Saturday, August 09, 2008

One of my favorite meals, without any doubt, is Penne with a homemade Ragu sauce.

This is the meal to end all meals. An intensely flavored tomato sauce laden with obscene amounts of beef and pork, this meal is surprisingly easy to make so long as you're patient and have the time to devote to it.

First, a little back-story... One of the defining moments in my wanting to become a cook (and who would one day evolve into a chef) was after the first time I saw the movie Goodfellas. Gritty and violent, this movie largely revolved around food. One of the many sequences was dedicated to Henry Hill trying to get a coke deal together while cooking an elaborate meal for his family and the babysitter\drug mule.

With the release of Henry Hill's cookbook in 2002, I was finally given a little insight to what that meal actually consisted of. Interestingly enough, I used the basic structure of the recipe but was reluctant to follow it to the letter. The original recipe called for Pork Butt and Veal shank, but I prefer a more modest version using Italian Sausage and Beef Shank. Additionally, I use my own meatball recipe and, of course, had to use wine.

Penne with Ragu (Meat Sauce)

Olive Oil
1 lb. Italian Sausage, cut into 1" pieces
1 lb. Beef Shank
I medium Onion, Minced
6 cloves Garlic, smashed and chopped
1 T Flour
1 C Dry Red Wine
Two 28oz cans Crushed Tomatoes
Meatballs (Recipe follows)
12 Leaves Basil, chopped
1/4 Parsley, chopped
Cooked Penne, generally 3oz per person

8 oz. Ground Beef
1 Shallot, minced
1 Egg
1/4 Cup breadcrumbs
1 t Salt
1 t Pepper


Begin by mixing Meatball ingredients in a bowl and portioning into 8 small balls.
Cook Meatballs in a pan until browned on all sides. (It's okay if their not done all the way through, they'll be in the pot with the sauce for hours...)
Set Meatballs aside.

Heat olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat and sear the Beef Shank on Both sides.
Remove from pan and set aside.
Saute onions in the same pot until translucent and add garlic and Flour.
Quickly stir Onions, Garlic and Flour together making sure not to burn Garlic.
Add wine and allow to reduce by 2/3.
While wine is reducing, chop Beef Shank into chunks reserving the bone.
When Wine is reduced, add the two cans of Tomatoes, stirring to mix with wine thoroughly.
When Tomato sauce begins to bubble reduce heat to LOW and add Meat Balls, Beef Shank and Bone, and Italian Sausage.
Allow to simmer over LOW heat for 4 hours. skimming any foam that rises to the top.
During the last 15 minutes of the previously mentioned 4 hours, add the chopped Basil and Parsley. Also, check the sauce for seasoning adding salt and pepper if needed, and\or 1 T Sugar if to acidic.
Serve over Penne with shredded Parmesan.


One thing to note, is that I throw that piece of bone in for two reasons. The most obvious being that the meat will simply fall off the bone before the end of the cooking. The second reason is because I love marrow. The marrow will "melt" into the sauce over the course of those 4 hours. (Wow, even as I type this I am craving marrow with Sea Salt and cracked Pepper...)

Kerrie and I had this meal with a Crane Lake Zinfandel and a loaf of freshly baked Italian Bread. Several thanks to the Commodore for the fresh Basil.

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