When I was a kid, I remember noticing with not a small tinge of horror that my mom seemed to eat everything—eggplant, lima beans, Brussels sprouts…things that, to me, ranked up there with boiled rat spleen. I remember asking one day if there was anything on earth she didn’t like, and she responded that in fact there was: parsnips. I knew nothing about parsnips at that point, but somehow found myself subconsciously ignoring them well into my late 20s. After all, if someone who’s willing to eat Brussels sprouts doesn’t like them, why should I even try? Now that I’m well acquainted with $1.29-a-pound parsnips, they’re not only one of my favorite root vegetables, I can’t fathom why someone wouldn’t like them. At their worst they’re simply overgrown, knobby white carrots, at their best they’re shockingly sugar-cube-sweet, a perfect match for rich and beefy short ribs.
The idea for this pairing came from Mario Batali’s Molto Batali. It almost borders on too sweet, which is why you absolutely can’t skip the cheese and a generous splash of vinegar or lemon juice, which tie it all together.
This also makes A LOT. It’s great for a dinner party in that you can serve six people for less than the price of one restaurant entrée ($14), but if there are only two of you, I recommend doing what we did and making only enough pasta for dinner and lunch the next day and freezing the rest. Like most pasta sauces, it tastes better the longer it sits.
• 1 lb. boneless beef short ribs (or stew beef), or 2 lbs. bone-in short ribs: $4.99
• 4 parsnips, peeled and diced: $3
• 2 cups dry red wine: $1.50
• 2 onions, chopped: 50 cents
• 4 garlic cloves, peeled: 4 cents
• 1/4 cup olive oil: 22 cents
• 2 T tomato paste: 20 cents
• 2 tsp anchovy paste: 20 cents
• Salt & pepper: 2 cents
• 1/4 cup flour: 5 cents
• 1 1/2 lb. pasta (I used casarecce, which are basically rolled-up pappardelle): $1.79
• 3/4 cup grated Parmesan: $1
• A few splashes of red wine vinegar or lemon juice: 10 cents
• Optional parsley for garnish (garden): $0
• Optional side salad (garden): $0
TOTAL: $13.61/6 = $2.27/serving
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Season the short ribs or beef cubes with salt and pepper, then dredge lightly in flour. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, then, working in batches, brown the beef on all sides. Keep the heat medium so the flour doesn’t burn. Remove the ribs to a plate.
Add the chopped onion and diced parsnip, plus garlic cloves, to the oil, cook for about 8 minutes, or until onion is translucent.
Add the tomato and anchovy pastes, stir to coat the vegetables. Add the wine. Return the beef to the pot. If it’s not totally submerged, add water until it is. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and put in the oven to bake for 1 1/2-2 hours, until beef is falling-apart tender.
If using bone-in short ribs, remove them to a plate. Let the mixture cool slightly, then spoon off the fat that’s gathered at the top. Shred the short-rib meat, discarding the bones, and return to the pot. If using boneless beef, mash the pieces against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon to break them up and shred them.
Start a pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta. Meanwhile, simmer the ragout on the stove, uncovered, until thickened. Cook the pasta until al dente, reserving a small cup of starchy pasta water. Add the pasta to the sauce (or, if you’re making less pasta, return to the pasta pot and add a commensurate amount of sauce), stirring well to combine. Add pasta water if necessary to loosen the consistency. Serve with grated cheese and a splash of lemon juice or vinegar, with optional parsley garnish and garden lettuce salad.