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I love my mamma. When I was growing up, she would say to me that no matter what I do in life or become, she will always love me. I am fortunate enough to still have her in my life, talk to her on the phone every day and see her a couple of times a week. She is my priority now that my father has passed. I love how fiery and in some ways independent she has become now that she is on her own for the first time in over 60 years.


And she still loves to cook! Every time we chat the conversation will invariably move to the subject of food and the food she has cooked for herself that day. Now that the weather in Melbourne is cold, she has started making hearty soups and her very popular sugo is on high rotation. Mamma’s meat sugo is very much loved by anyone who has tried it though none of us can quite master the art of making it. My niece Claire wrote a lovely post about it on her blog Melbourne Gastronome a few weeks back.

Mamma recently made a fantastic veal ragù using some milk-fed veal that my sister had brought her from the Prahran market. We ate it with fusilli and I must confess, I had two serves of the sauce after I had eaten the pasta. Mamma was so happy that I’ d had three serves that she told my sister who repeated it back to me the next day. Good news travels fast!!

This weekend we celebrate our mothers and everything they have done for us so I am sharing with you her recipe for veal ragù. She told me the ingredients, which I jotted down on the back of an envelope, and her cooking method, which I tried to replicate last night. It is not the recipe for her regular sugo – I have been sworn to secrecy on that one – but it is very very good. In it she uses Ariosto, an Italian seasoning for meats. It is one of her secret ingredients. I buy it at the local italian supermarket. We ate it with some soft yellow polenta and lots of parmigiano cheese scattered over it. Let’s all celebrate our wonderful and unique mothers, even if they are no longer with us, by remembering a special meal they made for us. And for all the mothers reading this – tanti auguri per la festa della mamma (happy Mother’s Day)!


Before I share the recipe, I would like to tell you about Savoring Italy, a blog run by US based Lora and Megan, which showcases the best and most authentic of the aromas of Italy. Lora found me through Twitter and asked me to do a podcast for Savoring Italy, which I was very excited about doing. It was published yesterday and the link to the podcast is here. In it I talk about why I started my blog, the story of my parents migrating from Italy and Italian food culture in Melbourne now. Please have a look – there are lots of other great things on Lora and Megan’s blog including my scallop and asparagus salad and many other podcasts and stories about the tastes of Italy throughout the world.

Ragù di vitello della mamma (Mamma's veal ragu)

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1 kg veal shoulder, diced
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
3 brown onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 and 1/2 glasses dry white wine
1/2 can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsps Ariosto “per carne” (for meats)
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil for cooking

Add a good glug olive oil (about 1/4 cup) to a large heavy bottom saucepan with a lid. Place the carrot, celery and onion in the pan and cook on low to medium heat for around twenty minutes, stirring occasionally, allowing the vegetables to soften rather than brown. Next add the veal and increase the heat to medium high. Brown the meat all over, stirring frequently and after a few minutes, add the wine. Continue cooking, reducing the heat to medium, allowing the wine to evaporate for a few minutes. Next add the tomato, the nutmeg, the bay leaves and the Ariosto. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to low and cover, allowing the meat to continue cooking slowly for around an hour and. half, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.

The ragù is done when it is tender (practically falling apart). Discard the bay leaves and serve with soft polenta or pasta and scatter on plenty of parmigiano.


Linked recipes
spiced beef ragu’
braised beef with polenta


  • Gael Joyce says:

    So sorry to hear of the passing of your dad, I have loved reading the stories of your parents life together.
    I lost my mum this January so tomorrow will be a bitter sweet day but you have inspired me to cook her famous Sunday roast for my boys. I enjoy your posts immensely and look forward to cooking more of your wonderful food

    • thanks for your kind words Gael, he passed a few years back and I continue to think about him most days. Sorry to hear of your recent loss – the first year is the hardest. I do hope you will make her wonderful roast – food memories are the best ones as you can keep reliving them. Happy mother’s day to you as well

  • I love this site! I really look forward to the new posts excitedly and enjoy them all so much.

