Pasta night is taking a meaty turn today. On those damp, cold days, a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs dinner is not only necessary but essential. Pasta was always a regular weeknight dinner in my home growing up. I always knew when we were having pasta for dinner because I’d come home to the smell of gravy on the stove. It’s one of the scents that brings me instant joy. My Noni would let me taste it by dipping a piece of bread into the simmering mixture. It was the best after school treat you could ask for.
Now all grown up I like to experiment with gravy, adding new ingredients here and there. The tomato base is generally the same but there are so many ways you can make each pot unique. When the weather is bone-chilling and damp, I prefer a heartier gravy like this short rib number. Traditionally, we use ground beef for a simple meat marinara but if you want a more ragu-like consistency, you need a sturdier meat. Short ribs lend a lot of flavor and when cooked low and slow get so tender they melt like butter in your mouth.
First thing you want to do is sear the short ribs. You can use boneless or bone-in - I go with whichever looks meatier because it’s more bang for your buck. Season the meat with salt and pepper and lightly coat in flour. This will give the meat a bit of a crust when it browns which will add an extra depth of flavor to the gravy. Remove the ribs to the slow cooker when they’re browned on all sides. To the still hot skillet, add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Cook a few minutes until fragrant and starting to soften. Finally, add the wine and deglaze the pan. This allows the alcohol to cook out of the wine a bit and release the flavors from the browned bits in the pan. It also adds another layer of richness to your gravy. Add the contents in the pan to your slow cooker with the remaining ingredients and you’re ready to go. Let it cook all day before removing the ribs to shred. I turn the slow cooker to warm after I add the shredded meat back in and give it about 15 minutes to soak up some of the liquid. Serve over your choice of pasta, polenta or other grain. The gravy is the star here so almost anything will work.
Short Rib Gravy
6-8 Beef Short Ribs
2 tbsp. Flour
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Carrot, finely chopped
1 Celery Stalk, finely chopped
1 Yellow Onion, diced
4 large Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
½ cup Red Wine (a nice bold red like a Cabernet or Pinot Noir)
14 ounces Italian Diced Tomatoes
28 ounces Crushed Tomatoes
6 ounces Tomato Paste
1 cup Beef Stock
2 Bay Leaves
1 tsp. Dried Oregano
1 bunch Fresh Basil, chopped
3 sprigs Fresh Thyme (or ½ tsp. dried)
1 sprig Rosemary
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper and coat lightly in the flour. Brown on all sides and add to the slow cooker.
2. Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic to the pan and cook for about 3-5 minutes until fragrant and starting to soften. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, cooking for about 2 more minutes. Add to the slow cooker.
3. Add the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker. Mix together well. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4-6 hours. Remove the short ribs from the gravy and shred the meat. Add back to the gravy and mix together. Serve over pasta, I used Mezze Maniche Rigate which is basically just a fatter, shorter Rigatoni cut.
How do you like your gravy? Meaty or meatless?