Anniversary date night in
I feel like a thousand years has passed since my last post. This one has been a prolonged chapter, which is ironic because is kind of how this recipe goes. At the end though both events have been greatly rewarding. It took me 5 minutes here and 5 minutes there to FINALLY upload this pappardelle with veal ragù recipe, a favorite of ours. But good reasons are on my side this time.
For the last couple of weeks we have been planning our next trip to Philadelphia for our daughter’s treatment. This time we will be visiting two centers, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential. Two weeks filled with follow up appointments, new treatments and lots of optimism. Also filled with visits to our favorite restaurants and discoveries of new ones. (By the way, any suggestions are more than welcome!) So between all the bookings and arrangements our wedding anniversary came through. Therefore we decided to celebrate it as simple as possible, without reservations or hours planned ahead of time. A date night was in order.
Fourteen years ago we were wandering the corners of Firenze, exploring its beauties and getting inspired to live our new life together with its unapologetic romance and bold culture. We visited a couple of fine 5-courses menu restaurants, but it were the cafes, the trattorias around Chianti and gelaterias at the plazas which kept us fascinated on the culinary topic. The rustic yet rich dishes were our favorites at any place we went. Comfort food is our kind of food. But we practically never ordered dessert, we just strolled through the city for the rest of the night and ended in this place called Caffé Concerto Paszkowski in a corner of Piazza della Republica to pick up our gelatos for the day; his limone and cioccolato and mine bacio and cocco.
At least with food I could recreate the sentiment of those dreamy Italian nights for our anniversary celebration, so I decided to make this veal ragù with one of our favorite types of pasta, pappardelle. I came up with this dish while looking for a good recipe to use a Barolo wine my husband received as a birthday gift. I browsed through my Italian book “The Silver Spoon” (Il Cucchiaio d'Argento) (Phaidon, 2011) and found this beef stew using Barolo. We have never been plain beef kind of people, so it occurred to me to combine it with pasta. Suddenly my mind was going far and started to think in the idea of the ragù, pureeing all the ingredients of the stew so the sauce turns smooth. Also, I thought of changing the beef for veal because it is more tender and easier to shred, but most important, it helps in creating a mellower flavor.
I’m not going to lie to you, it’s the kind of dish that takes a good couple of hours of the day. You need to plan ahead. But the planning and expectation is a good amount of the fun. And after a simple but long work you’ll be finally sitting comfortably (I wanted to write cozyngly but apparently that is not a real word) with a glass of wine and a comfort food dish that is going to mend for any hard work you may have had. The meat is tender. The sauce is rich with all the vegetables marinating for hours and yet fresh with the addition of tomatoes and mushrooms in the middle of cooking. The kind of food that makes you smile on the first bite.
1. This is a great recipe to let the Barolo wine enhance the rest of the flavors with its usual boldness and composure. You could substitute the Barolo wine with a good Chianti. In my experience the taste of the ragù is more acidic with the Chianti.
2. Plan accordingly so you shred the veal while the sauce is cooking and you cook the pasta while cooking the mushrooms on the final stage of the sauce.
3. It’s always good for the taste of any meat to bring it to room temperature before cooking.
4. You could also use linguine or fettuccine for this recipe.
5. These quantities are ideal for a nice dinner party or if you want some left overs after all your hard work. For only two or three people only use one veal chop and cut in ½ the liquids and vegetables but you are fine leaving the seasonings the same. Maybe cut some of the salt at the middle of cooking.
Pappardelle with veal ragù
4 to 6 servings
Total time - 6 to 7 hours, including marinating time Active time - 1 to 1 ½ hour
Equipment - Large deep skillet or cast iron skillet, immersion blender
Chianti or Barolo wine – 2 cups
Veal stock – 2 cups
Fine sea salt – ½ Tsp
Freshly ground pepper – ½ Tsp
Sage – 1 or 2 stalk to use 5 to 7 leaves
Rosemary – 1 long stalk or 2 small
Fresh bay leaves – 3 to 4
Celery, chopped – 1 cup, 1 stalk approximately
Carrots, diced – 2 cups, 2 medium approximately
Yellow onion (Spanish style), sliced – 1 large
Veal chops – 2 chops, 1 ½ to 2 lbs
Olive oil – 3 TBSP
Fine sea salt – ½ Tsp
Whole peeled tomatoes (with the minimum of juice from the can) – 2 cups (1 28oz can)
Plain pureed tomato sauce (not marinara or Spanish style tomato sauce) – 1 cup
Tomato paste – 2 TBSP
Cocoa powder (unsweetened) – a good pinch, about 1/8 Tsp
Fine sea salt – 1 Tsp
Freshly ground black pepper – ¼ Tsp
Unsalted butter – 2 TBSP
Cremini mushrooms – 2 cups approximately (1 lb of mushrooms)
Pappardelle – 8 to 12 oz for 2 or 3 persons, 12 to 16 oz for 4 to 6 persons
Fine sea salt – 1 to 1 ½ Tsp
For the marinade: In a deep square glass pan combine all the ingredients well, then add the veal chops, making sure they are covered with liquid. Let it rest for 4 to 6 hours in the fridge.
For the ragù and pasta: Take out the pan from the fridge and let it temperate for 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer everything to a cast iron or deep skillet. Add the other ½ salt and the olive oil and cook in simmer for 1 hour.
Transfer the cooked chops to a container with a little bit of the liquid to keep them moist. Cover with a lid, plastic paper or aluminum foil until you are ready to work with them.
Add to the skillet the tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, cocoa powder, the 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper and the unsalted butter. Mix everything and cook in medium heat for 45 minutes, enough to concentrate the flavors and reduce the sauce. In the meantime, shred very finely the lamb chops, discarding big pieces of fat and the bones (see recipe notes above). Keep in mind that the finer you shred the more integrated the sauce will turn out.
After 45 minutes of cooking the sauce, add the mushrooms and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more. Also start heating the water for cooking the pasta.
Remove the sage, bay leaves and rosemary out of the pan and using an immersion blender purée all the remaining veggies. Incorporate the shredded veal and combine everything.
While the sauce finishes cooking, cook the pasta in a large pot of rapidly boiling water with salt until al dente, 7 to 10 minutes or 3 to 5 minutes less of the package instructions.
With a pasta server or after draining the pasta with a colander, toss it with the ragù and cook for 5 more minutes, until the pasta finishes cooking and absorbing part of the sauce and everything is well combined.
Let it cool for a few minutes before serving. Basil and lots of parmesan cheese on top.