Thursday, March 31, 2016

Food Blogging: Rigatoni alla Genovese

Pasta alla Genovese

Type: Italian
Difficulty: Easy
Non-Standard Ingredients: None
Grade: C

I'd never made la Genovese before, but prompted by a posting on reddit, I decided to give it a shot.  I stuck with the most traditional recipes I could find, looking for that authentic taste, and I think I'd have liked it better if I'd moved away from the traditional a bit.

For my taste, it's kind of bland and way to sweet.

My partner said she thought it was pretty good, but that she preferred a more savory sauce herself. Our kid said he thought it was OK in his "I'm being very polite" tone of voice, and then asked me not to make it again.  Unfortunately he's quite picky so that wasn't a surprise. How a pair of foodies like us wound up with a picky eater is a mystery.

My hope had been that, like all the people singing the praises of la Genovese say, the simplicity would make things amazing.  Either my palate is too unrefined, or I did something wrong, or it just plain isn't the sort of thing I like.  I'm leaning towards the last option.

Make no mistake, it wasn't bad.  I just felt kind of meh about it.  If I were to make it again I'd add rosemary maybe, or perhaps oregano and basil, maybe some tarragon to go with the onion. Something.

It is not a short recipe.  Total cooking time is around six hours, but your involvement is about 30 minutes of prep and occasionally stirring.  Not a great meal for a weeknight, but you can make it on the weekend and still get in your reading or Netflixing or gaming or what have you.

You begin with a mirepoix, or at least the carrot and celery parts of a mirepoix, because you'll be adding plenty of onion very soon. I used a rib of celery and a carrot, some recipes called for two celery and two carrots but most called for one so I went along.

Then the meat, in my case 2.8 pounds of bone in shoulder roast, nice and fatty, bone for extra flavor, and all in all a good choice of meat for a long braise, which is basically what la Genovese is.

I cut it into bite sized chunks, browned it, then added the carrot and celery, also the bones and all the meat I couldn't cut off the bones.

dang that's a lot of onions

That's 7 large yellow onions, one onion short of 5.5 pounds, six thin sliced and ready to go the seventh left for scale in the photo then sliced and added to the bowl.

They filled the pot, almost to the brim. Slapped a lid on, gave it stir every now and then, and an hour later it looked like this:

Why no, I didn't add any liquid, that's all onion and meat juice.

After letting it cook for a total of five hours or so, removing the bones and pulling all the cooked meat off I could, and then letting it gently boil down with the lid off to get a bit less watery, it looked delicious.

The recipes all said a big cylindrical pasta was best, so I went with rigatoni.  Mixed the pasta with the sauce, plated, and the result was indeed a lovely looking dish of pasta.  I added Parmesan, the real stuff not that nasty crap from Kraft, per the recipe, before I ate, but took a picture of just the sauce and pasta.

And it was.... ok.  Obviously a lot of people like it, but as I noted earlier I found it a bit meh, and too sweet.  I knew it'd be sweet, you can't cook down 5.5 pounds of onions for hours without getting a sweet result, but I was unprepared for how almost cloyingly sweet it was.

Again, it wasn't bad.  I just didn't care much for it.  Which is a shame, because I love onions, and really wanted to like it.  Oh well, I may make a less traditional batch with some herbs and spices added someday.

Full Recipe:

2.8 pounds of fatty beef with bone in, or 2 pounds of leaner boneless beef.
5 to 7 pounds onions
1 rib celery
1 carrot
Olive oil
Rigatoni or your favorite large cylindrical pasta

Thin slice the onions, this will take a while, there's a lot.  If you have a mandolin that'd be the quickest and most dangerous way to get the job done.

Cut the beef into bite sized cubes and brown with a touch of olive oil in the pot, including the bones if you've got bones.  Once browned, add the carrot and celery, saute for a moment, then reduce heat to medium add the onions.  All of them.

Add salt and pepper, then lid and allow to cook for ten or fifteen minutes before stirring for the first time.  Lid again, and give a stir every fifteen or so minutes for the next four to five hours until cooked into a delicious mass with the onions mostly dissolving into delicious oniony mushy goodness.

Once cooked to mush, remove the bones, pick off any meat left on the bones and reintroduce to the sauce, and discard the bones.

Remove the lid and allow to boil down until it thickens, depending on how watery your onions were, how tight your lid was, etc this could take anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour.

Prepare your pasta ever so slightly al dente, once it is finished mix with the sauce.  I used a pound of pasta and found it to be not quite enough, I had sauce left over.

Plate, add a healthy sprinkling of fresh grated Parmesian cheese, and broil util the cheese is nice and melty.

You're finished!

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