In her new book, the noted food writer and editor chronicles the redemptive journey around her kitchen.

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Books for Cooks

We recommend: “My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life” by Ruth Reichl (Random House, $35.)

What’s special: Think you were sad when Gourmet magazine closed in 2009? You couldn’t have felt worse than final editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl, the author and famed former New York Times restaurant critic. In this cookbook memoir, she pensively chronicles the year following the magazine’s closure, along with her restorative return to her home kitchen.

For those who missed Reichl’s inimitable voice, it’s a welcome collection. Comforting and descriptive recipes, which allow room for judgment calls, run from American classics to global favorites. They may not save your own life, but they will save many a meal.

Easy ‘Bolognese’

Makes 4 servings

1 pound spicy pork sausage

1 can San Marzano whole tomatoes


olive oil

1 onion (coarsely diced)



crushed red pepper

2 cloves garlic (smashed)

1 pound spaghetti


Parmesan cheese

This dish demands good, spicy Italian sausage. When I can, I buy mine from a farmer who raises his own pigs. Otherwise, I go to an Italian butcher. I try always to keep some in the freezer.

It also requires patience. The secret is to cook the sauce for a long time, so that it caramelizes into something that’s more than the sum of its parts.

1. Pour a bit of olive oil into a skillet and sauté the onion until the fragrance is irresistible and the onion translucent. Add salt and pepper and red pepper and garlic. If you have some carrots, dice them and add them to the pot. A bit of shredded basil always adds a lovely fragrance.

2. Squeeze the sausage out of its casing into the pan and fork it around until it loses its raw color. Open the can of tomatoes (this is the moment to use the best imported ones you can find) and crush them into the pan, tearing them with your fingers. (I love the feeling of the tomatoes squishing through my hands.)

Set aside the remaining liquid from the can. Cook, at fairly high heat, until the liquid has evaporated, stirring every once in a while. Slowly add the rest of the liquid from the can, a bit at a time; the secret to this sauce is allowing the liquid to evaporate each time before adding more.

When the liquid is gone, turn the heat down, add a bit of water and cook for at least two more hours, watching the pot and adding more water as needed. This is best when it’s become quite dry and the tomatoes are beginning to caramelize against the bottom of the pan.

3. Cook a pound of spaghetti, drain it in a colander, toss it into a bowl and add enough butter so that you can smell it melting as you toss it about. Add the sauce and pass just-grated Parmesan cheese.

© 2015 by Ruth Reichl