Post # 241 Baked Pasta Sauce Ciao Italia! Style

April 17, 2014 at 12:38 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

One of my favorite PBS cooking shows is Ciao Italia! starring Mary Ann Esposito.  I’ve never done a search on her life or history so I don’t know much about her except what I’ve learned from watching her show.  She cooks regional Italian foods that are familiar to us but gives the “inside scoop” on how easy the cooking is.  Each of her shows has 3-4 recipes completed by the end, and somewhere around the middle, she takes us on a short “travelogue” of the region of Italy where she found the recipes.

She’s the typical grandmotherly type with a smile as broad as the camera.  Her face lights up when she’s cooking, and she loves showing people how.  She only occasionally has guests, but when she does, they are usually young people who are learning almost from the beginning.  One time, she went to a culinary school and taught the entire class to make pasta from scratch, then pizza dough.  From there, she taught them how to make lasagna and pizza margarita.  She has a slight tendency to talk down to people, but that’s more a nurturing style than a malicious intent.  To me, she’s absolutely lovable.

mary ann esposito

She’s taught me a lot about making simple soups in just a few minutes.  She makes sauces that are quick and flavorful (remember the recipe for Lemon Pasta?); some that are as fresh as the tomatoes she just picked from her garden; and some that are slow cooked for hours (the recipe I’m going to share today.)  She uses dried pasta, sometimes make pasta, and once in a while make fresh gnocchi.  Ever have fresh gnocchi?  It’s a very small potato dumpling, about the size of your thumbnail, swimming in whatever sauce you decide.  Good stuff, and fun to make.  Fun to eat, too.  The point is, she’s all about making really good tasting Italian food as easily as possible, while staying authentic in technique and taste.

She makes a baked pasta sauce that’s cooked low and slow.  It starts with seared beef, to which tomato sauce and spices are added, then it’s baked slowly.  When it’s done, the flavors are so well married, the meat is falling apart, and when the pasta is added, it’s a friggin’ masterpiece!  So here we go!

  • 3-4 beef shanks <OR> One 7 bone beef roast about 1-2 pounds
  • 2 large cans tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning mix
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic to taste
  • 1-2 medium onions or 1 large onion peeled and sliced into thin rounds
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a heavy dutch oven until it’s shimmering.  Sear the beef on both sides, adding salt and pepper, until well sealed.  Turn off the heat and pour tomato sauce over the beef.  Sprinkle the Italian seasoning mix and the garlic evenly over the sauce.  Separate the rings of the onions and spread them evenly over the sauce.  Place the lid on the dutch oven and place it in a preheated oven at 275.  Leave it alone for five hours.  Remove from the oven and check that the meat is tender.  If it isn’t “falling of the bone” tender, put it back in the oven for another hour and check again.  Once the meat is tender, remove bones, shred the meat in the pan, and stir thoroughly.  While sauce is resting, boil two cups of penne pasta.  Drain the pasta and put it in the sauce.  Stir to combine completely and leave in warm oven until ready to eat.

Trust me, it’s wonderful stuff.


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