    Thank you

  • albert says:

    Ciao Paola,

    Winter is definitely the time for a good stew. It was a high rotation dish in our household as kids and it remains so today. We just despatched a vat of it this very week.
    Mum’s was pretty much as you posted with maybe the addition of a pinch of cloves and a cane of cinnamon or a touch of paprika (bot not too much!). Hers went under a number of names including calandraca, tocio de vedel or carne in tecia.It does go well with polenta but is equally good with a stiff pasta-dura loaf and some quality spuds. You can even use the leftovers with some pasta (carne in tocio e subioti).
    A simple hearty dish, perfect for this time of year. All I can say is the crockery always looked as though it hadn’t been used after it was all gone!


    • Good to hear from you Albert. I love the clean plate/bowl at the finish of the meal – when I used to clean my plate of sugo with bread, mamma would tell me that the plate didn’t need washing and I believed her (and even put the plate back in the cupboard – I was about 6 at the time). Funny that you call it ‘calandraca’ – we used that for when we put chunks of potato in the sugo. Such a long time since I have heard that word! Paola

  • Felicia (@felhuang) says:

    Happy Mother’s Day to your mamma 🙂 Hope she enjoyed this beautiful day and weather we had in Melbourne today! That is a lovely photo of you both and it is great that you share such a close relationship with her. Even though my mom is in Singapore, I still speak on the phone to her every single day and we talk about things we did for the day and also what we ate haha. (Italian and Chinese families seem to have a lot in common). Thank you for sharing your mamma’s recipe, it is such so perfect for winter. Can you recommend me some italian supermarkets that I can buy Italian ingredients from? I have become very inspired to try my hand at cooking more Italian food after reading your blog and the stories you share. Thank you Paola.

    • thanks very much Felicia. It is great that you manage to speak to your mother every day – I never thought of Chinese and Italian families having a lot in common – though the Chinese friends I have just LOVE food! as for italian supermarkets, do you live in Melbourne? My favorite is the Mediterranean Supermarket on Sydney Rd. Brunswick. I often go to Piedimonte in North Fitzroy as it is close to home. I am so happy that you are inspired to cook italian, and there are often not many ingredients. it is surprisingly simple. happy cooking. You will be able to tell your mum what you have been cooking when you talk to her each day x

      • Felicia @felhuang says:

        The love of food and wait is definitely a shared common interest! I can think of a few more like close knit families, home cooking with simple ingredients, cooking by regions etc.

        Yes, I live in Melbourne and have been to Meditterean Wholefoods once and it’s an amazing place! I love the cafe that sells Italian cookies. My favourite is Brutti Ma Buoni though I usually get it from T Callevero when I go to Footscray for pho. I will check out Piedmont’s too! Thanks 🙂

        I read your blog sometimes on my morning train ride to the hospital (currently a medical student) and it always leave me ravenous and I start thinking of what to cook for dinner at 6am! Lol. Thank for sharing all your beautiful stories and receipes. Xx

        • that is so sweet of you Felicia – I studied dentistry – funny that connection with medical degrees & food. I have doctor mates who are such foodies! would you believe I have never been to T Cavallero in Footscray? must make a special trip soon, I have heard do much about it. so happy you like my recipes & stories xx

  • Lyn says:

    Thank you for sharing this lovely recipe. I may cook it while I am here in Bagni di Lucca. Lyn

  • What a lovely post! You really look like your mum! Your polenta with ragu di vitello looks amazing! One of the best way to eat polenta!!!

  • Felicia @felhuang says:

    What a coincidence that you are in the medical field too! Are you still practicing dentistry? Yeah! I do have some doctor in Singapore ones who love food too and spend their very limited off days seeking out the best places to eat.

    You definitely gonna visit T Callevero, the owners are so nice and sweet and when my family visited, they even gave us a box of cannoli to take back with us. My family were very touched by their generousity!

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