Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pasta For Men.....And Three Year Olds

Sometimes when I am cooking and writing about ANOTHER pasta dish I feel like I am being a little repetitive.  But in my household pasta is a staple, our culinary life blood if you will.  There literally isn't a week where we don't have pasta, in some form, and maybe it is sad to say, but I honestly would be lost without it.  So here I am, writing about yet another pasta dish, letting you know ahead of time that there will be more pasta on this blog, and hoping that the few readers I have won't stand up and leave me. 

For this dish I wanted to have something very hearty, something that feels like it just sticks to your bones, which in the winter is exactly what I crave.  In the pasta world I think that there is one sauce that does just that, ragu.  Ragu's are always heavy on the meat (which is why I think men love them) and require a fair bit of cooking time.  Now I know that I have done a ragu on the blog before, but I wanted to offer a little less time consuming one for those short weekday nights.  Also, the great thing about ragu's is they get better with time, so the sauce can be made the night before and then reheated for pasta time the next day.  The beauty about a ragu is that you can also use any variety of meats, I have used lamb, and even chicken as a meat base for my ragu's. 

For this one I decided to use ground beef, pork sausage, and a little prosciutto, because the beef gives that richness in flavor, the sausage adds a bit of peppery kick, and the prosciutto adds a bit of a savory flavor, and fortunately all of them don't need hours of cooking time like larger tougher cuts of meat.  The pasta choice for this dish was pappardelle, the fatter cousin of fettuccine, which I think holds up well to a rich meaty ragu.  A ragu also traditionally uses a sofritto as a base, which is a mixture of onions, celery, and carrots.  But for this ragu I decided to just go heavy on the onions and garlic, and add a little bit of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes, which is usually one of purposes that I think a sofritto serves as in a ragu. 
I also went with the addition of some sun dried tomatoes, which also added a wonderful rich tomato flavor, and a variety herbs to bump up the complexity a bit.

So I ragued away, and plopped this enormous bowl of pasta covered in meaty deliciousness in front of my husband, who with some affection says "why do you cook for any army?"  But judging by how quickly my picky little three year old blew through a bowl of this pasta on her very own (she's definitely Italian), I would say that I was glad I cooked for any army, and for three year olds.

Pappardelle With Ragu

Cook Time: 1 hour

1lb lean ground beef
1/2lb pork sausage
8oz prosciutto chopped
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion chopped
8oz Crimini mushrooms sliced
3 cloves garlic minced
28oz crush tomatoes
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup tomato paste
1-1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 large bay leaf
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes packed in oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup Mascarpone
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2lbs Pappardelle

Preheat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the prosciutto and cook until starting to brown, about 3 minutes. 

Add the onions, mushrooms and garlic and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the ground beef and sausage and cook until no longer pink, about 8 minutes. 

Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and wine.  Reduce heat to medium low and bring to a simmer.  Once the sauce is at a simmer add the sun dried tomatoes, the bay leaf, sugar, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Cover and simmer the sauce over medium low heat for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. 

After the 30 minutes add the remaining fresh herbs, and the Mascarpone.  Simmer uncovered for another 15 minutes.  Meanwhile heat a large pot of boiling water over medium high heat.  Salt the water and add the pasta. 

Cook the pasta until al dente, about 8 minutes if using dried pasta, if using fresh reduce the cooking time to three minutes. 

Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water.  Toss the cooked pasta with the ragu, using some of the pasta water to loosen the sauce and to thoroughly coat the pasta.  Sprinkle the tossed pasta with the Parmesan and you're done!  Buon appetito!


  1. That pasta looks amazing!! I would love to try that delicious mixture you cooked up....The marscapone is such a nice touch!

  2. Chef Dennis,
    Thank you so much for the lovely comment. I added the mascarpone because it just adds a sweet buttery flavor, which goes so well with the richness of the meat. If you do try it you'll have to let me know what you think! Thanks so much for reading!