There are some nights when we’ve had such a long day and are so tired, we’re fine with just popping a frozen pizza into the oven for dinner. But much of the time, we still crave the flavors of a delicious home-cooked meal, even when we’re pressed for time. In the past, we’ve tried shortcut meals, like Giada De Laurentiis’ easy weeknight bolognese meat sauce, and Ina Garten’s lemon cappelini pasta is perfect for weeknights, too. Now, Martha Stewart has made her entry into the weeknight pasta rotation, and her technique for getting a full-flavored meat ragu in under an hour is shockingly easy…and just plain shocking!
Traditionally, we’ve always browned ground beef when making meat sauce. The maillard reaction is essential to building flavor, right? But it turns out, there’s another way. Stewart actually sautees the base aromatics of her ragu (fennel, onion, and garlic), adds tomato paste, and then the surprising part happens. Instead of browning the meat, she adds it to the pan with some water, and simmers everything together.
If you think about it, it’s sort of like she’s making a shortcut beef stock right in the pan. Sure, it won’t have quite the same flavor as a browned meat ragu, but it’s not worse — just different. The meat infuses the cooking liquid with flavor, and it all ends up melding together with the tomato, fennel, and onion, until you have a surprisingly complex and richly flavored ragu, all made in less than an hour.
Stewart pairs her weeknight beef ragu with pappardelle, a thick noodle that the sauce will cling to. She also adds grated Parmesan and red pepper flakes at the end, for an extra boost of flavor.
De Cecco Egg Pappardelle 2-Pack
If you often find yourself pressed for time after a long day, but hate the idea of eating something boring for dinner, then this just might be the weeknight pasta recipe you’ve been looking for.
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Watch: We Tried Ina Garten’s Overnight Mac & Cheese & We Totally Get Why It Broke the Internet
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