ward off CPA)

Click here  for another “coronavirus lockdown” recipe

Read here about an outdoor market visit to ward off a CPA (Coronavirus Panic Attack)

Click here to read about Novella’s vegetable stand during the coronavirus lockdown

Read about new life on our land during the coronavirus lockdown.

Read about how reflecting on Van Gogh helped me see the beauty all around – in simple, insignificant objects

Click here to read about – and see! – a favorite Orvieto eating spot (to ward off CPA)

Read about – and see! – Assisi during coronavirus lockdown

Read about a Pino feast on March 8th as coronavirus distraction 

Click here to read about March 8th – as a coronavirus antidote

Peppa is always perfect distraction from a CPA

Read about a stop for fresh pasta to ward off a CPA


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Agenzia Viaggi Stoppini in Assisi handles all technical support for my guided visits (bus transportation, organization of meals, etc)