This pappardelle with beef ragu is Italian comfort food at its best. An easy but mouth-wateringly delicious slow-cooked beef ragu. This is not your typical meat sauce but should become a new staple at your table!
I write this blog with the main purpose of sharing recipes. But in a way it is also a journal that touches lightly upon my life as an American living in France. So I can’t start this post without mentioning our current situation here in France as a result of Coronavirus. As of noon today we are in total lockdown. Schools, restaurants, non-essentials were closed over the weekend. But as of today we have been told to stay home except for essential trips to the supermarket and pharmacy. According to President Macron “We are at war.” Despite that, we are in good spirits, the sun is shining, my children are healthy and playing in the garden. And I have the opportunity to see how hard it is to be a teacher.
Eyes on Italy….
It was last week that I made this pappardelle with beef ragu. I was watching the news about what was happening in Italy and my heart was full of sorrow for our neighbors next door – not only for the families affected by the virus and the healthcare workers but for the nation as a whole. I lived in Italy for 2 years, have relatives still there and now live only an hour from the border so I visit frequently. It’s an amazing country. Italy is a nation that relies immensely on tourism. Tourism is something the Italians excel at. Why wouldn’t you want to visit (over and over again) a country full of warm, loving people, absolutely amazing food and spectacular history and culture around every corner?!?!
No one yet knows the economic impact this virus is going to have on the world, except that it’s bad. But when I made this recipe last week my eyes and heart were on Italy. (I did not realize that by the time I got to writing the post France would be under the same restrictions.) I wanted to make and share a recipe that could remind people why the world has always loved Italy. This virus will eventually pass and then, when someone says Italy we will no longer think of fear and panic but of wonderful things like pasta, Tuscan hills, Venetian waterways, pizza, Michelangelo, fashion, the Amalfi coast, Chianti, family gatherings, olive trees, the Colosseum, sun drenched lunches in the piazza…….I could go on and on. Those are the things we need to thank Italy for and the things that will draw us back to visit and hopefully help them rebuild.
In the meantime, we sit and wait ……and eat.
I chose to share this recipe for pappardelle with beef ragu because we all need comfort food right now. And no one makes comfort food like the Italians. I grew up with two Italian grandmothers under one roof. That meant that within 5 minutes of walking through their front door one grandma was pushing my chair in at the table while the other held a fork to my mouth. Food meant “You’re home now, relax.”
We’re home now in France. Most of the world will be home soon too. But are we relaxed? Maybe not. Time to try to relax. During this crazy time we should look to the Italians and try to do what they do best. Love your family. Nourish your family. And when the worries come remind yourself that there is no better place for a family to be than home….
My grandmother’s recipe for meat sauce is much more complex than the recipe here (and includes pig’s feet.) It’s incredibly delicious and a recipe I will share one day. But this is probably not the time…..This meat sauce recipe is easy and inexpensive to make. You can make a double batch of beef ragu and freeze half for later use. Like all meat sauces and stews this beef ragu tastes even better the next day. So, if you can, make it the day before. If not, don’t worry it is delicious fresh from the pot!
In the US you can use chuck roast for this ragu recipe. In France you can use bourguignon or paleron. What differentiates this ragu from a regular meat sauce is that it is slow cooked. The meat, after 2 hours of slow braising, shreds easily into a rich sauce that has gently simmered away on the stove, developing flavour.
Traditionally this is served with pappardelle, a wide flat noodle usually sold fresh or dried by artisanal suppliers. I buy mine at Vert Tendre in Roquefort but if you have an Italian market nearby you’ll find it there. However, we are not as strict as the Italians with our pasta pairings so you can enjoy this beef ragu with your noodle of choice. This is comfort food. Eat what makes you happy.Print
A slow braised meat ragu makes a succulent sauce for pasta….
- 2.5 lb (1.2 kg) stew beef (beef chuck, bourguignon or paleron)
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup of finely diced carrots (about 2 large)
- 1/2 cup finely diced celery (2 stalks)
- 1 800g/ 24 oz can chopped Italian tomatoes
- 1 cup/250 ml red wine
- 1 1/2 cups (350 ml) beef stock (made with 1 Knorr pot or 1 beef bouillon cube if you don’t have stock)
- 3 Tablespoons tomato paste (concentrate)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- For serving:
- 1 lb/450g Pappardelle or other pasta of your choice
- freshly grated parmesan cheese
- handful of chopped parsley
- If your beef has not come already cut up, cut it in to large squares, about 2 inch cubes.
- Season the beef generously with salt and pepper.
- Heat a glug of olive oil in a stock pot over medium high heat. Add the beef and sear well on all sides. You want them nicely browned and caramelised. This will probably take 4-5 minutes. Remove the beef and set aside.
- Add a bit more olive oil to the pot if necessary. Lower the heat to medium low and add the onion. Sauté until just beginning to soften, about 4 minutes.
- Add the garlic, carrots and celery and sauté, stirring often for about 5 minutes, being careful not to let the garlic burn.
- Add the canned tomatoes, red wine, beef stock, tomato paste, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a simmer.
- Add the beef back to the pot and return the sauce to a simmer.
- Lower the heat to low. Cover the pot with a lid and allow the beef to slowly, slowly braise for 2 hours.
- When the beef is fork tender remove it from the pot. Using a fork shred the beef and add it back to the pot.
- Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. You want the pasta slightly undercooked. Drain.
- Add the pasta to the pot with the sauce and toss well with the sauce while still on low heat. The pasta will cook slightly more in the sauce while releasing its starch into the sauce and thus thickening it.
- Turn the pasta out on to a large platter or bowl and sprinkle with parsley and parmesan cheese.