So this weekend it rained constantly in Melbourne. Our garage flooded and the old rug we had on the floor now smells of wet dog. It's a glorious odour that is keeping us a healthy distance from the offending carpet.
The rain kept us indoors, snug as two bugs in a several rugs. I spent the weekend pottering around the kitchen, slow cooking marvellous creations. All this in between watching many, many movies. It's a hard life.
While on a quick venture out of the house, I spied some rigatoni on the shelf at the supermarket. I don't know about you, but if I were in a psychiatrist's office playing word association games and they said "rigatoni" my instant response would be "ragu". They fit together like... pasta and sauce. Creative, huh?
For this recipe, I went with a simple gravy beef and some osso buco. You could use any slow cooking cut like chuck, blade or skirt steak (why do all cuts of beef sound like characters in Days of our Lives?).
Now, this is a slow cooked dish. That means it takes time (how patronising was that?). Leave a good three hours for this: 30 minutes for prep and searing meat, and 2 1/2 of simmering. The goodness is in the simmering.
You'll need a bouquet garni for this dish as well. If you're not familiar with the fancy phrase, it's basically a bunch of herbs all tied up with string (not a bunch of daffodils as the name may suggest). Most important thing with a bouquet garni? Remove the string at the end. I found myself chewing on a particularly tough bit of meat, saying to myself "Wow, this is a really stringy piece of... um... string." Gross.
I've made ragu before and it's not been this great. Sometimes too much tomato, sometimes too much wine. Occasionally the soffritto is a bit underdone and the carrots dominate the finished product. Thankfully, the rainy food gods were smiling down on us on Sunday and blessed us with a near perfect finished product.
My final hint? Make the rigatoni as al dente as you can handle. The pasta needs a bit of bite still remaining in it to stand up to the weight of the ragu. Keep it firm, ya?
500g gravy beef
300g osso buco
3 tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion
1 stick celery
3 cloves garlic
1 cup red wine
800g canned tomatoes
1 litre beef stock
3 sprigs of parsley
2 bay leaves
5 sprigs of thyme
1 sprig rosemary
2 sprigs sage
salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil and butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan over high heat. Season both sides of the beef and add half the beef to the pan. Pan fry both sides until well browned and repeat with remaining meat. Remove the meat from the pan.
Dice the onion, carrot, celery and garlic finely. Fry in the pan the meat was cooked in, scraping up all the crispy little bits from the bottom of the pan. Add a little oil if necessary. Cook until transparent, stirring frequently. Add the wine to the pan, stirring again until reduced by half and thickened slightly. Add the tomatoes and stock, and bring to the boil. Tie the herbs up with string and add to the pot with the meat. Season as required. Cooked over a low heat, covered for 2 hours. In the last 30 minutes, remove the lid and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently.
Cook the rigatoni to al dente in lightly salted water. Serve with ragu and a smattering of parmigiano reggiano.