I’ve had canned beef on the brain lately. In recent months, I started actually paying attention to my Google Analytics, where I discovered that by far and away my grandmother’s Beef and Noodles is my most popular post. I cannot help but find this a little funny because this blog really does not specialize in midwestern comfort food. But anyway, since noticing that, I have also noticed that that recipe receives the most comments long after publishing it, because of the commenters discussing my use of canned beef, an old fashioned midwestern solution to amping up the beef flavor. Hence canned beef on my brain.
So anyway, fast forward to the other day when I was perusing Domenica Marchetti’s The Glorious Pasta of Italy. I was staring at her woodman’s style pasta, bemoaning the fact that I had no Ragù All’Abruzzese, Domenica’s fabulous (but requiring meats I did not have) tomato and meat ragu sauce, which was used in the preparation of the pasta. I had been longingly looking at her Pot Roast Pappardelle earlier, wishing I had the time to make that as well. Thinking about pot roast put me in mind of the canned beef I used with my grandma’s Beef and Noodles. What if…?
So I browned some onions and garlic with some oregano and then added tomato sauce and canned beef. I let it simmer for about an hour, partially covered. It melded into a velvety smooth, robust and meaty ragu sauce. Perfect! I then proceeded with Domenica’s recipe as instructed (plus some adjustments), adding this sauce where she had called for the ragù all’abruzzese. It was fabulous, and worked perfectly. I guess the moral of the story is this: don’t be afraid of canned beef, and do keep a can or 2 in your kitchen. It can be a lifesaver, creating a long simmering flavor where you don’t have the time to braise. I froze the extra of this sauce, so we will have it for a next time.
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 lb mixed wild mushrooms
- 3 small zucchini, sliced into rounds
- 2 t minced fresh thyme or 1 t minced fresh rosemary (I used thyme, it is still growing outside)
- ½ cup ragù all'abruzzese or ½ cup of the ragù described above
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 T chopped fresh parsley, optional (I did not have any)
- 1 lb dried pasta of choice
- freshly grated hard Italian cheese for garnish (I used Asiago, she suggests Pecorino Romano)
- Bring a large pot of generously salted water to boil for the pasta.
- Place the garlic and olive oil into a large pan over medium low heat. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant and golden, but not browned, 3-4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and thyme or rosemary and raise the heat to medium high. Do not turn or stir the mushrooms for 2 minutes, or until they are browned on the undersides. Toss and let cook another 2 minutes and then toss again.
- Continue cooking the mushrooms for a total of 15 minutes, tossing every 2 minutes, until the mushrooms are cooked all over. Add the zucchini and cook briefly, until crisp tender. You may remove the garlic now (I left it in--we love garlic, and we just ate around it). Stir the ragù into the dish and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in the parsley if using. Turn off the heat and cover.
- Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to directions for al dente. When you drain the pasta, be sure to reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
- Toss the pasta with the prepared mushroom sauce. Add pasta cooking water as needed to loosen the sauce. Serve immediately, sprinkled with an Italian hard grating cheese.
As always, affiliate links were used in this post, but only to link to products I would already be linking to.