Maria used to be a very commonplace name in Italy, less so now. And my husband has quite a few aunts called Maria. To avoid confusion when speaking of these aunts, we tend to tag the husband’s name along their theirs. Hence, ust so you know, the aunt Maria who inspired this post is married to uncle Egidio. Well into her eighties, she has trouble with her knees and has a very proud bearing. Uncle Egidio had some heart problems a few years ago and she kept her beady on his daily routine, making sure he ate and slept and carried on his daily life according to prescription, which — let’s face it — does not amount to a lot of fun. Brave, strong, unrelenting, rigorous, disciplined, upright, neat … these are all adjectives that used to come to mind where she was concerned until … well, until last time we had lunch together, at their place in a tiny village which is barely within the region of the Marche on the Via Salaria, not far from Amatrice.
It was a beautiful sunny Sunday in September and she and her daughter laid on a lovely meal to celebrate the birthday of my father-in-law (who is Egidio’s brother). I commented enthusiastically both on her liver-based starter (‘coratella’) and on the super duper ragù. Knowing how hard she finds it to stand up these days, I was quite suprised to find out that it was she who had cooked both! I didn’t have her down for preparing tasty food and spent the rest of the meal trying to wrest culinary tips from her!
This is her way of making ragù … and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
Here is the meat for the ragù … weighing in at just under 1kg. Not a fancy cut, not at all … it’s called ‘muscolo’ in italian which translates, literally, as muscle. It requires a long cooking time to become tender but is rich in flavour.
Pour every single drop into the pan.
Now is the time to add a little salt and pepper and give it all a good stir. The ingredients are all in, it is time to stew the ragù over a low heat for at least one and a half hours, better two. Even better three. I know it might sound confusing in terms of instructions … but … but a lot depends on how tough the meat is, on how high the flame is and a host of other little details that are dependent on the realities of miscellanea. The point to bear in mind is that the meat must be very tender before being enjoyed.
Cover the pan with a lid, We don’t want the sauce to evaporate. (I love this heavy-bottom pan of mine because its lid is also a pan, isn’t that clever!). The idea is to seal all the juices in. The flame you see in the photo got turned down to minimum after I took the photo. Do keep an eye on the ragù, however, checking to see that it doesn’t dry out (in which case add a little water) and stirring occasionally.