Celebrate St. Thomas Aquinas with a hardy pasta


Today is the memorial of the “Angelic Doctor,” St. Thomas Aquinas.

In our family, that’s a cause for culinary celebration thanks to our own angelic doctor, sister-in-law Kate, a prominent medievalist in the academic world and a mighty good cook to boot.

It was Kate who encouraged adding a dish in memory of St. Thomas to our annual post-Christmas culinary pot luck party which takes place at the end of January when folks have had time to decompress a bit and actually look forward to regrouping.

The pot luck took place, luckily enough, last weekend, sandwiched, as it were, between snowstorms.

 I’m very pleased to note that Dr. Kate pronounced the new pasta recipe I dished up fit for St. Thomas Aquinas, a generously proportioned holy man with very specific ideas about what kicked a heavy appetite over into the realm of gluttony.

In his writings, the Angelic one argued that gluttony could include an obsessive anticipation of meals, the constant eating of delicacies and very costly foods.

In fact, he produced a list of six methods of committing gluttony:

  • eating too soon (praepropere)
  • eating too expensively (laute)
  • eating too much (nimis)
  • eating too eagerly (ardenter)
  • eating in a picky manner (studiose)
  • eating too fervently (forente) 

The recipe I selected in his honor came from one of the cookbooks I received for Christmas. This book came from good friends Eva and Steve Scholfield who used to live close by and then wickedly moved to Arizona. The post-Christmas culinary pot luck party hasn’t been the same since they left.

But, back to the book, it is entitled “Momma & Me & You- Making Beautiful Food & Memories Together” by the mother-daughter team of Jan & Livia D’Atri.

By St. Thomas’ standards, the recipe I selected ‘Ragout Sauce’ is a bit dangerous. It’s terribly tasty, good enough to inspire desire for seconds and calls for fervent eating.

The one thing it wouldn’t do is cause someone to eat in a picky manner.

Ragout Sauce

Ingredients: 1/ cup pancetta, bacon or prosciutto chopped fine (I used prosciutto); 1 ½ beef sirloin cut into large cubes; ½ lb lean pork, cut into cubes; 2 tablespoons butter; 1 cup flour; ½ cup dry wine; 1 medium sweet onion, chopped fine; 3 cloves garlic, minced; 1 carrot, chopped fine; 1 stalk celery, chopped fine; 2 tablespoons tomato paste; 2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms reconstituted in 1 cup hot water; 2 cups beef stock; 1 cup heavy cream; 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced; 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated if possible), ½ teaspoon sea salt; ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper.

Directions: In a large bowl, toss beef cubes with flour to coat. In a large saucepan over medium heat, place the butter, pancetta (or bacon or prosciutto), beef ad lean pork and braise for 3-4 minutes until the meat is crisp and browned. Add the wine and simmer until the wine evaporates (about 2-3 minutes). Add onion, celery, garlic, carrot, porcini and porcini water and tomato paste, stirring together for two minutes. Add the beef stock a little at a time to keep the mixture from becoming too dry. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until the meat is tender. Add heavy cream, nutmeg, salt, pepper and parsley and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve with your favorite pasta.

Serves 6-8

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