Main Dishes, Meat, Pasta
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Nick’s Rigatoni

One of Nick’s favorite things to cook is red sauce.  Whenever we go out to eat and he orders steak, his first thought is “leftover steak for red sauce.”  I pretty much know from that moment on what we’re having for dinner on Sunday.  Then his love affair begins.  The Godfather goes on the TV and I smell garlic clouds drifting from the kitchen.  I must note that I am not allowed in the kitchen when this process is going on–as I, ah hem, tend to push my input whether it was asked for or not.  So I get to sit back and wait for the lovely results.  I have to say that every batch of red sauce he makes is different–but its always so delicious, so tummy warming, and feels extra special, because I know it was made with love.  Here you have it–Nick’s Rigatoni.  I think this was his best batch yet.  The sauce was so rich–the wine really kicked it to another level.  There was also this smoky taste to it, which I attributed to the char-grille on the leftover steak.

Nick’s Rigatoni

by Nick Gerome, Olive to Cook

Serves 6

1 pound of dried rigatoni pasta
1 28-ounce can San Marzano peeled whole tomatoes
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 6-ounce can tomato paste + 1 can of water reserved
1 cup Italian red wine (plus more to taste if needed)
8 fresh Roma (plum) tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 leftover grilled porterhouse steak (including the bone)
1 pound sweet turkey sausage, cut into 6 to 8 pieces
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinches of dried oregano, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper
4 dashes of Tabasco
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped or shredded
Grated parmesan for serving

1.  Heat a large cast-iron pot (or dutch oven) over low heat.  Add olive oil and onion.  Cook until onions are translucent.  Add the garlic.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook 5 minutes.  Turn up heat to medium.  Add the sausage and cook until starting to brown.  Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside.  It’s ok if it’s not cooked through completely–you’ll be adding it back to the pot later.

2.  Add the canned whole tomatoes, canned sauce, canned tomato paste, the water-filled tomato paste can, and chopped fresh Roma tomatoes to the pot.  Add the red wine, tabasco, and spices (oregano, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper.)  Stir well and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Add the porterhouse steak (or any leftover steak you have on hand.)  If the leftover steak is whole, you may want to slice some chunks off to add to the pot.  Make sure you throw in the bone!  Lots of flavor in there.  Reduce the temperature to low and simmer for 2-3 hours.

3.  Taste the sauce.  If it needs salt, add it.  If its too acidic, add more red wine.  You want the sauce to be meaty and rich with flavor.  Remove the steak bone from the pot.  Cut off any meat from the bone and add back to the pot.  Cook another 10 minutes.  Now you have 2 options:
Option #1  If you have an immersion blender, blend the entire contents of the pot (including the chunks of meat.)  I call this a “cheater’s bolognese.”  It shreds the meat in the sauce and makes it super rich.  Don’t blend too long!  I’d say 30 seconds to one minute.
Option #2  If you want your sauce to still have chunks of meat instead of shreds, remove the meat from the pot and chop into the size you like.  Add the meat back to the pot.

4.  Increase the heat to medium.  Add the turkey sausage pieces back to the sauce.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of WELL SALTED water to a boil over high heat.

5.  Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to the instructions on the box.  I like to leave the pasta slightly al dente, as it will continue to cook a bit in the hot sauce.  While the pasta is cooking, remove the sausage from the pot and slice into bite-size pieces (like thick quarters.)  Add the sliced sausage back to the pot.  Once the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta and return it back to the pot you cooked it in.

6.  Ladle the sauce over the pasta and stir.  Add as much sauce as you like, but you will likely have leftovers.  Serve the finished pasta in pasta bowls and garnish with grated parmesan.

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