beef short ribs braised in tomato sauce

When my sister visits with her young kids, I like to make a dish on the first night that’s particularly kid-friendly. While they aren’t picky eaters, they love pizza and spaghetti and hot dogs as much as any other kid. But if I’m cooking, the food has to be Bridget-friendly too. In other words, it has to be fun to cook.

I’ve wanted to perfect a recipe like this for a long time. I had in mind something that wasn’t just tomato sauce with meat added. I wanted the meat to shine, and I wanted the sauce itself to taste distinctly meaty.

To get the intensity I was hoping for, I pulled out every umami trick I know. Beef, obviously, and all the tomatoes don’t hurt. Dried porcini mushrooms, tomato paste (added with the aromatics and browned slightly), and pancetta added layers of meaty flavor.

This is my favorite type of recipe to make. Ingredients are added incrementally, food gets browned and delicious, and all the while, I get to stir and inhale the aroma, stir and inhale. It gets better after the sauce has simmered for hours, and then it becomes stir and taste, stir and taste. Even better is enjoying the meal with pasta, freshly baked bread, salad, a bottle of red wine, and two rambunctious kids and their parents.

One year ago: Lighter Chicken and Dumplings
Two years ago: Chopped Salad
Three years ago: Banana Cream Pie

Printer Friendly Recipe
Beef Short Ribs Braised in Tomato Sauce

½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 (3-4 pounds total) beef short ribs
salt
3 ounces pancetta, diced
1 onion, diced small
1 carrot, diced small
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ teaspoon oregano
½ cup wine (red or white, just something that isn’t too sweet or oaky)
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes with their juice

1. Rinse the mushrooms to remove any dirt clinging to them. Cover them with ½ cup water in a small microwave-safe bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, poke a few holes in the plastic wrap, and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. Let stand until the mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes. Use a fork to lift the mushrooms from the liquid; mince the mushrooms, reserving the liquid.

2. Season the beef ribs with salt. Meanwhile, in a 5-quart Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until it flows like water when the pot is tilted. Add the beef ribs and cook, for 2-3 minutes per side, until richly browned on all sides. Remove the ribs from the pot. Lower the heat to medium and add the pancetta to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered and the pancetta is crisp. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pancetta to the plate with the short ribs. Drain all but 1 tablespoon fat from the pot. Add the onions and carrots; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned on the edges, 6-8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, mushrooms, and oregano; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the wine; scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Stir in the tomatoes, beef ribs, pancetta, mushroom soaking liquid (being careful to leave any dirt behind) and 1 teaspoon salt; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours. After 2 hours, remove the cover, increase the heat to medium-low, and simmer for another hour, until the beef is tender.

3. Transfer the ribs to a plate; shred the meat. Meanwhile, if the sauce is too thin, increase the heat to medium-high and simmer until it reaches the desired thickness. Stir the meat back into the sauce. Taste for seasoning, adding salt if necessary, and serve over pasta or polenta.

beef in barolo

I seem to be going through a phase. I was trying to choose what recipe to post about next, but everything I have to choose from seems so similar to Bolognese – Italian sauces based either on beef, tomatoes, or both. Maybe it’s because Dave and I are talking about visiting Italy next year, or maybe it’s because Italian beefy and/or tomatoey recipes are so perfect for winter (or what passes for winter in southeastern New Mexico).

Although, if you cook the beef in Yellowtail Cabernet Sauvignon instead of Barolo, can you still call it an Italian recipe? I don’t imagine that I will ever cook with Barolo, and I certainly don’t recommend that you do either. Barolo is expensive. You’ll rarely find it for less than $50 per bottle and certainly never under $20. Don’t dump $40 worth of wine into your stew, please. And have you ever had Yellowtail’s cab? It’s perfectly drinkable, and at $5 per bottle, it’s a far more practical cooking wine.

Yes, this pot roast is cooked with 2 whole bottles of wine. It’s intensely winey – obviously. In fact, the first night we had this for dinner, I was a little taken aback. The meat is purple and the flavor is so…winey. However, the leftovers the next night were perfectly balanced, so I suspect I didn’t cook it long enough initially, especially considering that the meat wasn’t quite as tender as I like my pot roast.

But that also means that this is one of those meals that is even better when it’s made in advance. It seems to me, then, that this is the perfect meal for guests – it’s convenient and delicious, but the wine makes it fancy. Even if it isn’t fancy wine.

One year ago: English Muffins
Two years ago: Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Printer Friendly Recipe
Brasato al Barolo – Beef Braised in Barolo (adapted from Emeril)

6 servings

Oops, I just saw that the recipe calls for 1½ bottles of wine, not the 1½ liters, or two bottles, that I thought when I made this. So yours might not be quite as winey as mine. And now you have half a bottle to sip on while you wait for the beef to cook!

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (3-pound) boneless beef chuck roast, patted dry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces pancetta, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1½ bottles (4½ cups) Barolo, or other dry red wine
2 cups chicken stock
2 sprigs rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

2. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper. Add the beef to the pot and cook, turning every 2-3 minutes, to brown on all sides. Remove from the pan. To the fat in the pan, add the pancetta and cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Add the onions, carrots, celery and a pinch of salt; cook until caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Return the beef to the pan and add the wine, 2 cups of the stock, rosemary, bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium-high heat, then cover tightly and transfer the pot to oven.

3. Cook, turning the roast every 30 minutes, until fully tender and a meat fork slips in and out of meat very easily (3½-4 hours). Remove the meat from the pan and tent with foil to keep warm.

4. Remove the rosemary, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick, and place the pot over high heat. Cook until the sauce is reduced to a consistency thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

5. Thinly slice the beef across the grain into ¼-inch thick slices. Serve the beef ladled with the sauce. Garnish with parsley and serve.