Saturday, October 4, 2014

Rigatoni with Beef and Onion Ragu

It was a blustery 40º on our walk this morning...a far cry from the balmy 83º of a week ago. Such is the weather in Minnesota. But fall has always been one of my favorite seasons. Pheasant hunting. Watching the leaves change. The switch over to a warmer wardrobe. And moving on from light summer fare to more hearty fall dishes.

Today's recipe harks from the 16th century. That was a joyous time of my youth. The cars were so different then. I got my second car during this period, which was after my first car died. It wasn't really my fault as I was unaware that engines required oil and that said fluid level needed to be checked on a regular basis.

So after my first car died, my Dad and I went to Southdale Ford. During the 16th century, Southdale Ford sat across from Southdale.....exactly where the Galleria sits today. You can see it in the lower left-hand corner of the photo above. It's the circular building with rows of cars around it. We walked the lot and my heart settled on a beautiful fire-engine red 1965 Ford Mustang. My deceased car had a V-8 with a 4-speed manual, the Ford Mustang was unfortunately equipped with a 6-banger and an automatic. But beggars cannot be choosers, so thanks to my mom and dad and $700 of their money, it  became my 16th century ride.

Back in the 16th century, cars were very different from what we see today. They had no such things as fobs back then. They had a piece of metal cut into little jags. It was called a key and you had to insert it into a hole in the door to get the car open. There were no seat belts, so you knew that any collision would turn your body into a 155 pound projectile. If you did not fly through the windshield, you were guaranteed to become horribly disfigured when your face smashed into the all-metal dash.

The car did have high and low beams, but to activate them you had to step on a mechanical metal switch located on the floor under the dashboard. The car did not have windshield washers.....which are a necessity in Minnesota during the winter. So I had to have a bladder installed under the hood. The bladder was connected to a pump handle under the dashboard. When I needed fluid, I had to lean over and pump enough air into the bladder that caused it to become pressurized and squirt some juice on the windshield.

It was a great little car that got me through college and the end of the 16th century. At the dawn of the 17th century, I became enamored with sports cars, but alas, that is another story. So let us turn our attention back to the 16th century and this fantastic pasta recipe which originated back then...the golden era of my youth.

1 (1 lb.) boneless beef chuck-eye roast, cut into 4 pieces and trimmed of large pieces of fat
Kosher salt and pepper
2 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 ounces salami, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small celery rib, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 1/2 pounds onions, halved and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons minced fresh marjoram
1 pound rigatoni
1 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1/2 cup), plus extra for serving 

  1. Sprinkle beef with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and set aside. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Process pancetta and salami in food processor until ground to paste, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add carrot and celery and process 30 seconds longer, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Transfer paste to Dutch oven and set aside; do not clean out processor bowl. Pulse onions in processor in 2 batches, until 1/8- to 1/4-inch pieces form, 8 to 10 pulses per batch.
  3. Cook pancetta mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fat is rendered and fond begins to form on bottom of pot, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until browned, about 90 seconds. Stir in 2 cups water, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in onions and bring to boil. Stir in 1/2 cup wine and 1 tablespoon marjoram. Add beef and push into onions to ensure that it is submerged. Transfer to oven and cook, uncovered, until beef is fully tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
  4. Transfer beef to carving board. Place pot over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is almost completely dry. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup wine and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using 2 forks, shred beef into bite-size pieces. Stir beef and remaining 1 tablespoon marjoram into sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat, cover, and keep warm.
  5. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add rigatoni and 2 tablespoons salt and cook, stirring often, until just al dente. Drain rigatoni and add to warm sauce. Add Pecorino and stir vigorously over low heat until sauce is slightly thickened and rigatoni is fully tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve, passing extra Pecorino separately.

Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon

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