by Lisa

One thing Caroline & I are discovering as we are doing the final pass on the edits for our book, is just how important mothers are when it comes to the food we eat as children.  It seems there is a mother, somewhere, for better and for worse, at heart of all the ways we learn to eat.  No two stories in our book are the same, but one of the clear common threads is just how much influence a mother can have.  On the one hand, this is some cause for chagrin: it’s our fault? Again? Really? On the other hand, it’s forcing us to clearly recognize just how much power is in the hands of the person who feeds us first and how important food can be–in ways that go far, far beyond the table.

This lesson has come home for me this week. My parents are visiting from the east coast, and my mother, who is full of energy in every way, generously stepped into my kitchen to cook for my family on the night I had to teach.  It was a huge relief not to have plan, cook, and leave this meal behind for them, which is what I do every other week. Even better, she had spied a new recipe from my favorite food magazine, La Cucina Italiana and decided to try it.  I sort of marveled at her willingness to experiment in the middle of the week, but she took it all in stride, as she does many things.

The result was a meal the kids raved about.  I was lucky enough to be able to eat the leftovers for lunch the next day, and I have to agree. It’s delicious. So, with gratitude for my mom, who taught me to try new things, who is an inspiration to me, and a unflagging companion for my kids, and, basically, a joy to be around, here is the recipe just as she made it, straight from the magazine.

Bucatini with pork and fennel ragu


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound ground pork shoulder
  • 3 leafy sage sprigs
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped fennel fronds and tender stems
  • 1/2  cup dry red wine
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1 pound bucatini or spaghetti
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley


In a large skillet, heat oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add pork, sage and rosemary; cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up meat, 4 minutes. Add onion, carrot and celery; reduce heat to medium-high and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour into pan and stir to combine, then add broth, fennel, wine and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to cook ragù at a gentle simmer until sauce is flavorful, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
When ragù is ready, remove from heat and cover to keep warm. Cook pasta until al dente, drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add ragù and toss to combine, then add half of the cheese and toss once more. Add remaining cheese and parsley, toss together to combine, then adjust seasoning to taste. Serve immediately