beef & zucchini ragu on pappardelle
Cancel your plans people! We’re staying in! No gallivanting about the town because tonight is a hearty, meaty pasta night. It also happens to be another (yes! another!) occasion on which you can impress friends and relatives alike with your by-now-superior pasta making skills. “Oh, its so quick & easy to make” you will say, nochalantly, as you dish it up. “I mean, there’s the cooking time for the ragu and the drying time for the pasta” you will clarify “but you’re not doing anything during that time, are you?” And you will throw back a glass of red and look oh-so-classy.
It has been getting colder and darker around here. And wetter. And did I mention colder? On the upside, I start feeling like rich, stewy, warming foods. And what a wonderful feeling it is. The family was suitably pleased with this on the table, eating helping after helping until “Ergh…” said one “I think I ate too much” but the others weren’t listening, for they had placed their heads in their hands and were halfway to sleep.
chop ze zucchini
beef & zucchini ragu on pappardelle
800g chuck steak
half a head of garlic
rosemary & thyme
400g tin of lentils
400g tin of whole tomatoes
70g tomato paste
250ml red wine
flour, salt, pepper
1 pasta recipe
most of the mise en place
1. Cube your beef & stick it in a bowl with a slosh of olive oil, salt, pepper and the crushed leaves of two sprigs of thyme. Let it sit in the mix for an hour, or half a day, or use it straight away if you must.
browning the meat
2. Now stick a little bit of oil (not olive, for we want it at a decently high temperature) in the bottom of a heavyish pot. I used a cast iron one that we had. It is very heavy. It is also a pain in the behind to wash. Once hot, put batches of your meat in and toss to brown. I have put too much meat in the pot in the above picture. Put less meat in than I did. Once browned, take it out and put it to the side while you do the rest of it.
3. Once all the meat is browned, put it all back into the pot. Add to this all of your peeled, squashed garlic and the red wine (it will go *psst* and release a wonderful smell). Cook until about half the wine is disappeared into the atmosphere.
adding the liquid ingredients
4. Once it is reduced, toss in the tomatoes and the tomato paste. Don’t worry about chopping your tomatoes. They will disintegrate while you cook into a lovely red mess. Top it off with a small handful of your herbs. If you are feeling clever, you might want to tie them together with some kitchen string. Else you will be fishing them out one by one later and thinking “Did I add four sprigs of rosemary or five?”
5. Now reduce the heat to a slow simmer, pop the lid on and leave it be.
slicing up the mushrooms
6. Here you can start to do your chopping. There are mushrooms to be chopped. And zucchini. Slices and rounds do me well, but you can do quarters and batonnettes respectively if that takes your fancy. (Are you fancy? I am not so fancy.)
7. You can also start to make your pasta here. Follow the pasta recipe, omitting the lemon if you wish (though I love the way it adds to lighten this dish, even just a smidge). We’ll be cutting it into ribbons that are about 2-3cm (or about 1 inch) thick for pappardelle. Don’t forget to hang it out to dry!
all in! (po-po-po-poker face)
8. Once you’ve finished your chopping and rolling and all of that nonsense, or, once about an hour has passed, stick all the veges in. And by all of them, I mean the mushies and the zukes.
toss & turn baby
9. Give it all a good toss around and then stick the lid on again. Be careful here because curious noses may awake their owners from mid-afternoon naps and cause them to stumble down the stairs and into the kitchen where they will say “What’s that? Is it done? Can I have some?” in a sleepy, bear-like tone. And you will have to tell them “No” and “another half an hour or so, ok?” and they will grizzle and lumber off back to bed.
10. Say you’ve been cooking slowly for about an hour and a half by now. It’s time to lift the lid and say “Oh golly! So much liquid!” before panicking and wondering whether anyone would very mind soup for dinner instead of pasta. Fret not! For you’re doing fine! Lift the lid and let it cook uncovered for another half hour.
11. And while it is cooking, you can cook your pasta (which should, by now, be well and truly dried).
time to chow down!
12. Half an hour is done and so are the noodles. One on the plate, and then the other. Call out to the family, pour the rest of that bottle of wine out. Don’t worry if they’re silent while eating. They’re not thinking of how to say bad things nicely. In fact, they’re probably not thinking at all…