August 20, 2011

Starving Artist: Braised Beef and Tortelloni

This is a tribute to Josh's and my favorite restaurant, the one and only Olive Garden. We had our first date in this Italian-inspired wonderland years ago, and since then I have not been able to talk Josh out of ordering the same old stuffed chicken marsala that I talked him into trying all those years back. I sure know this guy's taste. He says that nothing could possibly be better.

Let me assure you, something can.

Introducing Olive Garden-inspired Braised Beef and Tortelloni!

I like to call this dish the grown up version of stuffed chicken marsala. It is like the most perfect manifestation of the flavors I love in The tastes are similarly sweet because both use a marsala wine-based sauce, but the beef tortelloni dish is heartier because of the stuffed pasta and meat. Also, because this recipe uses fresh vegetables instead of sundried tomatoes, it tastes smoother and less starchy.

I am unaware of Olive Garden's exact secrets, but I am incredibly proud of this delightful reincarnation of the dish which I came up with purely through experimentation. Try to tell me that's not art! 

Braised Beef and Tortelloni

2 lbs boneless beef short rib
about 20 oz cheese tortelloni (not tortellini, tortelloni is bigger)
24 oz Marsala wine
8 oz heavy cream
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp cornstarch (optional for thicker sauce)
6 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
3 tomatoes, diced
8-10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Pour tortelloni into a large bowl and cover with water. Soak overnight. (Please note, many people would just prepare the sauce and then serve it over cooked tortelloni. I prefer to soak my pasta and then cook it for a few minutes in the sauce to maximize flavor. It turned out great this way!)

Place short ribs in a saucepan heated to medium-high and sear on all sides in an inch of Marsala wine. Reduce heat to low, and add the remaining wine as well as the garlic, heavy cream, and one half of your chopped basil. (If desired, combine cornstarch and a small amount of cold water in an airtight container and shake thoroughly. Add mixture to sauce.) Cover and let simmer.

Check occassionally for beef's doneness and to replenish liquid with more wine if some has evaporated off. When beef reaches desired doneness, remove from saucepan. Add mushrooms and drained tortelloni. Slice beef into thin strips and return to sauce. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 3-5 minutes before serving.

Welcome to heaven a la Italia!

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