2 T vegetable oil
2 T butter, unsalted
3-4 lbs meaty short ribs
1 onion, chopped
2 (15 oz) cans tomato puree
1 (28 oz) can peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 cup beef stock
1 cup tawny port
2 heads garlic, roasted and peeled, leaving the cloves whole
1 large handful fresh basil, torn (approximately 1/2 cup tightly packed)
2 T butter, unsalted
2 Parmesan rinds
1 bay leaf
2 t balsamic vinegar
2 T garlic powder
1 T dried basil
1 1/4 t dried Mediterranean oregano
1 1/4 t dried rosemary
1/2 t ground black pepper
1-2 T dark brown sugar, packed
Salt to taste
2 T flat Italian parsley, chopped
1 pound spaghetti or your favorite pasta
Optional: 1/2 teaspoon lightly toasted and ground fennel seed, extra garlic
Spoon Mage™ Note:
You may notice that I often use both fresh and dried versions of the same herbs. The reason for this is that they bring different elements to the dish – and I want both! If you do not have fresh herbs, you may always choose to use dried only. Replace one tablespoon of fresh herbs with one teaspoon of dried.
Fresh basil can be grown in a number of varieties. If you have basil options, use anise, or licorice basil. If that variety is not available for you, regular store bought basil will be just fine. Add a small pinch of lightly toasted and ground fennel seeds to mimic the herb – not too much fennel, no more than half a teaspoon. Try growing several varieties of basil yourself! It’s one of the easiest herbs to grow and each variety has a special use. Head on out to the garden and give each one a sniff. Imagine that flavor in your dinner and let your nose guide you to the right variety.
In most recipes, the directions will specify that browning meat should be done in small batches. Don’t think you can just stick more pieces in there and get it done faster. When meat is crowded it does not brown – it steams. Browned meat bits add important notes of flavor. Slow down, breathe, and take the time to brown in batches, allowing a little space between each piece of meat.
Heat the oil and butter in a heavy tall sided pot set over medium-high heat. When the butter is bubbly, brown the short ribs in small batches. Remove to a rimmed plate as they brown. There should only be a couple tablespoons of fat remaining in the pot. If there is too much fat, pour some off. Don’t fuss over it too much. There needs to be enough fat to brown the onions, but not enough to make them swim.
Add chopped onion to the pot, stirring to loosen up the browned bits. Cook the onion for two more minutes, stirring slowly and frequently.
After the onion browns, reduce the heat to medium.
Add the short ribs back to the pot. The plate they have been resting on will contain a lot of rib fat. To keep the sauce from getting too fatty, do not add the fat back to the pot.
Stir in the puree, crushed tomatoes, and paste. Stir in the beef stock, port, roasted garlic, torn fresh basil, 2 tablespoons butter, Parmesan rinds, bay leaf, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder, dried basil, oregano, rosemary, black pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar. Stir well and bring to a low simmer.
Cover, reduce the heat to very low, and simmer for 3 hours. Stir frequently. The sauce will darken as it cooks, mingling with the seasoning of the meat and the bones.
After one hour, stir, taste and decide if you need salt or, should the brand of tomatoes you purchased be a tad on the acidic side, add the final tablespoon of brown sugar. This is a good time to add salt so that it can spend time with the other flavors and do its enhancing thing.
Tilt the lid after the first hour so that a little evaporation takes place. Keep an eye on the thickness of the sauce when you stir. Put the lid back when it looks wonderfully thick. If your tomatoes were particularly juicy instead of meaty, you may add 2 tablespoons of extra tomato paste now and remove the lid for a while. It is worth your while to get a few of those very nice tubes of paste so you can just squish it out without opening another can.
After 2 1/2 hours, taste the sauce again and determine if you would like it to be a little sweeter or saltier. If so, add another pinch of brown sugar or salt. Perhaps you just love rosemary and feel more would be tasty – rosemary is very potent, add it one pinch at a time. I often add more garlic at this point because there is no such thing as too much garlic. This final tweaking of flavors is up to you and depends upon the acidity of your tomatoes, the sweetness of your port, and your personal taste.
Start the water for the pasta.
While the pasta water is coming to a boil, remove the ribs from the sauce and arrange them on a platter. A few of the bones will have lost the large chunk of tender meat. Scoop out the chunk and nestle it next to the bare bone. Cover the platter with foil.
If you do not want to mess with bones at the table, you may pull off all the meat and return the cut up chunks to the sauce. Or just serve the meat with the bones.
Remove the bay leaf and Parmesan rinds, stir in the parsley and add the pasta to the boiling water.
Serve with a beautiful salad and garlic bread.