Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Beef Stew to Baked Ziti

Braised beef raises profile of stew and baked ziti
By Karoline Boehm Goodnick, Globe Correspondent | April 7, 2010

All kinds of complex braised beef dishes have crept into the vast American recipe box. Sometimes the occasion calls for simplicity. This retro stew starts with beef chuck, a large, inexpensive cut with plenty of marbling, which softens by long, slow cooking. Brown pieces of the beef, stir in celery, onions, and tomato paste, and simmer gently. Instead of adding potatoes to the pot, roast red potatoes separately so you have a crisp texture to accompany the dish. Set aside some of the stew and finish the rest with a sprinkling of green peas.

The unadorned stew lends itself to the beginnings of a hearty Italian meat sauce. Canned tomatoes are the foundation of this ragu. Add body with tomato paste (you’ll have some left over from the stew). While the sauce bubbles, cook a pot of ziti. Layer the sauce and pasta with creamy ricotta and a mozzarella/Parmesan combo, which bakes into a golden crunchy crust. The transformation turns an American standard into a casserole any nonna would be proud to serve.

Beef stew with roast potatoes
Serves 4 with leftovers


4 red potatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Have on hand a rimmed baking sheet.

2. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes, rosemary, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Tip the potatoes out onto the sheet.

3. Roast them for 45 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.


4 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup flour
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 3/4 cups water
1 cup frozen peas

1. In a large bowl, toss the beef, flour, salt, and pepper.

2. In a large flameproof casserole, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over high heat. Working in small batches, brown several pieces of the beef for 3 minutes on a side. Transfer to a plate. Brown the remaining beef the same way. Remove all the meat from the pan.

3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. When it is hot, add the celery and onion. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables soften.

4. Stir in the tomato paste. Add water and return the beef to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and cover the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the meat is tender when pierced with a fork. (Set aside 2 cups of the meat and sauce for baked ziti).

5. Stir the peas in the remaining mixture in the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Serve with the potatoes.

Baked ziti
April 7, 2010

Serves 4

Vegetable oil (for the dish)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups leftover beef stew, meat cut into shreds
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound dried ziti
1 pound fresh ricotta
4 ounces shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1. Set the oven at 375 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

2. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over high heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until the onion softens. Stir in the tomato paste.

3. Add the tomatoes, water, oregano, and beef stew. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper.

4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ziti and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until pasta is tender but still has some bite. Drain the pasta into a colander.

5. Pour about 1/3 of the tomato sauce into the baking dish. Add 1/2 the pasta, dot with 1/2 the ricotta and 1/3 of the mozzarella.

6. Add 1/3 of the sauce, the remaining pasta, the remaining ricotta and 1/3 of the mozzarella.

7. Add the remaining sauce, the remaining mozzarella, and the Parmesan.

8. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is brown and the mixture is bubbling at the edges. Let the dish settle for 5 minutes before serving.