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Short Rib Bucatini, for when you need a fancy pasta dish on a weeknight

Short Rib Bucatini. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food and lifestyle editor.
Published Apr. 1

What I love about cooking is that it's always there for you.

Some days, you don't need it all, opting instead to exist on takeout and your coworker's supply of gummy bears. Other days, you use it to power through with smart meal preps and healthy work lunches.

And then there are the times when you want an elaborate pasta dish on a weeknight.

This recipe, which uses braised short rib as the accent for a luscious bowl of pasta, seems more complicated than it is. And let me start by saying that you don't have to use short ribs, even though it's right there in the name. You could use stew meat, which is a bit easier to cook and doesn't take as long.

If you do go with short ribs, you don't need much. Try ordering them from a meat counter or butcher, where you can customize your amount. I asked the man working behind the meat counter at Whole Foods for just two short ribs, and he obliged. Total cost was about $4.

This meal requires a bit of time, so the more hours you have, the better. You can do it in about two, but if you are able to let the short ribs cook for double that, the dish will only get better.

The other main ingredient here is pasta, so choose wisely. I was not ambitious enough to try making pasta from scratch for this meal, though it probably would have surprised no one. Instead I opted for some fresh-ish pasta from the grocery store, found in the refrigerator aisle.

Bucatini is one of my favorites. It's not as widely available as other varieties, the long thick noodle most recognizable for the hole running through its center. You could do spaghetti or fettuccine or pappardelle just as easily.

Ricotta cheese lends a creamy element that ties everything together, and your sauce is built with the help of the short ribs, tomatoes cooking in the same pot to soak up all that meaty flavor.

Once the short rib is done, it's about 10 minutes until dinnertime. Nothing too overly complicated. Though this does feel like a splurge meal in the best way. And it's totally worth it.

SHORT RIB BUCATINI

Olive oil

2 to 4 whole beef short ribs

Salt

Pepper

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes

1 ½ cups chicken stock or broth

8 to 16 ounces bucatini pasta, or spaghetti

½ cup ricotta cheese

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Handful fresh basil, chopped, for serving

Heat olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high to high heat. Sprinkle short ribs with salt and pepper. Brown short ribs in oil, about 1 ½ or 2 minutes per side.

Lower the heat and add garlic. Stir to cook for a minute or two, then add tomatoes and stir to combine. Add about ½ cup chicken stock or broth and bring mixture to a low boil.

Lower to a simmer, cover pot and cook for at least 1 ½ and up to 4 hours. Make sure the ribs are nice and submerged in the sauce.

If you're using stew meat, everything stays the same except you'll only need to cook the meat for about an hour.

About halfway through the cooking process, add 1 cup chicken broth or stock and stir.

After 1 ½ hours, remove lid from short rib pot and continue cooking. Begin preparing the rest of the meal.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then add pasta and cook according to package directions. Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water before draining pasta. Drain pasta in a colander and set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil. Remove short ribs from pot and remove meat from bone. (You'll know the short ribs are ready when they are tender and falling off the bone.) Add meat to skillet and cook for about 1 minute, just to get a nice sear on the pieces of meat.

Leave short rib pot on the heat so the remaining tomato mixture continues to cook and thicken up. Scoop about ½ cup of the sauce and add to skillet with short ribs. Add ½ cup reserved pasta water and ricotta cheese. Stir gently to incorporate ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.

Add two servings cooked pasta to the skillet, gently tossing to coat the pasta with the sauce mixture. Add more tomato sauce and pasta water as you see fit. If you like it really saucy, add a lot. If you don't, you can stop here.

Divide pasta between two serving dishes, then top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and basil.

Serves 2 to 4.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times

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