The dining room tables were set for about twenty. There were eight in our group and I wondered who else would be joining us for lunch. As we were sitting outside in the sun enjoying the crisp mountain air, one by one all the workmen from the farm filed past and I realized that they too would be dining on the signora’s pasta. They were seated and started their midday meal before we were led into the room and as we entered I’m sure I noticed them check out our group.

When I planned our outing to the farm I didn’t even know that we would be the lucky recipients of a home cooked lunch. I just assumed that we would go to a trattoria somewhere down the mountain after our visit. Imagine my delight when I realized we would be sampling pasta made that morning by our hostess. Bowls of hand cut noodles sauced with a meat ragu were put down on each end of the table. I could barely wait until it was my turn to serve myself. The first bite of the incredibly light pasta brought me right back to my grandmother’s table. I savored each and every bite. Even though I knew there was a chicken dish still to come, I willingly helped myself to seconds, as did just about everyone else.

Back at home I knew this was a meal that I had to make for J. Since I’ve been eager to practice my pasta skills, I whipped up a batch of dough and after using the pasta machine to roll it out, I cut the pasta into thick noodles by hand. For the sauce I made a classic Bolognese using a recipe from Mario Batali that was in an old issue of Gourmet magazine. I’m not one to brag, but it was pretty darn good and was quite close to that lunch on the farm. Next up, our chicken course.

Ragu Bolognese

5 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium carrot,finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 celery rib,finely chopped
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/4 pound pancetta, cut into quarters
1 lb. ground veal
1 lb. ground pork
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup whole milk
1 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Heat oil and butter in a wide 6-8 quart heavy pot over medium heat until the butter is melted, then cook the carrot, onion, celery and garlic, stirring occasionally until tender but not browned, about 10-15 minutes.

While vegetables cook, pulse the pancetta in a food processor (I use the mini-prep) until finely chopped.

When vegetables are tender, increase the heat to high and stir in veal, pork and pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up any lumps, until the meat is starting to brown, 10-15 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, milk, and wine and gently simmer, uncovered over low heat, stirring occasionally, until almost all liquid has evaporated but ragu is still moist, 1-1/2 hours. Stir in salt and pepper and remove from heat. Toss with cooked pasta or use in a lasagna.

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