>beef and mushroom ragu


Every time I see a recipe with pappardelle, I instantly want to try it. This pappardelle with beef and mushroom ragu recipe from Real Simple was no exception. The problem was, and the problem with pappardelle recipes always is, I could not find pappardelle in the store. Come to think of it, I don’t think I have seen pappardelle sold at the grocery store. Ever. Fortunately, the recipe says you can substitute with fettucini, so I got the fattest fettucini I could find.

Here’s how I put this recipe together:
  1. beef: the original recipe called for 1 pound of chuck. When I went to the store, I couldn’t find just one pound of chuck. I could find three pounds of chuck. Or I could find one pound of other meat that was more expensive than chuck. I decided I would buy the three pounds of the cheaper meat. When I got home, I cut about a third of it off and cubed that to get my pound of flesh. (The rest would go into a 2 lb roast the next day.) I put that into my dutch oven and sauteed the meat. Once it was browned, I removed it to a separate plate.
  2. veggies: I followed the rest of the recipe pretty closely here. I chopped 1 large onion, 4 cloves of garlic, and 2 carrots. I sauteed those until the onions started getting clear.
  3. tomato paste: I put in the 1T of tomato paste that the original recipe called for. And I stirred and sauteed the paste until it made the vegetables all pasty and red-brown. I watched an episode of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef  where she emphasized how important it was to cook the veggies and tomato paste. If you don’t, Italians will criticize the sauce for tasting raw, apparently. 
  4. canned tomatoes: I put a 15 oz can of canned tomatoes and the juice into the dutch oven, just like the recipe said. I also put the beef back into the pot. 
  5. water: At that point, the recipe called for 2 cups of chicken broth. I forgot to buy chicken broth at the store. I thought about substituting with white wine or red wine. But then I remembered that this was going to go on pasta. And the last time I put red wine into a pasta sauce, it made the noodles purple in an unappetizing way. Besides, the idea of chicken broth was confusing. I mean, this was a beef ragu.
  6. time: at that point, I needed to set the sauce to a simmer and cover for 60 to 75 minutes. 
  7. mushrooms: the last step was to add quartered mushrooms to the pot and simmer for another ten minutes or so.
When it was all done, I plated the sauce on top of the fettucini. And it tasted pretty good. I don’t know why, but when I make a recipe from a book or from tv and it tastes good, I am always surprised. 
I garnished the dish with a very heavy hand of parmesan cheese. (i took my photos pre-garnish). the recipe called for me to add like a quarter cup of it at some point. But I don’t like to use parmesan cheese for anything except as a garnish. If you add it too early, it just melts away. and you can’t tell that it’s there, which seems like a waste of perfectly good cheese. And, like when you put cream cheese on a really hot bagel and it melts away and leaves you with a soggy, bland bagel, that would be disappointing. 
The sauce was a little thin. The recipe said I could have let it cook uncovered for a while to thicken up. But I think that it just needs more than 1 T of tomato paste. 

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