Recipe by Carol Field from her cookbook Celebrating Italy.
From Altopascio, a small medieval town not far from Lucca, in Tuscany, that made it their mission to provide food and shelter to any travellers who needed it. The friars used a great earthenware pot to ladle out free food to anyone who passed through. The Calderone di Altopascio was so well known that Bocaccio used it as a metaphor for the melting pot in his Decameron. On July 25, Altopascio cooks great cauldrons of pasta and sauce on the piazza and serves it with local wines. Carol has kept the spirit of the present-day recipe for the lemon-scented ragu, but has added a smal carrot for sweetness, garlic to heighten the flavor, and a bit of tomato. Don’t be sparing with the grated cheese, since it binds and thickens the entire sauce.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 1 small carrot, finely diced
- 1 rib of celery, finely diced
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1/2 cup white wine (or water)
- 1/4 cup water
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Pepper - to taste
- 1 lb spaghetti or other pasta
- 1/2 cup, freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or dry Vella)
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (optional)
- Warm the olive oil in a heavy frying pan. Stir in the vegetables and cook them slowly over medium-low heat until they are limp and lightly golden. Add the garlic and ground beef. When the meat loses its pinkness, add the white wine, water, tomato paste, lemon zest, salt and pepper; let the mixture cook over a low flame 20 minutes. Add another tablespoon water if it seems dry.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and add it to the pan full of ragu (or, if your pan is too small, add the sauce and pasta back into the drained pasta pot). Toss and mix well. Stir in the cheese, sprinkle the dish with the parsley, if using, and serve.