Christmas Pasta: 'Tis the Season for This Great Dish

pastaHave the relatives arrived, and you're cooking for the whole crew? Or are you just racing frantically to the finish line of Christmas preparations with nary a spare second to think about what to feed your family in the days leading up to the event? Either way, Christmas Pasta can be a great quick and festive dish to serve up this week or even as your Christmas dinner.

It's hearty, warm, and filling, and depending on how many people you're cooking for, it often leaves leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day.

Here's the recipe, which I adapted from Rachael Ray.

  • Salt
  • 1 pound penne (I've also found Christmas-shaped pasta and used that for a fun twist)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 pound pancetta, chopped
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage (sweet or spicy)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (you can skip this, but it adds a nice touch of festive color)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for the table

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.

While the water and pasta work, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, then add the pancetta to half of the pan and the sausage to the other side. Break up the sausage into bits and let it brown while the pancetta renders its fat; combine the sausage and pancetta and cook them together for another minute or so. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate.

Add the remaining tablespoon olive oil to the skillet and then the beef. Brown and crumble the meat, then season it with the allspice, salt, and pepper. Add the carrot, onion, and garlic and cook another 5 to 6 minutes to soften the vegetables. Return the sausage and pancetta to the skillet, draining off some of the fat. Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up the good bits with a wooden spoon. Stir in the stock, then the tomatoes. Check the seasoning. Simmer over low heat for at least 10 minutes, until serving time. Stir in half of the parsley.

Meanwhile, drain the pasta and return it to its pot. Ladle a few spoonfuls of the sauce over the pasta and add a couple of handfuls of cheese to the pot. Stir to coat the pasta. Transfer the dressed pasta to a large serving dish or individual bowls and top with the remaining sauce and parsley. Pass around plenty of extra cheese at the table.

You can also make the sauce a day ahead of time and just boil the pasta when you're ready to serve. 

Image via Christian Cable/Flickr

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