April Saveur: The Joy of Ragú

We opened the April issue of Saveur with a heavy heart, thinking there was no way it could live up to the butter issue's glorious sinfulness. But as we turned each page, this issue won us over with six different recipes for Italian ragú, a feature on Ethiopian cooking, and a roundup of top tomato pastes.

Six recipes for ragú sounds like overkill, until you realize how different they are. Put together, they attempt to paint a complete picture of this Bolognese meat sauce.

There are traditional versions, made by Italian grandmothers who argue over whether or not a recipe should include tomatoes or milk. The Cardinal's Ragu, first cooked for the cardinal of Imola in the 18th century, includes cinnamon and flour, while the "official" recipe, approved by the Bolognese chapter of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina, has neither.

There's even a "new style" recipe, based on one by Heston Blumenthal. It includes fish sauce and ketchup – unconventional ingredients that Saveur says actually work, enhancing the meatiness of the sauce.

We imagine that if someone actually worked their way through all of these recipes, (and the accompanying ones for tagliatelle and lasagna,) it would be like a Bolognese cooking school. You'd really know the whys and wherefores of ragú, and be able to develop your own "traditional" version.

But enough about ragú! For the vegetarians, and those who are simply sick of the mother meat sauce, turn to recipes for injera, misr wat, and ayib be gomen. Those are the traditional Ethiopian dishes of bread, lentil stew, and cottage cheese with collard greens, whose recipes accompany one of the more in depth articles on Ethiopian cooking that we've read.

So does this issue (Classic Pasta!) live up to the butter issue? Not quite. Many of the side articles feel a bit slipshod. The cover trumpets "Beautiful Pies" but we only get a short article on a pie social, and a recipe for mock apple pie. Anya Von Bremzen's article on her mother's recreation of a 19th-century style Russian banquet borders precariously on sentimentality, as does a piece from the Deputy Editor on jarred Ragú-brand pasta sauce.

Overall? We'd say this issue is certainly worth a read.

Do you make your own ragú? Or simply doctor the jarred stuff?

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