Many thanks, now to Patricia Wells for her wonderful cookbook, Trattoria: Healthy, Simple, Robust Fare Inspired by the Small Family Restaurants of Italy. This book, along with her somewhat companion volume about French local cooking, Bistro Cooking, is definitely a title to search out in used bookstores and elsewhere. I think that the latter title was recently reissued with a new edition, so if you’re interested in simple, honest Italian cooking and recipes that generally work–look for it.

After a brief round of tennis this morning, a quick shower to fend off my wife, I rolled through my day off casually, visiting pals at Escapist Comics where I used to work, borrowing a few things to read, then meeting my wife for merienda at our favorite cafe. In the back of my brain, I was already considering dinner plans, and pasta was at the top of the list.

Sauces are…challenging. Sure, a can of tomato sauce, a hunk of fried onion, and a bit of ground meat…bam. You’re done, but…is it great? No, it meets a need, fills the stomach, but beyond that, there is no magic. So now you know to some degree why food from a box or a can on its own simply can’t fly with me.

For tonight’s pasta, Rigatoni with Meat and Celery Sauce, you start with the ingredients below.

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With olive oil, you put your minced onion and celery in with the oil and cook till aromatic and soft, followed by your meat (I used a mix of ground pork and beef) and some parsley.

Here it is at the beginning with celery and onion.

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Add your meat…

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And after adding a bouquet garni of celery leaves, parsley leaves, and bay leaf entwined, twenty minutes later your pasta should look like this.

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All well and good, and of course, the rigatoni was cooking for some of this time, to be added to the sauce but I needed a…salad. Something different.

Get a young pecorino cheese (I used dolci paulis available at the Berkeley Bowl), a roughly three month old sheep’s cheese from Italy, toast some walnuts, and toss them together with olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, and parsley…as well as some salt and pepper and varOOOMM!

Insalata di Noci e Pecorino!

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Overall, a very wonderful meal. The pasta sauce was simply quick and easy but…it had nuance and flavor. With the addition of some grana padano grating cheese, it was simply one of the best pasta dishes I’d ever made.

And with the perfect salad of walnuts and cheese, along with a nice Tempranillo from the La Mancha region of Spain, well…I’m on my third glass already. A good night for dining.

Here is the pasta ready!

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