Ciao Italia: My Lifelong Food Adventures in Italy
Mary Ann's newest book contains over 150 recipes, 60 gorgeous food photos, and many scenic pictures of Italy taken by Mary Ann on her travels through the years.
I like to cook this beef short rib and rigatoni casserole for my Italian friends who don't often have this cut of meat. Short ribs are meaty and high in connective tissue and come from the chest area. The success of this dish really depends on meaty ribs, or fatty ones, so get to know your butcher and look for well marbled ribs without a lot of fat. Ask for an English cut, which means pieces that are between 2 and 4 inches long. Slow cooking produces the tenderest and most delicious flavor and the entire casserole can be assembled and cooked hours before it is needed and just reheated, or cooked the day before. Either way, it is a winner.
1 tablespoon Filippo Berio extra virgin olive oil
8 meaty short ribs on the bone (about 4 pounds), 1 1/2-inches thick and 4-inches long
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 pound diced pancetta
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup diced fennel
2 diced carrots
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced into strips
2/3 cup red wine
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
One 28-ounce can crushed plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons commercial balsamic vinegar
1 pound rigatoni or other short cut of pasta, like penne or bow ties
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Heat the olive oil in a large stovetop-to-oven-to-tabletop casserole, 12 by 2 inches deep. (We like Le Creuset.) Rub the ribs with salt and pepper and brown them in batches. Do not crowd the ribs or they will steam instead of brown. As they brown, transfer them to a dish.
If there is a lot of fat in the pan, drain off most of it, leaving about 2 tablespoons. Brown the pancetta; stir in the onions, fennel, and carrots and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften. Stir in the garlic and cook 2 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and cook 2 minutes more. Raise the heat to high and pour in 1/3 cup of the wine. Cook until the wine almost evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the red pepper flakes and oregano.
Return ribs to pan. Combine the remaining wine, tomatoes and balsamic vinegar in a bowl; mix well, then pour over the ribs. Cover the pan tightly with a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil and then a cover and bake for 2 hours or until the ribs are tender. Correct the sauce seasoning if necessary.
(If you don't have a Dutch oven, this wonderful meal can be cooked in a Slow Cooker set at Low for 8 to 10 hours. You might want to use a Reynolds crock pot liner. )
Remove the ribs to a cutting board; trim the meat away from the bone and connective tissue into small pieces and return the meat to the pan. Discard the bones and connective tissue. Keep the ragu warm while the rigatoni cooks.
Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil; add 1 tablespoon of salt and the rigatoni. Cook until the rigatoni is al dente.
Drain the rigatoni and return it to the pot. Ladle some of the ragu sauce over the rigatoni and mix well. Transfer the rigatoni to a platter and pour the ragu over the pasta. Or mix the pasta directly in the casserole dish. Serve with grated Parmigiano Reggiano sprinkled over the top.
This recipe is featured in show 1712 — Sunday Dinner.