I have two ‘lessons learned’ (as they would say at the office) from the first time I made Ragu Alla Napoletana from Antonio Carluccio’s Complete Italian Cooking*.

1) Ask your butcher to slice the topside of beef for you rather than trying to do it yourself from a small piece – not easy – even if you have good knives.

2) Do not attempt this when nearly eight months pregnant, especially if you have not asked your butcher to prepare the required number of beef slices.

Had I realised how quick and easy this dish can be to put together I might have acknowledged that the need to sit down whilst making this, along with the feeling that the task was insurmountable, might have been the warning signs that the baby was going to arrive a few weeks earlier than expected!

Today’s attempt was much easier.  I could reach the worktop for a start.  My wonderful butcher checked what I would be making with the beef so he could get just the right piece of meat and cut it correctly.  After that it was a breeze and took just a little over thirty minutes to put together.  It can then do its own thing in a slow oven for a couple of hours and then sit in the fridge for a couple of days before you are ready to eat it with some penne and a glass of red.

Well, that was the theory anyway.  I think I might have left it rather too much to its own devices as it was, sadly, a little overdone.  So, a third lesson for me.

It is a very tasty dish though so please don’t let my struggles put you off!

* Like most ragus, everyone has their own version of this, there is probably a version for every family in Naples – a quick google will find a myriad of Ragu Alla Napolenta recipes.  In this version beef topside is rolled around a mixture of pine nuts, parmesan and parsley and cooked in red wine.

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