I recently got into following another food blog – Food Wishes, and I really dig Chef John’s style. His delivery is nice and the slightly dorky jokes enjoyable, but most importantly the recipes themselves are excellent. I also appreciate that while he shows you what ingredients he’s using, and makes a video of the recipe itself, he doesn’t break it down in step by step fashion. I often find that when I follow the individual steps of a recipe, I lose the bigger picture of the meal itself. It’s when I take some general concepts and just go nuts, that I really understand the cooking and learn something…usually after a few magnificent failures.
So as I’m checking out some of his older posts, I stumbled upon what is probably the single most Jared-centric recipe ever. Friends, meet Rigatoni alla Genovese.
First of all, anyone who is nodding sagely like they’ve ever heard of this dish before is probably full of shit. Second of all, if you have an interest in making this (and I can’t recommend it highly enough) make sure you clear that schedule (DO IT), because this is an all day affair. Chef John will tell you that this is a 10-hour recipe, and he means it. Don’t try and half-ass it and just embrace the absurdity of it all.
But most importantly, this recipe has absolutely everything you could ever want or need in life:
- Sauteing onions (duh) – and not just a few, not even a lot of onions, but a preposterous amount of onions. In fact, if you’ve got any repressed emotions now might be the time to let em fly, because you’re going to be crying for the next week and a half.
- Cooking something simple for an extremely long time – if you’re like me (read: not very skilled in the kitchen), but if you’re also like me (read: likes to seem fancy) then this recipe is perfect. You can lounge around all day drinking wine and pretending you’re laboring over this meal, when in fact you pretty much just put everything in a big ‘ole pot and forget about it for half a day. It’s the perfect way to seem like a fancy cook without..ya’know having to really cook anything. And speaking of wine…
- There’s wine! – Like all my favorite recipes, this one requires a small amount of wine for flavoring purposes. Now some people might tell you it’s wise to simply keep a bottle lying around that you can use a splash at a time for cooking. Those people are wrong and should feel bad about! The only proper way to cook with wine is to buy a brand new bottle (always the 2nd cheapest, because…fancy!), use a tiny amount for cooking and then drink the rest! I’m sure you could make up some convoluted logic about really connecting with the food you’re cooking, but really I just like drinking wine!
So let’s get to it – as Chef John astutely points out and reminds you, this will take you 10-11 hours and there’s really no way around it. You’re also going to be chopping roughly six pounds of onions so just accept that fact as well. You will cry, your hands will smell of onions for a couple of days, it is what it is. However, once you get everything set up, you’re pretty much just putting it in a giant pot and watching it turn from outrageous onion spectacle to sort of an onion stew and finally to a meaty onion-paste which will coat your pasta, your tastebuds AND YOUR SOUL!!
The ingredients and the preparation are truly simple, it’s the sheer patience this recipe takes that really sets it apart. The pancetta, beef and mirepoix go from disparate classic Italian flavors to something totally new and absolutely delicious. When you’re ready just put a scoop over some rigatoni and grate a bit of Parmesan cheese for a final touch of saltiness.
Pitfalls: This one is mostly idiot-proof with one exception. When Chef John says cook it for 10 or 11 hours, do. not. skimp. As much as I’ve reiterated this throughout the write up, I fell prey to thinking it might not apply to me. I’d halved the recipe, and by the 8 hour mark I was starting to get antsy. While it was still make-a-nonsensical-Italian-exclamation delicious, I kept thinking what could have been.
The Verdict: This has been one of the most enjoyable cooking experiences I’ve ever had, and especially for a first try at a recipe. As long as you commit to essentially an entire day of cooking, it’s an easy, boozy day of braising. The end result is VERY flavorful and VERY rich. This means that you don’t need a tremendous amount of sauce for your pasta, a little definitely goes a long way. I’d also recommend not cheaping out on the pasta you use, since it’s an important complement to your delicious sauce.
It’s a great start for trying a recipe from Chef John, and somehow I suspect we’ll see more attempts from the Food Wishes blog.
Not Chef Jared