An Old Favorite: Ragù

Of all the past issues of SAVEUR that I keep on my bookshelf at home, there's one that's more dog-eared and stained than the rest. It's the April 2008 issue, which includes Nancy Harmon Jenkins's excellent article on the legendary ragus, or meat sauces, from the northern Italian city of Bologna. No fewer than six ragu recipes appear throughout the piece, calling for everything from lard and chicken livers to cloves and cinnamon, but my favorite is Anna Nanni's Ragu alla Bolognese. Nanni, a chef at a restaurant outside of Bologna, follows a traditional approach: she starts by browning celery, onions, and carrots, then adds ground beef, pork, and pancetta, and finally wine, tomato puree, and tomato paste. The sauce simmers for hours until it's thick, and for me, that wait is the best part. I make the dish a little differently each time—one day following the recipe exactly, another forgoing the pancetta or upping the wine—and have found that it's completely foolproof. Whenever I sit down to a plate of the rich, fragrant sauce heaped on top of fresh pasta, there's nothing I'd rather be eating.

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