la bella cucina





mussels, yes, mussels again. this time so very simple. steam the mussels, shell them, ditch their beards, roast fresh pole beans in a little olive oil, mix the beans and the mussels with some decent mayonnaise and you have ‘cozze alla crema’. an ancient roman recipe, dating back to those weird gladiator days, when sacks of mussels from the coast at fiumicino shipped under straw and ice to roman kitchens. this dish is nothing fancy, mind you. a few slices of star fruit mixed in, like always, the best and freshest ingredients make for a reasonably decent meal.

ragù alla bolognese is another dish i like to make, now that it gets coolish out in the evening and the warm kitchen becomes a retreat. 
alla bolognese might be your basic meat sauce, if you want to call it that. of course you’ll up the ante when you talk about the real thing. 
a hundred years ago my folk lived in bologna. we liked to eat. mother would rather shop than cook, she just loved heels and bologna was then and i believe still is famous for fabulous shoes. three things i bolognesi treasure in their town: queste donne eleganti, cibo favoloso and squisiti tacchi alti. so we ate out a lot and like so many other locals we basically lived at tres vecchi. now, tres vecchi was then famous for many dishes, like tortellini in brodo, stuffed with prosciutto or tortellone, well buttered and stuffed with ricotta. but my very favorite, i got to be known as signore ragù, was tagliatelle alla bolognese. my minds mouth still savors the very idea. so, i set out to replicate a flavor and consistency that was only in my head. many italian cook books later, elizabeth david, in her wonderful italian food, offers a recipe from bologna of two parts meat, one part chicken livers, hm, with prosciutto cotto, others used pancetta, or even bacon. i soon realized that a ragù really boiled down to only a meat sauce, bolognese or not. i began to tinker with a recipe from giorgio locatelli, excepting cloves and adding ham. using a mix of loin and chuck, the meats minced not ground. a bottle of barolo simmering the meat gently, reducing the wine to a mere slurp, two spoons tomato paste in the end. very basic. three hours and done, in a low oven. 

locatelli wants gnocchi. i'd never made the stuff, only heard the little pillows were tuff stuff to make from scratch. so, tough or not, i got out potatoes for mash, butter for taste, salt, flower and an egg. my trusted scraper, rolling boil water and iced, a slotted spoon and a knife. i learned, no trouble at all, making those buggers and i'll tell you, not from martha. i used the online recipe from mario batali. it must be a translation, funny how the sentences are chopped, but the essence is clear, concise and easy to follow. the iced water, once the gnocchi floated top to the boil, was genius. silky, on the creamy side, dark from my whole wheat flower, not much for looks, but delicioso, molto delicioso.




so tonight it’ll be gnocchi alla bolognese, yes, 's lovely, 's all i can say.