Beef short rib sauce
A deeply savoury slow-cooked meat sauce for gnocchi or any sturdy pasta.
The only reasonable way to cook a good meat sauce for pasta is for an unreasonably long time, and this ragù is as slow as they come. Although it takes time, it doesn't demand much effort or attention, so it's much more of a set-and-forget affair. But you won't forget it: the smell as it cooks is so cozily enticing that you will be constantly reminded that something good is on its way. Your return for the investment of so much time is flavour, potent, deep, dark and distinctly beefy.
Beef short ribs come in different sizes (short and shorter) depending on your butcher's style, so I've specified a total weight for them. While I've suggested that this makes enough to serve four people, they would need to be a hungry foursome, and this quantity will feed six quite comfortably. In practice, I freeze half of this amount soon after it's made – it freezes superbly – and revisit it, for two, when time is short.
Gnocchi are my go-to with this sauce for the balance their fluffy, bland simplicity brings. A sturdy long pasta, like pappardelle, is also a perfect fit. For sheer unadulterated comfort food heaven, spoon it over over a bowl of buttery soft polenta.
Beef short rib sauce
800g (2 pounds) beef short ribs
250ml (1 cup) red wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot
2 cloves garlic
1 medium carrot
1 stalk celery
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 litre (4 cups) beef stock
400g (14oz) canned tomatoes
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
Parmesan cheese, to serve
Pack the ribs into a plastic container they will fit into tightly. Pour over the red wine (use enough to just cover), pop on the lid and refrigerate overnight.
Heat the oil in a deep, broad pan over medium heat. Take the ribs out of wine, patting them dry with paper towel, and arrange in the pan in a single layer. Reserve ½ cup of the wine. Seal and brown the ribs well all over before transferring them to a plate.
While the ribs are browning, dice the shallot, garlic, carrot and celery. Add them all, and the tomato paste, to the now-empty pan. Let them cook gently until softened.
Add the reserved red wine, simmering until it has reduced by half. Pour in ½ cup beef stock, letting it simmer until it has reduced by half. Keep adding ½ cup stock and reducing until you have used up half the stock (ie, 2 cups) and have about ½ cup of dark liquid in the pan.
Set your oven to 150°C (300°F) to heat up while you complete the next step.
Add the canned tomatoes, rosemary, bay leaf and remaining stock. Return the ribs to the pan, along with any juices that may have collected on the plate, and bring everything up to a bubble.
Cover and cook in the oven for a minimum of 4 hours, and up to 6 if you can manage it.
When cooked, shred the meat off the ribs with two forks – it will fall off – removing the bones, rosemary stalks and bay leaf as you work your way around the pan. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Serve over gnocchi or pasta of your choice, sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.