Casarecce Ragù with Ricotta

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Serves 4 to 6

  • by from Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking
    Season 2, Ep. 6

Casarecce is a short rolled pasta whose scroll-like shape invites sauces into its every nook and cranny. Chef Evans made his original ragù with ground goat meat and a homemade goat’s-milk ricotta, which, if they’re available in your area, are worth trying for their earthy flavor.

  • 2 cups fresh coarse breadcrumbs
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 lb. ground beef, not lean
  • 1 large Vidalia onion, finely diced (about 2 cups)
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. Espelette pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 2-1/2 cups lower-salt chicken broth
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 lb. dried casarecce, maccheroni, penne rigate, or fusilli pasta
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 1/2 cup baby arugula leaves
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F.

Put the crumbs on a large rimmed baking sheet, toss with 1 Tbs. of the oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Toast until light golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely.

In a 6-quart Dutch oven or heavy-duty pot, heat 1 Tbs. of the oil on medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the ground beef, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook the beef, stirring occasionally and continuing to break up the meat, until it is dark brown and there is very little liquid left in the pan, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil to the pot, and heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, coriander, paprika, cumin, and Espelette pepper and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in the wine and, using a wooden spoon, scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot; cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

Add the ground beef back to the pot, along with any juices. Add the tomatoes and 1/2 cup of the broth and bring to a boil, stirring frequently and crushing the tomatoes with the back of the spoon. Reduce the heat to a simmer and partially cover the pot with the lid. Simmer for 2 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally and adding the remaining chicken broth ½ cup at a time to replenish the evaporated liquid if the meat becomes dry. The ragù should be thick but pourable. Simmer uncovered for the last 1/2 hour, stirring frequently, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until it is completely melted.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions until al dente.

To serve, transfer the cooked pasta to a large serving bowl. Add 1 cup of the ragù to the pasta and toss. Top with the remaining ragù and dollop with heaping tablespoons of the ricotta. Garnish with the arugula, breadcrumbs, and oregano. Serve with the Parmigiano on the side.

Photo: Scott Phillips

Recipe adapted from Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking.

The flavor profile on this is very interesting--in a good way. I am sure using the specialty pepper would have boosted it even more, but I didn't have access to it. I would be sure to use leaner ground beef next time--no more fatty than 10%. (I used 15% and the fat kind of took over--even drained.) I also prefer a more intense tomato and acidic flavor so would probably add 2 T. tomato paste and maybe more wine than called for. I didn't think the breadcrumbs added much. Still, when I made this for father's day, everyone ate way more than they should have!

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