Monday, September 8, 2008

Old-Fashioned Tomato and Meat Sauce for Pasta

From Things Cooks Love: Implements. Ingredients. Recipes.

Prep 45 min | cook time 3 hr | serves 6

This rich tomato sauce is excellent served with rigatonio other sturdy dried pasta with ridges that will hold the sauce. The meat in this recipe—the pork ribs and beef chuck—adds to the rich flavor. However, meatballs, Italian sausage, veal stew meat, Italian fennel sausage, or even a browned pork chop or piece of beef sirloin can be substituted. Just make sure not to use more than 3 pounds of meat, which are served as a side dish with the pasta.

8-Quart Dutch Oven, Tongs, Food Mill, Rubber Spatula, 8-Quart Stock Pot with Matching Pasta Insert or Other 8-Quart Pot and Colander, Large Ladle, Two Large Spoons

1 to 1 ½ pounds meaty pork spareribs or country-style ribs
1 to 1 ½ pounds boneless beef chuck or stew meat, cut into 2-inch pieces
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup coarsely chopped yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 (28-ounce) cans Italian plum tomatoes with juices
1 (16-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)
1 pound rigatoni, penne rigate, or conchiglie (large shells)
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving

1. Make the sauce: Blot the meat dry with paper towels and sprinkle generously on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in an 8-quart Dutch oven or other large, wide pan over medium heat. Working in batches, add the meat to the oil and cook, turning with tongs, for 10 to 15 minutes, until browned on all sides. As each batch is done, transfer it to a large plate. When all of the meat has been browned, set it aside.

2. Spoon off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat in the pan. Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until golden. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, or until softened. Remove from the heat.

3. Fit a food mill with the medium disk, and set the mill on the rim of the Dutch oven. Put the tomatoes with their juices in the food mill and puree. Reverse the crank to extract every bit of flavor from the tomato pulp, and occasionally stop to clean the underside of the mill with a rubber spatula, so the puree falls freely. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, oregano, and red pepper to the pan and stir to blend.

4. Add the browned meats and any juices that accumulated on the plate to the pan and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook uncovered, stirring and adjusting the temperature to maintain a slow simmer, for 2 to 2½ hours, until the sauce is thickened and slightly reduced.

5. cook the pasta : Fill a deep 8-quart pot, outfitted with a pasta insert if using, three-fourths full with water. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Add 3 tablespoons of coarse salt to the boiling water and then gradually add the pasta. Stir with a long-handled slotted spoon until the water returns to a boil. Boil the pasta for 10 minutes. Remove 1 piece of pasta with the slotted spoon and test for doneness. Pasta is cooked when it is only slightly resistant to the bite. If the pasta is too hard, cook for 2 minutes more and test again. Keep testing the pasta every 2 minutes, or until it is cooked to your liking.

6. Slowly lift out the pasta insert, allowing the water to drain back into the pot, or set a large colander in the sink and pour the pasta and water slowly into the colander. Do not shake all of the water off the pasta.

7. Ladle a pool of just the sauce—no meat—in the bottom of a large pasta serving bowl. Add half of the pasta. Top with another ladle or two of sauce, again without the meat. Top with the remaining pasta. Top with 2 more ladles of the sauce. Using 2 large spoons, gently mix the pasta with the sauce until evenly coated. Reserve the remaining sauce.

8. Use tongs to lift the meat from the sauce and either arrange it along the edges of the pasta or place it in a separate serving bowl. Pour the remaining tomato sauce into a gravy boat or a small bowl, and serve along with the pasta and meat. Pass the cheese at the table.

Keep the Pasta and the Bowl Hot

A great way to heat the pasta serving bowl is to set it in the sink and set the colander for draining the pasta inside the bowl. That way, the boiling pasta water heats up the bowl as the pasta drains. When ready to serve, simply pour the water from the bowl and the bowl will be hot.

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