[112] Boneless Rib Pasta

How to Cook Everything, Revised Edition by Mark Bittman

This recipe is a very slight adaptation from the recipe “Andrea’s Pasta with Pork Ribs” in this book. Namely, the recipe calls for “6 – 8 meaty spareribs, separated” and we used about 3/4 lbs of boneless beef ribs.

As with just about any substitution we make on this site, it has to do with what we had on had when we made the recipe in question. In this case, I chose this recipe because I was trying to figure out how to best use that meat.

This is an older recipe that needed to be posted. We made it not too long after I returned from Edible Institute 2011. While I was gone, Bill had purchased some chicken and some beef for cooking himself some curry and some stir-fry, and then not gotten around to cooking those things. I don’t recall why, but I presume it involved playing video games with our buddy Rob.

I convinced him to make me a stir-fry with the beef, and it was stellar. He’d picked up the boneless beef ribs because he felt it’d make a good stir-fry meat. I was very skeptical. I think of anything with the word “rib” in it as needing a low and slow cooking. Stir-fry is, of course, about the exact opposite of that style, and I was sure it would be a disaster.

I was so wrong. It was delicious. Unfortunately, it also only needed about half of the beef he’d purchased for the two of us. So we had kind of a pile of beef that needed to be cooked before it went off.

Once again, Super Bittman to the rescue. Sorta.

We actually couldn’t find anything in the cookbook collection that explicitly called for boneless ribs of any type. (Of course, now that I say this, I’m going to end up finding something delicious looking in about five months – just enough time to have forgotten I said this, but not so much that you all forget I said it.) So, I looked at this recipe, took a BIG breath and said, “I think I can change this up so this recipe works.”

This is the story of my improvisation. Did I succeed, or did Bill and I resort to delivery that night????

All will be revealed if you read on.

h2. Ingredients

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 small dried hot red chiles (Optional; We didn’t have any, so we skipped it.)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
~3/4 lbs boneless beef ribs, cut into chunks on the large side
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes, crushed with hands, fork or masher & juice reserved
1 lb ziti, penne, or other cut pasta
Freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese (Optional; We used 12 month Manchego cheese.)

Instructions

Heat the oil in a big saucepan over medium heat, and then toast the chiles for about 30 seconds, if you’re using them. Then add the beef chunks and brown them nicely. Sprinkle the whole thing with salt and pepper, then add the tomatoes and their juice to the pot.

Reduce the heat to medium low or so, and simmer for about 30 minutes to an hour. You’ll know this is ready when the meat is really tender, and you should feel free to pull a chunk out and chew on it to see. I think ours cooked for about 45 minutes.

Once the meat is tender, or nearly so, cook your pasta to your liking, grate your cheese, and fish out the chiles if you used them (because no one wants to bite into that). Drain the pasta and then mix the pasta with the sauce and dish it out. Pass the cheese around and enjoy!

Cooking and Consumption Notes

Cooking

I’ve got to be honest with you guys. I don’t mind a substitution here or there in cooking, but I prefer to avoid doing so the first time I make a recipe. This is, in part, because I still don’t really feel that I know what I’m doing in the kitchen. And, at this point, I’m aware of what a broken record I sound like, enough so that I wonder if I will ever feel like I know what I’m doing.

Still, it turns out not wasting things is a pretty big motivator for me. I’m actually not great at it, but I’m getting better, and I’m willing to try something new if it means there’s a good chance “Item X” will be used & not wasted.

So, I took a chance. I figured that it actually was mostly going to be hard in figuring out how long to cook the sauce for, because lots of tomato-Italian goodness really pairs well with beef and pork. Thus I probably didn’t need to tweak any other parts of the recipe.

I decided to adjust the timing down from the original recipe, since these ribs lack bone. I know that once you get bone hot, it can help cook a chunk of meat more evenly, as it radiates heat from the inside, but it can take awhile for bone to get hot. Going by that logic (for better or worse), if the original recipe called for an hour of cooking, starting to try the beef at half that time was a good start.

I think it actually took about 45 minutes to be done to tenderness. More time would not have hurt it, though.

Consumption

I served this sauce with these silly “Thanksgiving Shapes” (or was it “Fall Shapes”?) I’d gotten on clearance at a local store. They were a veggie pasta, so made with a variety of veggies (beets, spinach, other).

I’m really glad the sauce turned out to be pretty darn good, because the pasta was really not my thing. I can’t remember the last time I had “veggie pasta”, and I’m thinking it’ll be a while before I try again. Not so hot.

However, the sauce really was great. AND it masked the “blech” flavor of the pasta. TOTAL WIN. The sauce was flavorful and rich, without being overwhelming. It was also nicely tomato-y, which I appreciated. I sometimes feel like Bittman’s tomato-based (or “should be” tomato-based) sauces lack as much of the “tomato power!” that I want. I know the Classic Italian-American Lasagne had that very issue (due to the Bolognese Sauce not being terribly tomato-heavy).

I think it would have been a lot better with the chiles, though. I thought I’d added some red pepper flakes to the dish, but I clearly didn’t. You should, though, when you’re making this dish. It will make the dish rock a bunch more than it did for us. AND, if you use red pepper flakes, you don’t have to fish anything out. Making things tasty but easier? YES!

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