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Playing Beef and Eggplant Ragu with Rigatoni


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound 80% lean ground beef
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 medium, firm eggplant (about 1 ¼ pounds), peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano, leaves stripped and finely chopped or 1 teaspoon (about ⅓ palmful) dried
  • 1 ½ teaspoons (a scant ½ palmful) fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon (a scant ⅓ palmful) crushed red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • About 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup chicken or beef stock
  • One 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 pound large rigatoni
  • Olive oil, for drizzling and to serve
  • Grated ricotta salata or dollops of fresh ricotta, to mix in or freshly grated Pecorino Romano, to pass


Serves: 4


Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
Preheat a large, nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high to high heat with olive oil, two turns of the pan. Add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, breaking up with a spoon until browned about 4 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add the eggplant, garlic, oregano, fennel seeds and crushed red pepper, and cook, stirring often, until the eggplant is softened, 3-4 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the wine and stir until absorbed, about 3 minutes. Add the stock and the tomatoes and their juices, crushing the tomatoes with your hands as you add them into the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer at a low bubble while cooking the pasta.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water to a little under al dente. Reserve a cup of cooking water before draining.
Add the pasta to the ragu along with half the starchy water and toss until the pasta is al dente, about 1 minute. Season to taste, adding more starchy water if too dry.
Top with a drizzle of olive oil and some cheese and serve from the skillet into shallow bowls.