Thursday, January 24, 2013

Beef and Rigatoni

I used to be a pasta sauce snob.

I think it started in childhood. My mother - not Italian at all - used to make her own sauce from canned tomatoes, herbs, and whatever.

Then one day she discovered the jarred sauces. At the time, there weren't too many choices. One was immediately deemed awful. The other was okay, if she (as she said) "doped it up." She'd add herbs, garlic, maybe some meat. And she's have sauce.

But then she realized that she was adding the same things she would have added to canned tomatoes - but she was paying more for the jarred sauce. And that was pretty much the end of her affair with jarred sauces. And it certainly affected my perception of them.

I usually make my own sauce, but I've found a few brands that I like well enough to keep on hand for that emergency meal when I don't have the energy for much more than boiling water, dumping in some noodles, and covering it with a sauce. And for the most part, those brands are from small producers. One, in fact, comes from Miller Farms, which is a nearby farm that sells at the local farmer's market.

Dave's Gourmet sauces are also on my "acceptable " list. I haven't tried the complete product line, but I've really like the ones I tried.

That's not to say that the ONLY way I use the sauces is dumped on top of pasta. The great thing about a good jarred pasta sauce is that it makes a great sauce for cooking, too. Because you can add extra things to it, but you've already got all the base flavors you need.

This time, I used to to braise some beef to make a meaty pasta dish. I wanted short ribs, but I couldn't find them. I found a small package of boneless short rib meat, but I wanted some bones for flavor, so I picked up some short little beef back ribs.

This recipe would work with whatever braise-worthy beef you have. Quantities aren't set in stone, either. Make it as beefy (or not beefy) as you like. And as far as the jarred sauce - well, use whatever you like. But use a good one.

Beef with Rigatoni and Tomato Sauce

1 jar Dave's Gourmet Red Heirloom tomato sauce
2 small pieces boneless beef short rib meat
4 beef back ribs (they were about 5 inches long)
1/2 pound rigatoni
Parmesan cheese

Toss the beef into a slow cooker and cover with the sauce. Set the cooker on low and cook until the meat it tender. Not just that you can jab a fork in it, but tender. In my slow cooker, that took about 6 hours - yours might be different.

If you have meat on bones, you can remove the bones now, or wait.

Transfer the meat and sauce to a storage container and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Overnight is good.

When you're ready to serve, cook the pasta in boiling salted water.

Cut the meat into bite-sized chunks. Heat the meat and sauce in a large-enough pot to accommodate that and the pasta.

When the pasta is cooked almost to your liking, drain it and add it to the sauce. Cook a minute or two longer until the pasta finishes cooking.

Serve hot with a little shower of parmesan cheese on top.

This dish also reheats well, and during storage the pasta absorbs even more of the liquid so the sauce is thicker. Thin it out, if you like, but I think it's just as good with a thicker sauce.