Rachel Roddys recipe for lamb ragu with pasta | A Kitchen in Rome

A visit to the butcher is a reminder that meat should be a privilege, not an everyday convenience, and should be cherished in time-honoured dishes like this Roman-inspired lamb ragu with pasta

As my butcher bones out a leg of lamb and cuts the meat into pieces with a precise thwack thwack, or joints a chicken, we talk. About the lamb or chicken; how old it is and where it came from; the nature of the cut and the goodness of fat. We talk about what I plan to do with whatever I have bought when I get home. She is generous with advice when I ask for it, in that moment shifting roles from butcher to the sort of confident home cook who inspires trust. We also talk about being the mums of difficult eight-year-old boys, and swing between big headlines and the minutiae of every day: dry hands and cold mornings.

Manuelas hands are worth watching: like her brother, mother and grandmother before her, she is incredibly skilled, with the strength of a lumberjack and the precision of a surgeon. The other day she cut a gallina (boiling fowl) in half to reveal eggs; one almost at full size in its opaque sack, the rest a bunch, like tiny grapes, only bright yellow. It was a shock, to be honest; I wanted to turn away. It was Manuelas reaction that made me turn back, her practical admiration of the animal before her and then the way she carefully cut away the cluster of eggs and lifted them into a tub and told me to poach them in the broth I was about to make. Again, I was shocked by her suggestion; the familiar comfort of my morning shop and cooking plans disturbed by the reality of the meat I chose to eat.

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