There’s always a time in the summer when all I want to do is to dive into a bowl of pasta that’s covered with a meaty sauce, preferably one that’s been sitting on the stove for hours braising away. This inevitably falls on a day that’s particularly hot, of course, when the thought of getting near the stove is as good a decision as trying to find good tomatoes at the end of January. That’s the rub of trying to eat seasonally, though: you gorge and gorge and gorge on the season’s best foods until the sight of a zucchini or tomato is unbearable, or at the very least you can get a little bored. I liked how the couple behind We Are Never Full combated this by making a super-rich puttanesca that was heavy on pork belly.
Me? I was feeling a ragu, and this sausage version we made in February is probably the closest to summer appropriateness out there.
Yeah, I know what I said: ragu. In July. Trust me when I say this works. The key was to not make it too heavy, so instead of the cup of milk needed I doubled the white wine (always a good decision) and just let the sausage get crispy and brown. It certainly wasn’t the lightest pasta dish one could think of for the end of July, but it satisfied my craving quite quite nicely. Not having the stove on all afternoon to make it was just the bonus, I think.
Naturally a semblance of balance is required if you’re going to go heavy for your main course, and since it is prime tomato season, caprese was an obvious choice. Normally I’d get a ball of the hand-pulled cheese that Fairway makes fresh daily, but when I couldn’t find a ball of the lightly salted stuff that suited my needs, my eyes drifted upwards and directly to the mozzarella di bufula. My justification was simple: our meat was all of four dollars for three big links (two sweet, one spicy) so a splurge on the really good stuff was totally fine time time around. Believe me when I say it was completley worth it because, well, it was: cheese so delicate that it nearly melted with each slice of the knife and completely melts the second you take a bite.
While caprese salad is relatively simple to make, some consideration should be given to how you want to stack your ingredients–especially when you’re working with a very delicate cheese that would be overpowered if covered in too much vinegar. So this time around, Michael started with the tomato slices and seasoned them with salt and splashed them with balsamic vinegar, then the basil leaf, and finally the cheese with a drizzle of good olive oil on top. It worked really well and we powered through those slices with some gusto, with saving room for the pasta the only consideration keeping us from devouring the platter of them in five minutes flat.
So maybe making a ragu in the middle of summer isn’t the most seasonally-appropriate dish of all time, but much like the heart, the stomach wants what it wants. Sometimes breaking the rules can lead to the most satisfying meal, right?