A fine Italian restaurant can always be gauged by their fresh pastas. I take notice of a restaurant's good selection of filled pastas as well as the long, cut pastas such as tagliatelle and pappardelle. Whenever I see either of those two favorite pastas on any menu, I always order it. Often it will be served with a hearty and soul-satisfying sauce of ground meat or shredded braised meat. Braising, a technique synonymous with winter, takes lesser cuts of meat and, after cooking for a long period of time at a steady temperature, transforms them into succulent, tender bits. Short ribs are ideal for braising as wonderful flavors are extracted from the meat and bones in the process. It all goes to flavoring a hearty sauce that the Italians call a ragù.
I love to make fresh pasta at home. It's just as—if not more—rewarding than eating it at a fine Italian restaurant. Here I make an almost all-yolk pasta, slice it into wide strips, and dress the finished product with a rewarding sauce. The ragù is made from a combination of aromatic vegetables and flavorful wine and stock. A bundle of herbs tied together into a bunch and added to the liquid adds additional flavor. After the ribs have cooked for three hours with the meat falling from the bone, the sauce is reduced just until slightly thickened. It's then ready to serve over the golden ribbons of pappardelle. This dish is a great choice for a weekend family dinner or an elegant holiday party in celebration of Hanukkah or Christmas. Complete the meal with a robust glass of red wine, a good Chianti perhaps.
For this recipe, a casserole with a tight-fitting lid that is oven-proof is the best choice for cooking the ribs. A Dutch oven is ideal as its cast-iron construction makes sure its contents cook steadily without any fluctuations in temperature. It can go right from the stovetop to the oven without any worry. When buying the ribs, look for short ribs cut flanken style, which means the ribs are cut crosswise. Ask your supermarket butcher for this unique cut as it is typically cut to order in meat departments. It will usually not be available on the refrigerated shelves.
Short Rib Ragù
2 tablespoons canola oil
3-1/2 to 4 pounds short ribs flanken style, cut into 2-inch segments
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 dried bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
5 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 small carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium shallots, diced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup port wine
2 cups dry red wine
8 garlic cloves
3-1/2 cups beef stock
1 pound pappardelle, recipe follows
grated Pecorino Romano, for garnish
chopped parsley, for garnish
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Warm oil in a 6-quart Dutch oven set over medium heat. Liberally season ribs with salt and pepper. Once oil is hot, cook ribs in two batches, searing all sides until brown. Remove to a plate.
Meanwhile, prepare the bouquet garni by combining bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, parsley, and peppercorns on a square of cheesecloth. Bring corners together and tie securely with kitchen twine.
To the casserole, add carrots, celery, onion, and shallots; cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour and tomato paste. Deglaze the casserole with port wine, scraping the brown bits from the bottom. Add red wine; simmer until reduced by about half and alcohol has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, beef stock, and the bouquet garni. Return the browned ribs to the casserole. Bring liquid to a simmer. Cover casserole and place in oven for 3 hours.
Remove casserole from oven and set over medium heat. Remove the braised ribs to a plate. The meat should fall off the bone. Discard bones and the bouquet garni. Shred meat into small pieces. Skim off fat from surface of the sauce. Return shredded meat to the casserole. Simmer sauce until reduced by about half.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of liberally salted water to a gentle boil. Cook pappardelle for 1 minute. Drain pasta and divide among bowls. Top each bowl with ragù and garnish with Pecorino and parsley. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
5 large egg yolks
Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Create a well in the center and add the egg and egg yolks. Using a fork, beat the eggs while mixing in the flour a little at a time. Once the dough has come together, if it is too dry and crumbly, a little water can be added.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Form into a ball and knead until the dough takes on a smooth surface, about 10 minutes. Form the dough into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic. Let it rest for about 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature.
Cut the disk into about 4 pieces. Work with only one piece at a time and keep the remaining pieces wrapped in plastic. Form the piece into a flat disk, lightly flour, and feed it into the machine starting with the largest setting. Fold the dough in half and roll it through again. Now start moving onto the next setting and so on until the next-to-last setting is reached. If the sheet starts to get too long, cut it in half. The sheet of pasta should be silky smooth and less than 1/16-inch in thickness.
Lay the long sheet of pasta on a lightly floured work surface. Fold it in half and half again. Using a sharp knife, cut the sheet into pappardelle, 1-inch wide strips. Unravel each strip and lightly dust with flour. Gather pappardelle into small bundles on a tray dusted with flour until ready to cook. Or let air dry completely and store in resealable plastic bags for a later use. Yield: 1 pound pappardelle.