Shortribs, Italian Style with Gnocchi

Beef Shortribs, Italiano

I am a huge fan of both shortribs and oxtails. They have a wonderful, unctuous texture when braised in a sauce of stock, wine and chopped vegetables. They do take a bit of prep., but once they are in the oven, that’s pretty much it. And I think a very good thing! And…there are usually some leftovers for another night. You can absolutely use oxtails if you prefer. Mashed potatoes, gnocchi, polenta or just a good baguette would all be great accompaniments, and of course, a bottle of red wine!

Makes approximately 4 – 6 Servings

3 lbs. beef shortribs (not Maui or Korean style)
4 oz. pancetta, cut in a thick slice & diced into ¼” cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, diced fine
2 stalks celery, diced fine
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
4 whole sprigs fresh thyme
2 whole small sprigs fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup each dry red wine & beef stock** or tinned low/no salt broth
1 cup peeled pearl onions or 1 ½ cups peeled cipolline onions (Italian flat onions)
1 large bay leaf
4 juniper berries, crushed
2 Tbsp. chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
Potato starch for thickening

Note: you can substitute 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh sage for the rosemary.  1 oz. of dried porcini mushrooms that have been soaked would be a nice addition.

Garnish: Gremolata

4 Tbsp. finely chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon or a combination of orange & lemon zest
1 clove garlic, minced

Combine gremolata ingredients in a small dish, cover and chill until ready to serve the shortribs.

Make the Shortribs:

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

In a large, deep sauté pan, fry the pancetta in a bit of EVO on medium heat until they are slightly golden. Remove to a small plate. Wipe the shortribs with paper towels so they are dry, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Fry the shortribs, without crowding, until they are browned on all sides. Remove to a large platter; turn down the heat to medium low; add the onions, carrots and celery to the pan; sauté for 5 minutes; add the garlic and parsley; sauté for a minute. Now add the tomato paste, stirring into the veggies, sautéing for a minute or two; add the wine, stock, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf and juniper berries, stir to combine. Return the shortribs to the pan; cover and place in the oven for 1 hour. Remove the lid; add the onions, stir to combine then cover and return to the oven for one more hour, or until completely tender.  Remove the pot from the oven and remove the shortribs to a large platter; keep warm in a 180 F oven. Skim any accumulated fat and discard. Over medium heat, bring the sauce to a simmer. When slightly bubbling, stir in a mixture of 1 – 2 Tbsp. potato starch combimed with 2 – 4 Tbsp. red wine until thickened to the consistency you like. Let simmer for a couple of minutes. Serve the shortribs with some of the sauce; sprinkled with the gremolata garnish.

Helpful tip:  To peel the onions, blanch in boiling water for 1 minute, rinse with cold water and peel. Cipolline onions are available at some produce stores or sometimes at farmer’s markets in fall.

Helpful link to Making Stock.  And to Making Gnocchi.  And to Creamy Polenta.


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