The weather is the dinner dictator in my life. My body reacts to the temperatures, and I cook what my body wants. Lately, London has been fickle. After weeks, maybe months, it seemed like years, of rain, the sun is starting a coy flirtation. But it’s still cold, and I’m in this kind of purgatory—craving winter foods but knowing spring and the requirement for something lighter is coming. So I took a winter favorite, spaghetti bolognese, and gave it a spring-summer makeover.
I am lucky—the local supermarket in London sells fresh whole wheat tagliatelle. I say, get whatever fresh whole wheat pasta shape is available to you. It takes three minutes to cook, and is a no brainer. The nutty texture is such a welcome counterpoint to the rich sauce—it’s worth seeking out.
For the ragout, I start with ground dark meat turkey and a barrel of vegetables: carrots, onions, and garlic. Mr. English has wisely educated me that he will not eat turkey simply because it is healthy; he will eat it only if I remember to put flavor into it. Noted. That’s what the vegetables, along with the thyme and bay, are for. He has assured me that in this instance, I have succeeded.
Once these are softened and cooked together, I add tomato paste and cherry tomatoes, along with vegetable broth. Then I just let it cook down for as long as I have, between one and two hours. Yes, it’s a long time. It’s my Italian grandmother meal, and I make it on Sunday. It freezes well. But it is so worth it. The sauce is not a wet Bolognese, but almost a turkey and tomato stew, full of the sweetness of the carrots and onions and garlic, cooked down to almost a paste, and the savoriness of the herbs. You can eat chunks of turkey in that stewy way, perched above the tangle of noodles. And on top, a flurry of shredded sharp Pecorino, because it needs that hit of salt.
I have already made it twice in the last couple of weeks. First, for Sunday night dinner when our friend Mary came over from around the corner for our weekly gossip. And again, when maman was in town and I invited over my in-laws. Both times I served it with a salad that is more a shopping list than a recipe: pea shoots, blanched peas, lemon zest, lemon juice, toasted pine nuts, fresh torn mint leaves, ricotta, pecorino shavings, olive oil, salt, and pepper. It’s just a triumph. I feel like I stumbled onto something that might be valuable. Gosh, I wish I had some in the freezer!
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
3 small or 2 large carrots, cut into thin half moons
Salt and pepper
4 medium cloves garlic, sliced
1 pound ground dark meat turkey
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoons chopped thyme
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 cups cherry tomatoes
2 cups vegetable stock
1 pound fresh whole wheat tagliatelle, or other pasta
Head the oil in a wide sauté pan. Add the onion and carrots, season with salt and pepper, and sweat for ten minutes. You don’t want the vegetables to take on any color. Add the garlic, and sweat another 2 minutes, or just until fragrant.
Push the vegetables to the outer edges of the pan, and add the turkey to the center. Season with salt and pepper. Use a wooden spatula to break up the meat, stirring often, until all the meat has changed color, about five minutes. Add the tomato paste, and stir into the meat and vegetables, cooking out for 30 seconds. Add the thyme and parsley, cherry tomatoes, and stock. Cover, and simmer for around 90 minutes, until the pan is mostly dry and the sauce is very thick.
To serve, boil the pasta until just cooked in salted water. Drain. Toss with the turkey ragout, drizzle with olive oil, and top with freshly chopped parsley and shredded Pecorino cheese.print this recipe