Nonna Margherita Dottorelli in her kitchen in 1905

Nonna Margherita Dottorelli in her kitchen, 1905

Some excellent Tuscan recipes from her granddaughter, Marta, who refuses to be just a character in a novel made up by “that writer”.

My Ragu

Do you know who are the greatest thieves in the world?
       No they are not the tombaroli, the tomb robbers that “she” talks about, this woman who tries to keep me a prisoner just in her story.
       No, they are not even the archaeologists who come to this country to dig our treasures up and hide them in the basements of their museums.

Ah, but you have guessed! They are the ones like “her” – the ones who not only make their stories where they try to keep us prisoners (she even tries to keep the beautiful Signora Chiara there, imagining she can to a better job of saving her than I, Marta Dottorelli!) — but they also steal our secrets, our houses, even what we love to eat.
       At least they try.
       They always get it wrong.

First that writer put my own house in her story (above, you will see I still have the same kitchen that my husband’s grandmother had). Then she stole my attic where I hang the sausages and hams from the rafters – and she gave this space with the four windows facing one in each direction so the breeze can blow through – she gave this to another woman, an artist, who goes up there to do secret things.
       Madonna! I have tried to warn the beautiful Signora Chiara about this artist.
       But will she listen? Beh!

So I will ask you to listen, while I tell you how to make my good sauce for the pasta, my ragu.

Metodo (how this is done)
First as usual you will make the odori: which I hope you already know by now.
(With olive oil extra vergine in a large pot cook chopped onion, a little carrot, some celery if you wish, some garlic.)

Then, if you have not during the last year fattened a sweet pig and had the butcher make it into sausages and hams which are hanging in your attic, well, I hope you have gone to the village and purchased some very good ground beef as lean as possible and also some fine Italian sausages and some prosciutto.
       Please do not ask me “how much”. This will depend on how much you wish to cook. For me, I make this once a week and use for many different dishes.
       Also you have already made some “tomato paste” from your own good tomatoes (maybe one day I will give you my own recipe for this) and you will have some extra fresh tomatoes waiting. (Of course you can also buy these things, if you are like “her” and spend all your day making up stories about other people instead of living.
       You will break up the meat of the sausages in the pan, along with the ground up beef, and you will chop in some prosciutto ham, very fine. You will cook this until it is nicely brown. You will then add the tomato paste, and tomatoes (you will have chopped them and pushed them through a coarse sieve with a wooden pestle to remove the skins) and you will let this simmer for several hours.
       You will NOT add water, if it is too thick. You will add some more tomatoes. You will NEVER add water to your ragu.
        But you will add some pleasant herbs.
As I have said in some recipes before, for me these will be a bay leaf from the tree outside my kitchen door, and some thyme from between the cobble stones.

Buon appetito!