(A perfect wintry dish for tonight’s dinner! Plan ahead if you need to thaw your beef.)

I was craving a bowl of pasta, the kind that ignites fond memories of home and shared meals with my Italian relatives. I had thawed a beautiful package of grass-fed, locally raised ground-beef and was ready to dance with the pasta when I suddenly realized I had shirked tomato sauce on my last voyage to the market. I did not (eh-hem) can any tomatoes this year, nor have I ever for that matter. I usually rely on Pomi, a staple in Mamma’s pantry (which to me is a shopping filter in and of itself – if Mamma has it, it’s eating-approved!).

Alright, I was going to have to improvise without tomatoes! Heck, in the renaissance cookbook Mamma lent me, tomatoes hardly surface in the recipes, if at all. But then I found a lonely jar of sun-dried tomatoes perched behind the grains on my shelf. With some creative additions like sun-dried tomato juice from soaking them, this sauce turned out rich, vibrant and comforting to boot!

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Sun-Dried Tomato Ragu over Penne

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomato water
  • 4 cups Penne pasta
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 lb. ground, grass-fed beef, (Look for grass-fed, organic, USDA certified organic, hormone and anti-biotic free)
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon red wine
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary, fresh or dried
  • 1 tablespoon oregano, fresh or dried
  • 1 tablespoon thyme, fresh or dried
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup pasta water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • garnish:
  • grated parmesan
  • minced parsley

Instructions

  1. Bring a kettle of water to boil and submerge the sun-dried tomatoes with hot water in a bowl. Scoop out the tomatoes and coarsely chop them. Save the water.
  2. Cook the pasta in a full pot of lightly salted, boiling water for about 8 minutes until al dente (slightly chewy). Scoop out 1 cup of pasta water and set it aside. Drain the pasta. Return the pasta to the pot and toss it with 1 teaspoon of olive oil to keep from sticking while you prepare the sauce.
  3. Add the ground beef to a large frying pan and brown the meat over medium-high heat. When the meat is still a bit pink, remove it from the pan.
  4. Add the onions and saute them in the juices released from the beef for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, carrots, and ginger and saute for about 3 more minutes.
  5. Add the ground beef pack to the pan with the wine, herbs, sun-dried tomatoes, tomato juice and salt. Cover with a lid and simmer the sauce for about 7 minutes.
  6. Add the pasta, and toss the pasta in the sauce for about 3 minutes, adding the pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time.
  7. Turn off the stove and remove the pan from the hot stovetop. Dollop in two tablespoons of butter (this is myMamma's secret to incredible pasta!). Stir in the butter until it is melted. This seals everything together and creates a brilliant creamy texture to the sauce.
  8. Serve with Parmesan ribbons and parsley flakes (or freshly chopped parsley!).
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