Thursday, October 25, 2007

Halloween Casserole - National Pasta Month Recipe

As National Past Month draws to a close, the last big event of the month is, of course, Halloween. With all the work parents have to do to get costumes ready, kids dressed (warmly in some parts of the country), out the door, and back home safely, there's hardly enough time for a sensible dinner!

So this week, Mary Ann Esposito, host of Ciao Italia with Mary Ann Esposito™, television's longest running cooking show, presents a slow-cooking, short ribs and rigatoni casserole you can make ahead of time, refrigerate, and heat up before or after trick or treating.

"There's nothing scary about this Halloween casserole," observed Esposito. "Slow cooking produces the most tender and most delicious flavor. Plus, the great thing about this dish is that the entire casserole can be assembled and cooked hours before it's needed or cooked the day before and reheated. Either way, it is a winner. Just be sure not to stuff yourself so full with Halloween candy that you can't eat your Halloween casserole!"

The following recipe is provided as a part of Ciao Italia's celebration of National Pasta Month and can be found in the soon-to-be-released Ciao Italia Slow and Easy, Mary Ann Esposito's tenth cookbook due in stores on Nov. 13.

All Treat, No Trick: Ciao Italia's™ Halloween Casserole
Costine Con Rigatoni
Beef Short Ribs with Rigatoni

Mary Ann on this recipe: "I cook this beef short rib and rigatoni casserole for friends who don't often have this cut of meat. The success of this dish really depends on meaty, not fatty ribs, so get to know your butcher and look for well marbled ribs without excess fat. Ask for an English cut, which means pieces that are between 2 and 4 inches long."

Preheat oven to 300F

Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
8 meaty short ribs on the bone (about 4 pounds), 1 1/2-inches thick and 4 inches long
1/4 pound pancetta, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup diced fennel
2 carrots, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces Shittake mushrooms, stems removed, and caps cut in half
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
One 28 ounce can crushed plum tomatoes
2/3 cup red wine
2 tablespoons commercial balsamic vinegar
1 pound rigatoni or other short cut of pasta, like penne or bow ties
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for sprinkling

Heat the olive oil in a large oven-to-table stovetop casserole (12 x 2). Rub the ribs with salt and pepper and brown them in batches. Do not crowd the ribs or they will steam instead of brown. As they brown, transfer them to a dish.

If there is a lot of fat in the pan, drain off most of it, leaving about 2 tablespoons, and brown the pancetta; stir in the onions, fennel, and carrots, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the vegetables begin to soften. Stir in the garlic and cook two minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and cook 2 minutes more. Raise the heat to high and pour in 1/3 cup of the wine. Cook until the wine almost evaporates, about 3 minutes.
Stir in the red pepper flakes and oregano.

Combine the remaining wine, tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar in a bowl; mix well, then pour over the ribs.

Cover the pan tightly with a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil and then a cover and bake for 2 hours or until the ribs are tender. Correct the sauce seasoning if need be.

Remove the ribs to a cutting board; trim the meat away from the bone and connective tissue into small pieces and return the meat to the pan. Discard the bones and connective tissue. Keep the ragu warm while the rigatoni cooks.

Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil; add 1 tablespoon of salt and the rigatoni; cook until the rigatoni is al dente.

Drain the rigatoni and return it to the pot. Ladle some of the ragu sauce over the rigatoni and mix well. Transfer the rigatoni to a platter and pour the ragu over the penne. Or, mix the penne directly in the casserole dish and serve.

Sprinkle the top with grated Parmgiano-Reggiano cheese.

For the last 18 years Mary Ann Esposito has brought her unique brand of traditional, authentic Italian cooking to both national and international audiences, making Ciao Italia with Mary Ann Esposito™ the longest-running cooking show on TV. Airing exclusively on PBS, she brings in 1.1 to 1.4 million viewers per episode in the top 25 media markets and has sold more than 900,000 cookbooks. Her website - - welcomes nearly 500,000 unique visitors every year.

Mary Ann's 10th cookbook, Ciao Italia Slow and Easy hits bookstores on Nov. 13 and features casseroles, stews, and lasagne recipes that use increasingly popular "slow cooking" techniques.

No comments: