Do you ever feel like the holiday season would make a lot more sense if stretched out to include January and February as well to make time for everything? Work parties, friend parties, holiday gigs if you’re a musician, family, travel . . . eek I haven’t had much time to cook recently, have you? I finally took a day to catch up on cooking, emails, Christmas shopping (online!) and staying home and being cozy. We got a real (NY-apartment-sized) Christmas tree for the first time ever! Andrew fashioned us a fab star out of aluminum foil. And I made this ragu while it snowed the first real snow of the season, stirring in between bouts of gift research.
Eggplant-Beef Ragu over Cavatappi with Fresh Ricotta & Basil
- 1 medium eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup walnut oil, divided
- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
- 4 plump cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 14.5 oz. can chopped tomatoes, with juice
- 1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
- fresh ground black pepper
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1 tsp sherry vinegar
- 1/3 cup slivered fresh basil leaves
- 6 oz fresh ricotta
- 1 lb dry cavatappi pasta
serves 4 to 6
- Make the sauce: In a large enameled skillet or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the walnut oil over medium high heat. Add beef and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up large clumps, until fully cooked and starting to brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium; add 1/4 cup oil, all of the eggplant, the cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and stir to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, until eggplant begins to soften slightly, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the remaining two tablespoons of oil and the onions; stir to combine, and cook, stirring frequently, until onions become translucent and begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more, stirring.
- Stir in the tomatoes, water, beef broth, and sherry vinegar. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook for about 2.5 to 3 hours, lifting the lid to stir every 15 minutes or so and adding a bit more water (or a splash of red wine) if the sauce begins to get dry or stick to the pan. The sauce is ready when the eggplant is falling apart. If the sauce is too watery at this point, remove the lid, increase the heat, and cook, stirring, until some liquid evaporates and the sauce thickens. Add fresh ground pepper and additional salt to taste.
- Make the pasta: Cook pasta according to package directions. Arrange pasta on plates, ladle sauce over pasta, and top with scoops of fresh ricotta and some slivered basil.