My love for Italian-American food really began when I married my husband in 1967.
In those early days, we often visited his grandparents’ home in Richmond, Virginia for Sunday dinners. Ernesto and Elisabetta welcomed over twenty grandkids and relatives for these all-day family events. These were special times together sharing stories and enjoying delicious meals passed down by 3 generations of the Noviello, Greco, and Casazza families.
Once I tasted the “Sunday Gravy” made by his mother, grandmother, and great grandmother (affectionately known as Big Mamma)… I was hooked.
These 3 ladies first taught me how to cook many authentic Italian and Italian-American meals. One of my very favorites is Sunday Rigatoni with Beef Shank Gravy. This hearty dinner was created by his grandmother, Elisabetta Noviello. The beef is so tender and the marrow bones give the gravy so much flavor. It’s a perfect combination for your own Sunday dinner.
Buona domenica a tutti!
2 (28 oz/796 ml) cans whole peeled Italian tomatoes
2 lbs (1 kg) beef shank with marrow bones intact
2 T (30 ml) extra-light olive oil or grape seed oil, divided
1 medium onion, diced
4 oz (125 g) pancetta or unsmoked bacon, diced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 T (30 ml) tomato paste
1/2 cup (125 ml) dry red wine or water
1/2 t (2 ml) red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T (30 ml) chopped fresh basil
1 lb (500 g) rigatoni
Chopped fresh basil, for garnish
Freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Pour tomatoes into a large bowl and hand-crush them, removing the hard center cores.
Alternatively, use an immersion blender to chop the tomatoes.
In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, brown the beef shanks in a tablespoon (15 ml) of oil for about 6 to 7 minutes on each side. Do not turn the shanks until they are deeply browned. This will add flavor and allow the meat to release from the pan. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside.
Pour off any excess grease and add the rest of the oil.
Sauté the onion and pancetta for about 10 minutes over low heat.
Add the garlic and sauté another minute.
Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, wine or water, red pepper flakes, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Simmer for 10 minutes, then return the beef shanks to the pan and nestle them into the sauce.
Cover with a tight-fitting lid and place in a 325 F (170 C) degree oven for 2 to 2 ½ hours.
Using tongs, transfer the beef shanks to a cutting board.
When cool enough to handle, shred the meat and place back into the pot.
Discard the marrow bones. Reheat gravy and stir in chopped basil.
Boil the rigatoni in salted water for about 9 to 10 minutes, until al dente.
Drain rigatoni and pour back into the pot.
Add a couple of ladles of the gravy (with some shredded meat) to the pasta and toss.
Spoon into warm pasta bowls, add a little more of the gravy and meat to the top of the pasta.
Sprinkle with some chopped basil and serve with grated cheese.