Friday, 22 April 2011

Italian Beef Stew with Pasta

We are definitely seeing some more sun here in England, but up until the last few days it has been quite chilly outside. So although it won’t be long until I eschew the hot, comforting stews we so enjoy in the cooler weather for lighter summer fare, for the moment they are definitely still on the menu. However the change of seasons has made everyone crave the flavours of sunshine, and for me that has to be tomato, basil, oregano and pasta - the traditional Italian favourites that you can picture yourself enjoying under the hot summer sun in Tuscany, glass of Chianti in hand. So how can you marry up the need for warming fare with the flavours of summer? Here is my delicious solution.

This recipe will serve four generously.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely sliced
1 pound of chuck steak or similar stewing cut, preferably pasture raised, cut in one inch chunks (They don’t have to be exactly one inch, just roughly.)
1 red (green or yellow works too) pepper, de-seeded and cut in chunks
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut in bit size chunks
1 cup beef stock
2 cups tomato sauce or canned sieved tomatoes (passata)
¼ cup sundried tomato pesto (click on the link for a recipe, or you can buy this ready-made if you are in a hurry)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

12 to 16 ounces tagiatelle
(I used fresh pasta for a treat, but dried is absolutely fine.)

Preheat the oven to 325 or 160.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in the bottom of a stove top to oven casserole with a lid. (This is the one I use.) Or you can use a frying pan for the first steps and then transfer the recipe to an oven safe casserole with a lid before putting it in the oven.

Add the onion to the oil and sauté for about five minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion begins to become translucent. Add the chunks of beef and brown in the oil, stirring frequently so that all the sides of the beef chunks all get sealed and turn slightly brown. This should take about five to ten minutes.

Add the red pepper, carrots, beef stock, tomato sauce, pesto, oregano and bay leaf. Stir together. Pop the lid on the casserole and transfer it to the oven (use oven mitts).

Cook for an hour and a half, stirring every half hour. After the hour and a half has passed, remove the casserole from the oven and set aside to rest. The vegetables should be soft, the beef tender, and the sauce the same consistency as a normal pasta sauce. (If it has thickened too much just add a bit more beef stock or tomato sauce and return it to the oven to heat through.) Taste the sauce carefully (it will be very hot!) and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain and serve with the lovely beefy sauce on top.

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