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Serves 4

It's Saturday morning, the weather is gray, some cozy food is in order, and your fridge could really use a clean-out. Ragu with pasta (or polenta) feels just right, but there isn't any ground meat on hand. No matter! That half cabbage bouncing around on the bottom shelf is just taking up space, and that last leek needs to go, and those soft potatoes too. Got a can of tomatoes on the pantry shelf? You're in business. Call some friends to come over later. Whatever fats you have on hand will work, too, whether vegetable or animal. And don't hesitate to use some of the darker green parts of the leek for their lovely, deep flavor. Leave out all the meaty parts, and you'll still wow all the guests who respond to your impromptu invitation. Prepare to soak in the silence of their rapt appreciation.

3tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 leeks, well rinsed, and thinly sliced
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed and chopped
2 medium Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
¼ small head red or green cabbage, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
1 can (14 ounces) chopped tomatoes
2tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Rind of Parmesan or other hard cheese (optional)
1cup white wine or water, if needed
1 pound rigatoni or penne
1cup freshly grated Parmesan
Extra olive oil (for sprinkling)

1. In a large flameproof casserole over low heat, heat the oil. Add the onions, leeks, carrots, and garlic. Stir well, cover the pan, and cook for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften but not brown.

2. Add the potato, cabbage, tomatoes, oregano, red pepper, and a generous pinch each of salt and black pepper. If using a cheese rind, add it now. Stir thoroughly, cover the pan, and simmer briskly for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften.

3. Check the liquid in the bottom of the pan. If it is dry at the bottom, add the wine or water and stir well. Cover the pan and continue cooking for 15 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender and the ragu is saucy. It should have the texture of a meaty ragu. (Total cooking time is 25 to 27 minutes). Remove the cheese rind from the pan. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, red pepper, or black pepper, if you like.

4. Meanwhile, bring a soup pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne or rigatoni and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes, or until the pasta is tender but still has some bite. Dip a measuring cup into the pasta water and remove 1 cup.

5. Drain the pasta but do not rinse it. Shake the colander and return the pasta to the pot. Add 4 to 5 ladles of the ragu to the pasta and cook over medium heat, stirring gently, for 5 minutes. If the mixture seems dry, add more ragu with a little of the pasta cooking water. Stir in 1/4 cup of the grated Parmesan.

6. Spoon the mixture into shallow bowls and add more ragu to each one. Sprinkle with olive oil and Parmesan.

Caleb Barber

Serves 4

It's Saturday morning, the weather is gray, some cozy food is in order, and your fridge could really use a clean-out. Ragu with pasta (or polenta) feels just right, but there isn't any ground meat on hand. No matter! That half cabbage bouncing around on the bottom shelf is just taking up space, and that last leek needs to go, and those soft potatoes too. Got a can of tomatoes on the pantry shelf? You're in business. Call some friends to come over later. Whatever fats you have on hand will work, too, whether vegetable or animal. And don't hesitate to use some of the darker green parts of the leek for their lovely, deep flavor. Leave out all the meaty parts, and you'll still wow all the guests who respond to your impromptu invitation. Prepare to soak in the silence of their rapt appreciation.

3tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 leeks, well rinsed, and thinly sliced
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed and chopped
2 medium Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
¼ small head red or green cabbage, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
1 can (14 ounces) chopped tomatoes
2tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Rind of Parmesan or other hard cheese (optional)
1cup white wine or water, if needed
1 pound rigatoni or penne
1cup freshly grated Parmesan
Extra olive oil (for sprinkling)

1. In a large flameproof casserole over low heat, heat the oil. Add the onions, leeks, carrots, and garlic. Stir well, cover the pan, and cook for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften but not brown.

2. Add the potato, cabbage, tomatoes, oregano, red pepper, and a generous pinch each of salt and black pepper. If using a cheese rind, add it now. Stir thoroughly, cover the pan, and simmer briskly for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften.

3. Check the liquid in the bottom of the pan. If it is dry at the bottom, add the wine or water and stir well. Cover the pan and continue cooking for 15 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender and the ragu is saucy. It should have the texture of a meaty ragu. (Total cooking time is 25 to 27 minutes). Remove the cheese rind from the pan. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, red pepper, or black pepper, if you like.

4. Meanwhile, bring a soup pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne or rigatoni and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes, or until the pasta is tender but still has some bite. Dip a measuring cup into the pasta water and remove 1 cup.

5. Drain the pasta but do not rinse it. Shake the colander and return the pasta to the pot. Add 4 to 5 ladles of the ragu to the pasta and cook over medium heat, stirring gently, for 5 minutes. If the mixture seems dry, add more ragu with a little of the pasta cooking water. Stir in 1/4 cup of the grated Parmesan.

6. Spoon the mixture into shallow bowls and add more ragu to each one. Sprinkle with olive oil and Parmesan.Caleb Barber