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Cynthia Stone: Fireside pasta

Penne with pulled beef in a creamy mushroom tomato sauce makes great freezer leftover packs.
Penne with pulled beef in a creamy mushroom tomato sauce makes great freezer leftover packs. - 123RF Stock Photo

Nothing warms the innards and imparts pure comfort like a favourite pasta. Serve either of these versatile dishes out of a bowl, in your pajamas, curled up in front of a raging fire or off fine bone china with friends you wish to impress.

Neither of these recipes is a calorie counter so plan on serving for a special occasion or maybe after a great winter’s day of sledding in the park.

Pulled Beef with Penne in Creamy Mushroom Tomato Sauce

Slowly braised meat is the quintessential winter recipe, perfect to make on a stormy day when you have nothing to do but prepare for the shovel out.

This is plenty for 8 but leftovers are fantastic and freeze perfectly for some day when you don’t have time to spend in the kitchen.

You can also make less pasta and reserve the leftover shredded beef for the best sub sandwiches ever.

1 kg chuck roast or other well-marbled cut of beef
2 tsp. salt, divided
2 tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
2 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cups sliced fresh mushrooms, any variety you like
2 tbsp. tomato paste
6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 28-oz. cans whole tomatoes, coarsely mashed
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 fresh or 4 dried bay leaves
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. dried oregano
½ cup whipping cream
1 lb. penne, cooked according to package directions for al dente
1 bunch fresh torn basil leaves, optional
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Rub roast all over with half the salt then brown on all sides in half the oil in a Dutch oven or large roaster. Remove and set aside.

Add remaining oil to pot and fry onions and mushrooms until brown and soft. The mushrooms will release their moisture then it should all evaporate. After that they will brown perfectly.

Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until it starts to thicken and darken in colour.

Add garlic and cook a few seconds.

Add tomatoes, broth, thyme, bay leaves and remaining salt. Nestle browned roast into the mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, put in the oven and bake 2 to 3 hours at 325 degrees F until meat is falling-apart tender.

Remove roast and cool until it can be handled. Shred with two forks or your fingers. Discard thyme stalks and bay leaves from mixture in pot and skim off any fat on the surface.

Return shredded beef to pot along with oregano and bring back to a simmer. Cook together a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in cream.

Prepare penne and drain, reserving ½ cup of the cooking liquid. Stir pasta into beef mixture along with basil and parsley. If mixture is too thick add pasta cooking water until it reaches the right consistency. Stir in cheese and olive oil and serve, passing extra Parmesan at the table.

Rotini in Four-Cheese Sauce

Who says macaroni and cheese is for kids?

This version will appeal to everyone at your table. Children will wolf it down but grown-ups will appreciate the more sophisticated cheese mixture. If your family doesn’t stray from traditional tastes replace the goat cheese with more mozzarella.

 

Rotini holds the sauce in this versatile version of mac’n’cheese. — 123RF Stock Photo
Rotini holds the sauce in this versatile version of mac’n’cheese. — 123RF Stock Photo

Serve this as a perfect lunch after a green salad or in a smaller portion as a side dish with supper. Count on 6 servings.

1 cup whipping cream
¼ cup unsalted butter
½ cup shredded provolone cheese
½ cup shredded mozzarella
¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. rotini, cooked according to package directions for al dente
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt to taste

 

Bring cream and butter to a boil over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot. Stir in provolone, mozzarella and goat cheese and stir until melted and smooth. Turn the heat back on for a minute if the cheese is reluctant to melt. Stir in pepper.

Cook and drain pasta, reserving ½ cup of the cooking water. Stir cheese sauce into pasta. Add Parmesan. Taste and add a little salt if needed.

The sauce will thicken quickly as it stands so you will probably need that pasta cooking water, especially if it’s not being served the second it’s ready.

For a beautiful finished look sprinkle fresh chopped chives or parsley on top, although that might discourage the kids.

 

Cynthia Stone is an information manager and writer in St. John’s. E-mail questions to her at cynthia.stone@nf.sympatico.ca.

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