By Nanette Hebdige

“It was the best of times and it was the worst of times”. In this case it is the worst of times. This corona virus pandemic has brought the world to its knees halting everything to a standstill.

Every roll of TP is a goner and hand-sanitizer disappeared a while back. Billions are in self-isolation or decreed quarantine and all of us are trying to keep panic at bay. It’s at times like this when our Faith is tested, and we need to pray for divine intervention and not lose hope. Because Hope and Faith go hand in hand. With places of worship closed, people have resorted to virtual online services and whether you believe in God or are an atheist the world needs prayers now. A ton of prayers.

Many of us are attempting to work from home while others are still going through with their diurnal motions. Garbage collectors are still picking up trash, gardeners continue trimming lawns, truckers are delivering vital necessities, while supermarket workers feverishly stock up shelves. Doctors, nurses and first responders are stalwart, remaining ever vigil and it’s their courageous and tireless efforts, we have to applaud for their dedication and courage.

Worldwide, millions of small business owners and large store giants have been forced to shut down to contain this silent killer, creating a fragile and tenuous hold on global economy. Even Amazon is solely concentrating on the delivery of goods that have a more pressing need.

Who would have thought at the onset of this new decade, that 2020 would go down as one of the worst years in history? It’s all so surreal, as if we are all actors in a movie – like Pandemic or Outbreak.

Still we have to fervently count our blessings. We have electricity, water, television, food and each other.

People are turning to social media for encouragement and inject a modicum of humor into this otherwise dark times. Celebrities and chefs around the globe are sending messages of unanimity and support through Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Impromptu concerts from home and a cooking lesson or two, interlaced with messages of hope and positivity.

This would be a good time to FaceTime, email and call friends/family to reconnect with bonds of love and solidarity. It’s a time to remove old grudges – be compassionate and forgiving. Life is oh so short.

Considering the food shortages, we are all scrounging the pantry and basically slapping a sandwich together or popping open a can of soup.

However, if you’re one of the thousands desperately trying to ward off boredom, you might as well cook! Cooking is therapeutic and it makes us come together.

Make dishes which will stretch to a few meals – a hearty soup or a robust bolognaise. A roast, some chili. Even ramen can be taken to another level. With some staples like onions, garlic, potatoes, celery or carrots we can elevate anything and make any dish shine. Utilize the spices in your pantry; use frozen veg and if you have 2 refrigerators, then I suppose you’ve hoarded enough food to wait till Armageddon, so there’s no excuse NOT to cook.

Simple Ragù alla Bolognaise

Ground beef

(if you have any pork you can mix that in there as well)

Mirepoix – chopped onion, carrot and celery

3 cloves of garlic sliced

¼ cup of milk

½ cup of white or red wine

1 TSPA of Chicken Bouillon – to add depth

2 TBSP tomato paste

1 ½ jars of Ragu or any tomato sauce

Some fresh grated nutmeg (or if you don’t have any whole ¼ TSP of ground)

2 bay leaves

1 TSP sugar

½ TSP Aleppo pepper of red pepper flakes

Fresh cracked pepper

Kosher salt to taste



Why the milk? Creates silkiness in the sauce and tenderizes the meat.

Why wine? Adds complexity making for a more robust sauce… and yes, you can spare ½ cup from your stash.

In a large pan with high sides heat some olive oil and add the mirepoix with the garlic, sweating with a with a pinch of salt. Add the bay leaf and the nutmeg.

Incorporate the ground meat and cook till almost all the pink is gone. Add the wine and allow to evaporate a bit. Add the milk and do the same. Throw in the 2 TBSP of tomato paste and mix well.

Add the tomato sauces, bouillon, sugar, salt and the Aleppo or red pepper flakes and simmer for about 1 ½ to 2 hours stirring often. Skim any fat from the top and check for seasonings. This sauce freezes well and it gets better the second or third day.

Serve over any pasta, orzo, couscous, quinoa or cauliflower rice.

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Pantry Rat