This is a Saturday meal. Not because it’s hard. (It’s not.) Not because it takes a long time. (It could.) But because if you head to a farmer’s market Saturday morning, or happen to run across some really fabulous tomatoes while you’re doing your weekly grocery shopping, this is what you should make. This time, I used some beautifully imperfect farmstand tomatoes from an unscheduled stop at a roadside market.
This is, without question, the easiest way to make a fresh tomato sauce. And perhaps one of the tastiest. What follows is not so much of a recipe, as a way of cooking. Let your heart (and perhaps your tummy) lead you.
Braised Short Ribs in Tomatoes, Serves 4, inspired by Scott Conant
2 pounds of really lovely ripe tomatoes, cored
Olive oil, garlic, chili pepper flakes, fresh basil, salt and pepper
1.5 pounds of bone-in beef short ribs
In a large sauce pot, add a very generous amount of olive oil, then some thin slices of peeled garlic (two cloves? four?), a good shake of chili pepper flakes and a big handful of fresh basil that you’ve thinly sliced. Put over very low heat to infuse the oil. Cook for a minute or five, stirring occasionally. Add in the tomatoes. Yes, whole. You can. OK, if you want you can quarter them. You don’t have to. This is the art of lazy cooking led by the palate. Let the tomatoes cook for ten minutes or so over medium-ish heat. Take a potato masker and squish them. It is at this point, that you already have a decent sauce for pasta. Just add a bit of sugar to balance out the sauce. Perhaps a hit of salt and pepper if you think it needs a bit more. Maybe a scattering of some more fresh basil.
But if you’d like, add in those short ribs that you’ve seasoned with salt and pepper. Oh yes, I know, we haven’t browned them. Do you want to? Do you have time? Fine. Feel free. Otherwise, just slide them in the tomato sauce and cook over very low heat for at least two and half hours on the back burner of your stove. Ignore it until dinner. Did you start this process at noon? Fantastic. Eat it at 6. A braise is a beautiful thing. Cook for as long as you have time, over low heat, stirring only occasionally. As in, “I feel a nap coming on. I’ll stir it when I get up.”
Just before serving, if you’d like, remove the bones from the beef and shred the meat a bit. Finish the sauce with a sprinkling of sugar for balance, a final seasoning with salt and pepper.
Serve over penne or another firm pasta. Garnish with copious amounts of parm.
Playlist included All My Little Words, by the nearly perfect Magnetic Fields