Meat and celery sauce: Finely dice 3 large ribs celery and 1 small onion. Put in a large sauté pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil, the finely chopped leaves of 1 bunch celery, at least 1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, and 1 bay leaf. Sauté over medium-high heat until the vegetables are just starting to get soft, 4 to 5 minutes, then scoot everything to the edges of the pan and add about 1 1/4 pounds lean ground beef to the center. Cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until no longer pink; drain off any excess fat. Season with salt and pepper and stir in about two thirds of a can of crushed tomatoes and about 1 cup water. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes (until the pasta's ready). If it's too watery, uncover the pan and boil to thicken the sauce. Taste and season again, then toss a couple big spoonfuls with penne rigate (Wells recommends rigatoni, but I don't care for it myself). For Mr. Chalmers, who doesn't really eat pasta, I've put it over steamed winter squash or large chunks of steamed zucchini.The important thing is to take the time to finely dice all that celery—it's all about the texture, this sauce. I haven't tried a meatless version, but I think it would be great too.
I was also craving this yesterday, so we snacked on it while sitting on the front porch with the bug:
Chicken-liver crostini: Coarsely chop 1 pound chicken livers and put them in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon butter, some sage, and some juniper berries. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until no longer pink on the inside (or just barely pink). Mince some capers and 3 or 4 anchovy fillets and add them to the livers. Use a slotted spoon to transfer ther livers to a cutting board; finely chop them and return them to the pan to reheat. If the mixture is too dry and crumbly to spread, add a little broth or water. Season with salt and pepper. Spread on toasted baguette rounds.