Good things come to those who wait, and baby, these marbled short ribs in a meltingly rich ragu are worth it. This recipe came about as an alternative to my dream lunch (yep, you read correctly when I said lunch) back when I was studying photography in Italy. Our class lived in a sleepy town called Orvieto, nestled about 2 hours between Rome and Florence. In the heart of Tuscany, Orvieto’s culinary acclaim was rooted in black truffles, a crisp white wine called Orvieto Classico, and wild boar. The latter was an absolute mind-blower for me – in this country, pork has been raised to be so very lean, it’s been genetically altered into flavorlessness. People then swoon over Berkshire pork anything because they are harkening this atavistic longing for a time when pork tasted flavorful and rich. Not the dry, chewy garbage that we see all the time.
My first taste of wild boar was a forkful off my friend Michelle’s plate – she had a hankering for pappardelle, whilst I had never even heard of it until then. The wide, eggy noodles, like halved lasagna sheets without the crinkles, weren’t as widely available in the states yet. To me, at the time, they were a revelation, and when I eat them now (either made from scratch or picked up at Trader Joe’s), I look back to that first taste with fondness. Topping the tangle of noodles was a luscious ragu of wild boar (called “cinghiale” in Italian) – savory, sweet and robust, this was like no pork that we had back home. I was in love.
Although, as I mentioned before, pappardelle is an easy score, the wild boar is none to be found. Though the ragu can easily me made with thick cut loin chops or even pork shoulder, I change the protein to beef and lovingly braise short ribs in stock, veggies and spices. It takes time, but is really no work at all – one of those “set it and forget it moments”…sorry Ron Popeil. This is better than anything made in your rotisserie grill.
Braised Short Rib and Crimini Ragu with Pappardelle
3 tbs. of olive oil
2 lbs of short ribs
1 tsp. of black pepper
2 tsp. of kosher salt
1 lb. of cremini mushrooms
2 bay leaves
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small onion, diced
1 c. of red wine
2 tbs. of thyme, chopped
28 oz. of tomatoes
4 c. of beef stock
6 c. of water
1 can of tomato paste
2 tbs. of butter
2 tbs. of flour
1 lbs. of dried pappardelle (or your favorite long pasta)
3 tbs. of butter
3 cl. of garlic, chopped
2 tbs. of fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 tsp. of crushed red pepper
In a large dutch oven, heat the oil. Cut your short ribs into meaty, one-inch cubes and liberally salt and pepper. Fry in batches in the dutch oven until very well browned on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the 1 tbs. of oil to the pan and add the mushrooms, making sure not to crowd the pan too much. Stir infrequently, allowing mushrooms to brown and show lovely color. Remove with the slotted spoon and add to the beef cubes.
Add your carrots, celery and onion to the dutch oven. Cook until translucent and then add the garlic. Continue cooking until fragrant – about a minute. Pour in the cup of wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the dutch oven. Add your tomatoes and stock to the pot and stir.
Simmer for 2 1/2 hours, adding water in 2 cup increments every 45 minutes. When the short ribs are fall-apart tender and the sauce has reduced for the last time, use a slotted spoon to remove the meat from the pot. In a separate sauce pot, melt your butter and then whisk in your flour. Cook for a minute and then whisk in the tomato paste. Pour all of the stew liquid into the pot with the tomato-butter-flour roux, whisking the entire time to prevent lumps. Your sauce should be shimmering and creamy at this point. Return the meat to the sauce, mashing it a bit to allow it to fall apart in the sauce.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and drop in your pappardelle. Cook until al dente and then drain, making sure to reserve a cup of the cooking liquid.
While the pasta is cooking, in another small saucepan, melt the three tablespoons of butter. Add the garlic, thyme and red pepper at the very last minute, allowing it to barely cook in the hot butter.
When the pasta is done, take out a skillet (lots of pans, I know) and turn it on high. Plunk in 1 tablespoon of the butter-garlic mixture, the pappardelle and two ladlefuls of the sauce from the ragu. Add the cooking water as necessary to loosen up the sauce until the pasta is glossy and the sauce adheres to the noodles.
To serve, place a tangle of pappardelle in a bowl and top with a few large spoonfuls of ragu, making sure to get good amounts of short ribs and crimini on the plate. Drizzle a little of the garlic butter on the top and mangia bene!