November 28, 2011

Rigatoni with Beef and Parsnip Stracotto

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We hope you had an enjoyable holiday with your friends and family. We spent the long weekend in upstate New York and enjoyed delicious turkey, some tasty butternut squash mac and cheese, roasted romanesco, and a few Thanksgiving favorites. We really enjoyed the mac and cheese, and will hopefully be making it again soon to feature on the blog.

In the meantime, some of you may have an extra parsnip that didn't get used in your Turkey stock and might be wondering just what to do with it. Well, if that's the case, this is the post for you. Or, if you don't have a parsnip, this might be a good excuse to go and get one, because this dish is delicious.

This Rigatoni with Beef and Parsnip straccoto takes a little bit of time to cook and simmer, but the wait is well worth it. "Stracotto" is Italian for long cooked, so that's why it's in the name. The parsnip breaks down and gives a sweet complexity to the entire dish that can't be achieved through a quick sauté. It's a deliciously comforting dish, so dive in and give it a try!

Making the Dish
Vegetables, artfully placed and photographed

You'll get started by seasoning the beef with salt and pepper. The beef should be in about two inch cubes, and should be some sort of stew beef. At our grocery store, they actually had a package called "stew beef", so we just used that.

Stew beef

While the beef is seasoning, get to dicing. You'll want to dice up half of a red onion, a few cloves of garlic, and your parsnip. The parsnip can be somewhat difficult to manage. We did it by peeling it first, then slicing it in half down the middle, slicing each of those halves in half again, and then dicing up the long parsnip sticks that formed. This worked fairly well.

Dicing the parsnip
When all the dicing is complete, you can get started on the sauce. In a large sauce pan, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until it is very hot.

Diced parsnips and other ingredients, artfully arranged

While the oil is heating up, dredge the beef cubes in flour, getting it coated on all sides, and then tap to discard the excess.

Dredging the beef

Add the dredged beef to the hot oil and sear on all sides, just long enough to give it nice brown edges without cooking through. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Searing the beef cubes

Add the garlic, parsnips, and red onion to the hot oil and stir around, scraping up any bits of beef stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook these down over the heat until everything is nice and soft. This took us about 10 - 12 minutes. During this time, the parsnips will start to smell GREAT, so be prepared.

Parsnips, onion and garlic, cooked down. 

Once the parsnips and other veggies have cooked down and softened, add in your red wine to deglaze the pan, and then add in the tomato sauce. Stir to combine. You should have a nice rich, deep dark red sauce forming here.

Adding the wine

Stir everything together, and then drop the seared beef into the sauce. Make sure the beef is fully covered by the sauce, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to a simmer.

Adding in the tomato sauce

Let the sauce simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour, until the beef is nice and soft. You can go into the sauce and break the beef up with a fork, bringing everything to your desired level of chunkiness.

Super tender beef in parsnip ragu

Once your beef is nice and soft, remove the lid and start to cook your pasta. Cook in boiling water until one minute shy of package directions. Then drain, reserving some pasta water for later.

Adding the parsnip ragu to the cooked noodles

Toss the rigatoni into the parsnip and beef ragu, adding pasta water to loosen if necessary. Then serve, covered with parmesan cheese if you'd like, and enjoy!

The Result
This deliciously comforting ragu gets its extra dimension of complex sweetness from the long cooked parsnips and is absolutely a delight to eat.

If you're looking for a change up from your regular beef ragu, adding in the parsnip is the way to go.

Do you have any other recipes that use the great parsnip? Let us know in the comments below!

Click through for full ingredients list.

Rigatoni with Beef and Parsnip Stracotto

Written by:

A delicious comforting ragu with a twist (of parsnip)

Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:

(Serves: 2 - 4)

1/2 lb rigatoni or other noodle
1 parsnip
1/2 red onion
3 - 4 cloves garlic
1 lb beef cut in cubes
1/4 cup flour for dredging
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup tomato sauce
3/4 cup red wine
salt and pepper to taste


  1. Oh my gosh, I am now mad at myself for already doing the shopping! I want to make this NOW! Well, it will go on the list for next week I am sure.

  2. Hehe, don't worry - parsnips are good all winter long (I think) :)

  3. pepper looks so grown up, sitting all fancy.

    The pasta looks fantastic too.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.


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