In the years we worked the land in Umbria, the stamina of the farm women astounded me. Not only did they work the land with the men, before heading to the fields they rapidly prepared abundant multi-course meals for lunchtime for the farmhands. “Il sugo del contadino” (“the farmer’s sauce”, though it should be called “the farmwoman’s sauce”) was always a harvest-time favorite: lots of hands would join in on the haying, on wheat harvests, on the grape and olive harvests so a hardy meal needed and of course, a tasty one (you’re feeding Italians!). And this dish can be prepared rapidly, giving the farm woman hosting time to join the others in the farm task at hand. Here’s one way to make the sugo del contadino:
Ingredients Years ago, my farm woman friends would use whatever meats they had available to butcher: meats used were generally sausages (their own), chicken (even the heads, feet used to add flavor to the sauce), perhaps a bit of stew beef (though that was a “luxury” item), beef bones (which the butcher would give you for free). Nowadays, with il benessere (“well-being”, i.e., a better income), Peppa and other farm friends make the sauce like this (note, this will vary, house to house and quantities here – as in any Italian dish- are approximate). stewing beef in large chunks – about a pound a couple chicken wings, 2 thighs, a back or two, neck, head, if you wish beef bones Umbrian sausages, 5 to 6 optional – about 1 lb ground beef carrot celery stalk 1 onion 3 garlic cloves 2 qts tomato sauce or 2 large cans Roma tomaotes (or some sauce, some whole tomatoes) olive oil, q. b. (the most common annotation in Italian recipes, ” q.b” means “quanto basta” or ” as much as you need”) salt q.b. pepper q. b. olive oil q.b. white wine q.b. rigatoni or penne pasta (5 lbs for every 5 persons) Parmesan cheese, q. b.
As the stewing beef takes longer than the chicken, sausages, ground beef to cook, simmer with the beef bones in white white (covering beef with the wine) for about 15 – 20 mins or until meat starts to become tender. Start the sugo by covering a large saucepan with olive oil. Heat, adding 3 whole garlic cloves, the onion, a peeled carrot, a celery stalk (no need to chop up – the sauce will take on the flavors) and the chicken, sausages (and ground beef if you are using some). Add about 1 c. or so of white wine and let simmer til wine evaporates, then add tomato, salt q. b., pepper, q. b. After about 10 mins of cooking, add the beef and then let all simmer together for about 30 minutes, uncovered. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water and drain, setting aside the brodo (pasta cooking water) in case you need some to add to the sauce (if sauce is too thick). Set aside the meats in the sauce to serve as a second course and then stir sauce into the drained pasta. Serve with Parmesan, q. b. Serve the meats as a second course along with a side dish of your choice. Buon appetito!