“My son and my husband are hunters, so we get venison, turkey, duck,” she said. “It’s good to know that you can support yourself if necessary. It’s also a big part of our home schooling.
On their farm, the Ragostas raise heritage breed chickens and Nigerian dwarf goats and maintain a vegetable garden. Homeschooling her children, ages 5 to 13, also includes field trips to learn “where the animal you eat comes from.” My kids can see, from start to finish, how this product ended up on our table,” she said. “It was a beautiful process.”
Originally from East Greenwich, Ragosta, 39, will publish her first cookbook in 2023. She spoke to Globe Rhode Island about bartering, local farms, fall recipes and how to stretch a budget. grocery.
Q: I’m so intrigued by this concept of exchanging recipes for food. How did it start?
Ragost: Growing up, my dad was an entrepreneur, you might say. He was good at barter. He was a pilot and photographer and took aerial photos of businesses, restaurants and [trade] a beautiful picture, passe-partout and framed, for a $300 gift certificate for the restaurant. He always did things like that. I was exposed to this.
I thought: the farms could give me meat or vegetables, and I could write recipes. Farms could use them on their website or on social media. Because so many times, with farms or CSAs, people think, “What am I doing with frozen chuck roast? Or daikon?
I first contacted Wild Harmony Farm and traded $30 worth of meat for a recipe. I contacted probably 40 farms and artisans in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Everyone said yes.
It went quickly. I love it. And I got to know the food community. It was fun to be able to present their products in a delicious and beautiful way that, at the same time, helps customers with inspiration and ideas. Now I’m writing a cookbook with all of these recipes, plus ones I’ve created over the past 15 years.
How many Rhode Island farms do you work with?
I have worked with approximately 25 Rhode Island farms since May 2021, not [all] currently, however. Each farm uses me differently. For Rocky Point Blueberry Farm, I made recipes in exchange for letting the kids and me pick. Wild Harmony, she’s super good at having everything on the website. Windmist prints them and posts them on the freezers. Chris and Kristina’s Market Garden print them out for display. There are tons of ways farms use this. It’s a good thing for them, their customers, and it’s been a huge blessing in my life.
Who are some others you have worked with?
Wicked Roots micro-farm in South Kingstown. Micro-farms are appearing more and more. Another: Turtle farming. Little River Farm, Luckyfoot Ranch, Brandon Family Farm, Emma Acres, Cedar Valley Farm. The local seafood fishery. Pat’s Pastured — I actually worked there as an egg washer.
What’s a good recipe for stretching a food budget?
Honestly, a whole chicken. I can take a 4 pound chicken, for $20, $25, and feed my family of seven. You can do so much with it. I make a dutch oven or slow cooker for soup, tacos, quesadillas. Then I completely pickle this carcass and put it back in the pot with water, vegetables, herbs to make bone broth. This is one of my favorite ways to stretch out a meal.
I love pesto. I hate to waste anything, so I’ll take carrots and beets that most people throw away and turn them into pesto with herbs, a bit of cheese, sunflower seeds – which are much cheaper than pine nuts pine and taste just as good — and good olive oil.
What are the children’s favorite foods?
They love tacos. For a quick meal, nachos on a plate. I’m gonna put a pork roast in the slow cooker, make my own barbecue sauce. It’s so easy – nachos and vegetables, pulled pork on top with local cheese. The kids go crazy about it.
And what are some of your personal favorites?
I’m going straight to a bolognese. There are so many ways to do it: pork, veal, ground beef, fresh tomatoes. I love pasta. I remember when I was 19, being in the kitchen with my husband’s grandmother, she was teaching me how to make homemade potato gnocchi. And the love – I could just feel it. So any type of Italian food I identify with the most.
Homemade pizza, eggplant parmesan, bruschetta. I love braised meats with polenta or risotto. Italian cuisine is my favorite. I like simplicity and passion.
So if someone wants to trade with you, do they let you choose the food? Or do they give you something for homework?
I’m usually a hands-on person, but it was me who said, “Whatever you can do to bless our family, I’ll be creative with it.” I usually make two recipes per month for each farm. So if they give me pork chops or ground beef, I’ll start thinking about it.
Lots of vegetable farms, I can choose what I want. I like it because I can [browse and get] inspired – like this potato and leek soup. Only one farm told me: “this is what I want as a recipe”. But I really need to feel that inspiration to do something good.
What are some recipes for fall?
When I think of fall, I think of stews, soups, kalamata olive breads, pastas. It depends on the product I’m working with. I like to cook seasonally and locally – food tastes best when it’s in tune with the seasons.
Looks like you’re doing a lot of squash these days.
The gourds are huge. There are so many things you can do with them. For the mac and cheese, I made a butternut squash sauce that the kids thought was cheese. And it’s so simple: just roast the butternut squash, mash it. Puree it, add a little milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and it becomes like this lovely creamy, velvety sauce. I made it into lasagna. You could put that on a pizza.
Another interesting squash is the Delicata squash – a beautiful long squash with green stripes. Roast them until they are golden brown. The skin is delicious and rich in nutrients. Mix this with a little ghee or a little olive oil. I just had the best squash I’ve ever had in my life, a butterkin – a combination of a butternut squash and a pumpkin. The sweetness was simply delicious.
And when you put flowers on your dishes, are they edible?
Yes. This year was the first year of growing nasturtiums. You can eat these flowers directly. And that makes it even prettier.