Friday, February 4, 2011

Pappardelle with Beef & Mushroom Ragu

Recipe modified by Gretchen Wilson – January 20, 2011
For a commentary-free and printer-friendly version of it, please click here.

Recipe originally published in Real Simple, January 2011.

This recipe brought me to my knees.  Not that it was overly difficult – a basic red sauce with vegetables and meat over pasta is not exactly rocket science.  No, between trying to find Pappardelle and burning the veggies, I had enough by the time I was through.  However, through the smoky haze of my kitchen choking on the stench of scorched carrots, I realized it tasted really good.  Thank goodness, because I was walking a very thin line between sanity and murderous rage at that point.

My finished product:

Picture published with recipe:

© Real  Simple

First, let’s state the obvious… I didn’t use papparedelle.  That’s because I drove all over Northwest Indiana looking for it and couldn’t find it.  However one of the substitutes was fettuccine, which is what I used.  I think they probably used shiitake and/or Portobello mushrooms too because they seem to have a deeper color to them.  So, yes, it doesn’t look exactly the same, but I’m sure it tasted just as good.

for more details about what my ratings mean, go to Gretchen’s Rating System

Mess:  EH – and this is a solid EH.  The reason – I hate cleaning and chopping carrots.  That first cut is a killer because the carrot loves to roll around.

Start-to-Finish Time: AROUND TWO HOURS – Sure the prep work is done fairly quickly and it has minimal hands-on time, but it has a 60-75 minute simmering time, and if it still isn’t thick enough, add on another 10 to15 minutes.

Prep Work: SLIGHT BLOOD LOSS – I really wanted to give this a LOSS OF FINGER POSSIBLE, but if you aren’t completely incompetent, like me, when cutting up carrots, you’ll be fine.

Ease of Recipe: MORE THAN I BARGAINED FOR – Now if you decide to forgo the pappardelle, you could easily classify this in the THE BASICS category.  However, I decided to make pappardelle part of my own treasure hunt.  Usually trips to the grocery store are not fraught with peril, but considering I was almost run over by a crazy woman who decided that the sidewalk was, in fact, the street, I can honestly say I barely escaped with my life. 

Four grocery stores + Near death experience – pappardelle = MORE THAN I BARGAINED FOR

Overall:  YUMMY – It was good and if I’m looking for something to throw on the stove and let cook while I’m getting ready, this is it.  Of course, I am determined to find pappardelle if I ever make it again.

Recipe Information:
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings: 4

Nutritional Information
  • Calories 605
  • Total Fat 16g (Saturated Fat 5g)
  • Cholesterol 53mg
  • Sodium 914mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 69g
  • Fiber 8g
  • Protein 46g
  • Sugar 6g
  • Iron 7mg

You can absolutely get 6 servings out of this dish if you serve it with a large salad (try one with balsamic dressing) and crusty bread.  A great comfort food dish, it definitely sticks to the ribs.

Changes denoted by red text

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound stew beef
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
½ teaspoon black pepper, divided
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups no-fat low-sodium chicken broth
1 can (15 ounce) crushed tomatoes
½ pound assorted shiitake mushrooms, sliced
½ pound assorted white mushrooms, sliced
12 ounces wheat fettuccine
½ cup shredded Parmesan (2 ounces), plus more for serving

Ingredient Notes:
Olive Oil – should you use your really expensive extra-virgin olive oil or not.  Since it is not the focus of the dish and is used as a cooking medium, don’t waste your good olive oil stash.  The cheap(er) stuff works just fine.

Stew Beef
  • As I learned from Beef It’s What’s For Dinner stew beef is usually a round or chuck cut of beef prepared in 1” cubes.  Since this recipe called for beef chuck, I felt save using the stew beef I found at the grocery store.  I’m not sure what cut it was, but it was meant to be used in a sauce/stew and saved me the trouble of having to cut a roast into 1”cubes.  That and I can NEVER find a one pound roast.
  • Some of the cubes were a little bigger than 1” so I made sure I halved the ones that were on the large side.
  • If you really want to cut your own beef, the recipe calls for one pound of beef chuck cut into 1” pieces.

Kosher Salt
  • Kosher salt has larger grains than regular table salt, so if you don’t have it, can’t find it or don’t want to try it, use half as much regular table salt in your recipes.  P.S.  It isn’t ideal for baking so this rule only applies to cooking.
  • This was one of the ingredients that had hidden amounts throughout the recipe.  I HATE it when recipes do that.  I just added it up for you so you knew how much total salt you’ll need.

Black Pepper – another ingredient that had hidden amounts throughout the recipe.  Great, now my anger has doubled.  Luckily, it only ticks me off a little, so I’m still in manageable territory.

Garlic – save yourself some time and buy the pre-minced garlic.  Since it isn’t the focus of the dish, the pre-minced you find in the vegetable section of your grocery store works fine.

Rosemary – the original recipe called for 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, but I substituted dried in a ratio of 1:4 or 1 teaspoon fresh = ¼ teaspoon dried.  Ordinarily, I love using fresh herbs, but you have to buy herbs in bunches.  I never can use all the herbs before they go bad, so I end up wasting a lot of them.  Therefore, when a recipe calls for a small amount (like 1 teaspoon) and I don’t have any already on hand, I’ll substitute dry.

