Friday, October 30, 2009

Julia Zarankin and White Ragu Recipe

Julia Zarankin was a graduate student in Comparative Literature at Princeton and I met her when I was the manager of the Slavic Department. With her background as a Russian-Canadian and a dissertation advisor in Slavic, she was often in my office and I got to know her as a very gentle, incredibly sweet being – always with a smile even during her most high-stressed moments. Her father, noted pianist, Boris Zarankin, came to perform Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata (partnered with a violinist - the wife of Julia's advisor) on campus, performed after a short reading of Tolstoy’s The Kreutzer Sonata by distinguished Tolstoy scholar (and my then boss), Caryl Emerson. A very impressive performance and we had expected a handful of attendees and instead had to resort to standing room only for some.

When I left Princeton to move to Italy, Julia gave me a cookbook, Bologna Mia (by Loretta Paganini), as a parting gift and this book has been an invaluable source of not only wonderful recipes, but tips on where to buy ingredients in the food markets of this city, and I often (in cooler weather) make the following white ragu recipe for guests. Even the hard-core Italian palates are impressed with it.

Thanks, Julia, for this gift and also for the recording of your father’s music. I think of you often and look forward to a visit from you one day! (beautiful to listen to, though a dated version - without those mentioned above)

Bolognese White Ragu – Christine’s slightly altered version
Make this when you have a few hours to spend in the kitchen and want the house to smell like an Italian kitchen. Friends Marsha and Tom have been waiting for this one.

For 8 people as a primo, 4 -6 as main course
Ingredients are not exact - use slightly more or less of anything

1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 large celery stalk, finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (I chop each of these separately in the food processor).

I.5 pounds of ground pork
1 - ½ - ¾ “ hefty slab of prosciutto, finely chopped by hand (you can request this at the meats department at Wegman’s and they may put it through the grinder for you)

½ bottle of dry white wine (sip the other half)
3 cups of chicken stock
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 (or slightly less to use to heat up leftovers) pint of heavy whipping cream
2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1.5 teaspoon coarse or sea salt, or sale grosso
½ teaspoon ground white pepper

In large stockpot, cook the carrot, onion and celery together in the olive oil until the onion is transparent. Add the pork and prosciutto until brown. Add the wine, reduce the heat and simmer until wine evaporates – up to one hour – stirring regularly. Do the same with the stock. When the meat has become heavy on the spoon during stirring, add the tomato paste and cream, season with salt and pepper. On the lowest heat possible, stir occasionally for at least 45 minutes to keep meat from sticking.

Serve with fresh garganelli pasta (go to the fresh pasta section of the supermarket- buy enough to feed up to 8 as a primo, or 4-6 as the main course). Boil the pasta in heavily salted water and mix with ragu in a bowl before serving. The author recommends boiling the pasta with asparagus tips but I haven’t tried that yet, and the flavors are enough and should be enjoyed as is.

Note – Americans tend to drown their pasta in sauce. In Italy, they know to coat the pasta in the sauce and make a greater effort to blend the two together. A tiny bit of sauce can go a long way.

Another note – the red Ragu Bolognese sauce still maintains great consistency and flavor when frozen. If you have leftover white ragu sauce – I recommend that you eat it in the following day or two and add additional cream when heating to restore the consistency. Because of the cream, it does not freeze well.

Buon appetito!

1 comment:

suziq said...

Yummmmm- I'm sending this on to my personal chef (and daughter).
Guess I'll have to give up my no carb diet-- at least for one meal !! Pop the chianti !