Italian Beef UnStew

The other night I made what was basically a beef stew, and then added pasta to it. I’m generally not a fan of soups or stews; I don’t enjoy slurping my supper, and I never feel full after eating soup. (There are some exceptions.) Stews are very simple to make, however, and very forgiving. You can use what you have on hand, and it is typically harder to overcook things since everything is simmering in broth. Adding pasta to it treated it like a thin sauce and made a hearty one-dish supper.

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Here’s what I had:

  • 1 onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • A 2-pound arm roast
  • A couple tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • A pinch each of dried thyme, basil, and oregano
  • A dash of Hungarian paprika
  • Salt and pepper, of course
  • A bunch of asparagus
  • 1 pound of fettuccine noodles
  • A handful of fresh parsley
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese

Dice the onion, bell pepper, and garlic up and set it aside. Dice the roast, or other meat (or no meat), into 1-inch cubes. Season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large pot (I used a dutch oven) on medium-high heat; you’re going to add the noodles into this pot later, so make sure it is large enough to hold everything. Add the beef, stirring to brown it nicely on all sides. Add the diced vegetables and cook them for a few minutes. I know a lot of people would say to remove the beef to cook the vegetables, but I’m lazy sometimes and it turned out just fine. Add the tomatoes and about a half can of water- not enough water to completely cover everything, just so it looks stew-y. Add the spices (It was winter so I used dried herbs. If fresh herbs are available don’t add them until just before you add the pasta). Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes or so. Start another pot of water heating to boil the fettuccine and cut up the asparagus how you like it. You can leave it in long spears or cut it into about 2-inch pieces like I did. When the water boils and you add the pasta, add the asparagus to the stew/sauce. When the pasta is al dente use a tongs to transfer the noodles directly into the stew and toss to coat. Let it keep cooking for a few minutes longer to let the pasta starch thicken the sauce, or add some of the pasta water to the sauce if it doesn’t seem saucy enough. Transfer everything onto a platter and garnish with parsley and Parmesan, or eat it right out of the pot.

I used this same method again a few days later to make a Thai-style chicken and green beans in a gingery peanut sauce (peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, a dash of fish sauce, honey, chili garlic paste, ginger, water) using rice noodles instead of fettuccine. It’s the same basic idea behind curry and rice as well.

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