No-Fat Low-Sodium Chicken Broth – I usually look for no-fat AND low-sodium chicken broth to save on calories and fat content.

  • The original recipe calls for 1 pound of assorted mushrooms, so I made my own assortment of ½ pound shiitake mushrooms (deep earthy flavor) and ½ pound white mushrooms (flavor peaks when cooked and also MUCH cheaper than the other mushrooms)
  • Buy the pre-sliced mushrooms to make your life easier.

Wheat Fettuccine
  • So, you’re probably wondering what happened to the pappardelle (pronounced pa-par-DAY-lay).  Well if you read the intro to this dish, you know that I searched high-and-low for it and came up empty.  We have a lovely Italian store that had a high probability of having it, about 30 minutes away, but by the time I had searched my local grocery stores, I was ready to go home.  If you look at the picture, you can see it almost looks like a thinner lasagna noodle.  So the substitutions can be:
    • lasagnette (pronounced luh-ZAHN-ette) – a thin version of lasagna
    • tagliatelle (pronounced tah-lyah-TELL-eh) – a thicker fettuccine
    • fettuccine (pronounced fay-tuh-CHEE-nee) – slightly thicker and flatter than spaghetti &is what I used.
  • Many an Italian has told me that wheat pasta is blasphemy.  Personally?  I can’t tell the difference.  However, the original recipe does call for traditional pasta, so feel free to use it in the event (a) you can’t find wheat penne or (b) you can’t bring yourself to eat the wheat.

Shredded Parmesan – it called for grated, but I always use less when I use shredded.  It is going to be tossed, so it won’t affect the presentation at all.

Equipment Needed:
Cutting board
Raw meat cutting board
Sharp knife (2 - one for cutting vegetables & the other for cutting raw meat)
Dutch oven with lid
Large spoon
Slotted spoon
Pasta pot or large pot
Wooden spoon (for cooking pasta)

Equipment notes:
Dutch Oven – the recipe said “or large saucepan”.  Yeah, right.  I splashed my ragù around using my Dutch oven.  Had I used another pot, other than my pasta pot, I would have had a royal mess on my hands.

(1)  Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

(2)  Season the beef with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer to a plate.  The reason I say “use a slotted spoon” is so that you can keep some of the meat juice and olive oil in the pan for additional flavor to the vegetables.

(3)  Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the same pan over medium-high heat.

(4)  Add the onion, carrots, rosemary, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until softened, approximately 5 to 6 minutes. 

Gretchen’s BOO-BOO/Warning:   Be VERY careful when cooking the vegetables.  The original recipe said to stir “occasionally” until softened for about “6 to 8 minutes”.  I placed the vegetables into the pot and began cleaning up my prep area.  Within a minute or two, I could smell burning… it was the garlic (see step #5).  I realized, “hey, maybe I’m going to have to pay a little more attention to this dish.” 

And, hey, I was right. 

I stirred a little more & again let my attention drift to scoop out a tablespoon of tomato paste.  I almost had a heart attack when the smoke alarm went off and the dogs scattered… this time, the carrots were burning and we still hadn’t hit the 6 minute mark.  Since I didn’t want to toss the beef-infused oil, I had the fun and tedious task of picking out as many burnt carrots out of the hot-oil vegetable mixture.  The dogs stayed away from me during this process since there was a considerable amount of swearing and crying.

(5)  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute stirring constantly.  As I explained above, the garlic cooked, and burned, almost immediately.  Let the vegetables and soften first and make sure stir as often as possible.

(6)  Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until slightly darkened, about 1 minute more.  You know what can burn faster than vegetables?  Tomato paste.  In fact, make sure your chicken broth is ready to go before adding the tomato paste to the pan.  In the time it takes to pour the 2 cups, it will burn.  I don’t even think I went an entire minute.

(7)  Return the beef to the saucepan and add the chicken broth and tomatoes. Scrape the brown bits and tomato paste off of the bottom of the Dutch oven before covering and make sure you include any juices that pooled on the plate.  Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until the beef is fork-tender, 60 to 75 minutes.  You may want to add some of the broth first so the tomato paste and vegetables don’t burn.

(8)  Add the mushrooms to the saucepan and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender, 10 to 12 minutes more. If the sauce is too thin, simmer, uncovered, until thickened to the desired consistency.

(9)  Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package directions; drain.  Add the pasta to the beef ragù, add Parmesan and toss. Serve with additional Parmesan.

The original recipe said to return the pasta to the pasta pot and then add the ragù.  Um, why on earth would you transfer the ragù to another pan (talk about recipe for disaster) making another pot difficult to clean.  Minimize the mess and do it my way.

So yeah, this recipe pushed my limits of being able to remain calm.  The result was incredibly tasty though, so I didn’t complain.  If I ever decide to make this again, I will go to the Italian grocery first to find the right pasta and when I’m cooking, I’ll be more attentive.

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