This dish is a cross between a classic French red-wine daube and a long, slow-simmering Italian dish of meat and sauce known as a Neapolitan meat ragù. Here the beef takes center stage, but because the tangy sauce is tomato based, it pairs well with pasta, especially rigatoni. But it is equally good on mashed potatoes. A traditional ragù would have both pork and beef in it – as well as a cured pork product such as pancetta. Here I’ve used bacon and my favorite stew meat – a chuck roast, cut into cubes – but if you want to try a variation, you could replace some of the beef with pork ribs or a small bit of pork shoulder. I’ve also infused the sauce with dried mushrooms, as well as garlic, tomato paste, thyme, bay leaves, orange peel, and, of course, red wine. A garnish of Parmigiano is essential here, but a smattering of steamed peas also works surprisingly well as a contrast to the rich sauce.

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 ounce dried mushrooms (porcini, shiitakes, or a combination)
  • 4 bushy sprigs thyme
  • 1 wide-strip orange peel
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 ounces bacon (about 4 slices), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium-large onion (about 5 to 6 ounces), sliced (about 1¼ cups)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 3/4 cups good quality red wine
  • 1 2 1/2-pound chuck roast, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • Parmigiano, grated or shaved, for garnish
  • Steamed peas for garnish (optional)

 

Susie Middleton

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Put the dried mushrooms in a heat-proof bowl and pour 1 cup boiling water over them. Let sit until softened. Remove from water and chop coarsely. Strain the mushroom liquid through a coffee filter and reserve.

2. Bundle the thyme, orange peel, and bay leaves together in cheese cloth and tie with kitchen twine.

3. Pour the canned tomatoes into a large bowl and use your hands or a potato masher to crush the tomatoes roughly.

4. In a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon pieces and cook, stirring until brown and rendered. Transfer the bacon pieces to a plate and lower the heat to medium-low.

5. If there is more than 3 tablespoons of fat in the pan, spoon a bit out. Add the onions and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring and scraping up the browned bits from the bacon, until the onions are softened and a bit browned, about 8 minutes.

6. Pour ¼ cup of the red wine into the pan and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the wine is mostly reduced. Scrape the contents of the pan into a bowl and reserve. Take the pot off the heat.

7. Put the beef pieces on a large rimmed sheet pan and season them generously with salt (about 2 teaspoons) and pepper. Sprinkle the flour over them and toss them well to coat.

8. Return the pot to the heat, raise the heat to medium, and add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Working in batches, add 1/3 of the beef pieces to the pot and cook until browned on two sides. (Don’t stir, just flip the pieces over after they’ve had a chance to brown on the first side for a few minutes.) Transfer the browned pieces back to the sheet pan and cook the second and third batches, until all the pieces are browned, adding more oil as needed.

9. The pot will now have lots of browned stuff on the bottom of it, which is good. Add the garlic and stir for a few seconds. Add the tomato paste and spread it around the pan to “toast” it for a few seconds. Add the remaining 1½ cups of wine and cook, stirring and scraping vigorously to incorporate all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.

10. Add the bacon, onions (and their liquid), and the beef pieces (and any juices) back into the pot, along with the tomatoes, mushrooms, the mushroom liquid, and the herb bundle. Bring to a gentle simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan again, and cover. Transfer to the oven.

11. Cook, checking and stirring every 45 minutes at first and every 20 to 30 minutes at the end, until the beef is very tender and the sauce very thickened, about 2½ to 3 hours. (You may need to drop the temperature of the oven as time goes on as the sauce may begin to boil, rather than simmer, as it reduces. Your goal is a gentle simmer.)

12. Serve hot over cooked rigatoni, mashed potatoes, or polenta, topped with shaved or grated Parmigiano. Optionally, you can also garnish with steamed peas and mint or parsley.