Expect the unexpected. It's the sweet juice in life. Sometimes you think it's a curve ball and you duck but when you come up - if you're lucky - you just may find something new to enchant. And during those moments - you never grow old.
We found a legion of Roman soldiers in Bologna.
And insights as to how they lived.
Frescoes in unexpected places.
And Ragu Bolognese in every city we visited. You don't need to go to Bologna to have a terrific plate of ragu. And even if an ocean is standing in the way of you and Italy - this recipe will fly you there - as surely as you grabbed the tail end of a kite and soared there yourself.
This is a particularly earthy version. The porcini mushrooms just thrust you into the Italian countryside where you think yourself the mighty forager. It's hearty, meaty and substantial. Perfect for a snow day. Especially when the snow day is unexpectedly in Rome!
Fettuccine with Sausage Ragu from Tastes of Italia
Makes 4-6 servings (I would say this makes closer to 4 servings - I doubled this to serve 7)
1/2 pound fettuccine - cooked al dente
3 ounces dried porcini mushrooms (can use less - I used 3 ounces for the doubled recipe)
1 cup beef broth
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 pound Italian sweet sausage, crumbled (can use turkey sausage)
1/2 cup dry red wine (I used Sangiovese)
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (a debate raged in Italy in the 1970's as to whether to include nutmeg in ragu recipes)
1/4 cup milk (I used 2%)
salt and pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for topping (they say it is optional, I say no - it's not)
Soak the mushrooms in hot beef broth for 30 minutes. Heat the butter in a large skillet of medium heat. Add onion and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add sausage and cook until no longer pink and you have made it all crumbly with the back of your spoon. (6-10 minutes).
Add wine, mushrooms with broth, tomato paste and tomatoes. Stir to mix. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. (I let it simmer for over an hour - until the tomatoes have broken down and you can barely see them.)
Somewhere during the simmering process cook the fettuccine according to package instructions.
Stir in the nutmeg and milk and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes. (I use freshly- grated nutmeg but the spice police won't pick you up if you don't). Salt and pepper to taste. Mix with fettuccine and serve, passing Parmesan separately.
And note - this is a ragu - not a liquidy tomato sauce - don't drown the pasta! Let the ragu mix with the pasta - not overpower it.
At the Piazza Navona in Rome, we came across a gentleman singing karaoke to Pavarotti. Tears streaming down his face as he sang, he wound up being one of our fondest memories. We returned again and again looking for him.
And even though I a have been home for months, the unexpected still sneaks up on me. On Saturday morning, the Twin Cities was paid a visit by the Frost Fairy.
Last winter, we lived on a frozen tundra. This winter we dwell with the frost fairies.