Valentine’s Day Dinner: Braised Short Ribs Over Butternut Squash Pasta

On Valentine’s Day, before children, when my husband and I had more time, more money,  and more energy to go out on a weeknight, we’d often secure reservations at one of favorite local Brooklyn restaurants where we’d willingly pay marked up prices for a prefixed meal.  And, honestly, we didn’t mind the expense, because our meals were always delicious and we had discretionary money to spend on it.  But, things have changed a lot since then.  With three kids, a move to the suburbs, a longer commute for him, and thus, longer hours alone with the kids for me, we simply don’t have the time, the money, or the energy to go out for Valentine’s Day anymore.  Luckily, having been inspired by one of my favorite Valentine’s Day meals at our favorite local restaurant in Brooklyn (Olea, in Fort Greene), we can still have a fabulous, cozy dinner together, without paying marked up prices or a babysitter.  And, while sometimes, we might try to dress up a bit to make it feel more special, more often, we’re both in comfortable clothes (hello, yoga pants!), sipping wine, and closing out the night by the fire in our living room.

This recipe is pretty fool proof.  Even better, you can easily make it ahead of time (even a few days), and reheat it on Valentine’s Day; it will taste just as good (if not better!).  But, I tend to make it the day of because the slow cooking braise fills our house with the best smell.  If you do make it ahead of time, I recommend boiling the pasta the day of the meal, reheating the butternut squash sauce, and combining them just before serving.  If you cannot find boneless short ribs, bone on work fine too, but you may need to cook them a bit longer.  Brisket works well too, but it isn’t quite as decadently rich as short ribs.  For the wine, I recommend a dry red, but don’t feel the need so spend a ton of money on it.  Finally, I would recommend finishing the dish by topping it with some chopped parsley, lemon zest, grated parmigiana cheese and a drizzle of good olive oil. I usually serve a nice green salad alongside and finish the meal with Katherine Hepburn’s brownies, which are insanely easy and insanely delicious.

Braised Boneless Short Ribs: What You’ll Need:

  • 3-4 lbs of boneless short ribs, cut into large pieces and salted (yes, you’ll have leftovers, which can be eaten later in the week or frozen)
  • 1 large onion, cut into large chunks
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 celery heart, cleaned and cut into large chunks
  • 3 large garlic cloves, put through the garlic press or grated
  • 1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups of dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock
  • a bunch of sage, rosemary, thyme
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt

What to do:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Generously salt the short ribs using Kosher salt.  In a large saucepan, coat the bottom with olive oil and warm it.  Once hot, add the short ribs, not crowding the pan.  You may need to work in batches.  Allow each side of the ribs to brown.  You want good color on these because that’s where so much of the flavor will come from. Once all the meat is nicely browned set it aside on a plate, lowering the heat on the saucepan.
  3. Add the carrots, celery, and onion to the pan, tossing them to coat with the olive oil.  After about 2 minutes, add the grated/pressed garlic cloves.  Toss to incorporate. Next, add the wine, using it to deglaze the bottom of the pan.  Add the tomatoes, the stock, and mix.  Place the meat back into the pan, ensuring it is covered by the liquids.  Toss in the herb bundle.
  4. Cover the pan with tin foil and place in the hot oven.
  5. Cook for about 2 hours or until the meat is falling apart tender.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven, and carefully remove the meat from the pan, placing it aside on a large plate.
  7. Place a colander inside a large bowl, drain the contents of the sauce pan into the colander, catching all the cooking liquids in the bowl.  Discard the overcooked vegetables and herbs.
  8. Return the cooking liquids to the sauce pan and place back on the stove top.
  9. Bring the sauce to a simmer, and allow it to reduce for about 30 minutes.
  10. Add the meat back to the saucepan, allowing it to get warm.
  11. Once warm, place a serving of short ribs on top of a serving of Butternut Squash pasta, topping it with some freshly grated parmigiana cheese, lemon zest, and chopped flat leaf parsley. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

Butternut Squash Pasta: What You’ll Need

  • 1 large butternut squash cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, put through press or grated
  • 1-2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup of parmigiana-reggiano cheese, grated
  • 1 pound of pasta
  • olive oil
  • Kosher salt

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Cook pasta according to directions.  Strain and set aside.
  3. Place cubed squash on a baking sheet, coat with olive oil, sprinkle with Kosher salt, toss to coat.  Bake until the squash is soft and has begun to brown along the edges. Remove from oven and set aside.
  4. Once the squash is cooked, coat the bottom of a large, rimmed sautee pan with olive oil and warm it.  Add diced onion and cook for about 2 minutes, until the onion has softened.  Add the pressed garlic and toss for about 30 seconds.  Add the roasted butternut squash and toss to incorporate.
  5. Add enough chicken stock so that the squash is all immersed in it.
  6. Using an immersion blender, carefully blend the contents of the sautee pan. Gradually add more stock until you get a smooth (almost baby-food) pureed consistency.
  7. Add cheese and salt to taste.
  8. Toss pasta with sauce.  Top with short ribs, parsley, lemon, more grated cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

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