A Rachael Ray Christmas: Christmas Pasta (It's a Keeper)

In 365: No Repeats--A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners, Rachael Ray threw in one extra to make it 366. That extra recipe is for Christmas Pasta. This pasta is a favorite family tradition for Rachael because her family participates in the Feast of the Seven Fishes, which is an Italian Tradition. The Feast is a meatless meal eaten on Christmas Eve, which means everyone enjoys a meaty pasta on Christmas Day.

When I first read this recipe, I thought that writing 365 recipes might have pushed Rachael over the edge. Five kinds of meat in one dish? But, I shouldn't have questioned her - this recipe is definitely a keeper. It was easy to make in 30 minutes (even without hurrying too much) because with so much meat in the pot, there is minimal chopping involved. Add a little green salad and some bread for mopping up the sauce and it will be a very Merry Christmas.

Here's the recipe for six servings with my comments in brackets:

1 pound rigatoni
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1/4 pound pancetta (or thick, lean bacon), chopped [If they have it at your store, you should get the thicker slices]
1/4 pound bulk hot Italian sausage
1/4 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage
1/2 pound ground sirloin
1/2 pound ground veal [you can substitute lamb or more sirloin if your store doesn't have veal]
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (eyeball it in your palm)
Coarse black pepper
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed [I was confused about why I was just crushing it and not chopping it, but it sorta broke up in the sauce as it simmered.]
1/2 cup dry red wine (a couple of glugs) [And a couple glugs for yourself, too.]
1 cup beef stock or broth
1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley (a generous handful), finely chopped
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese (a couple of handfuls), plus some to pass at the table [Make sure you get some good Romano - don't by that parmie in a green can. The extra money is worth it!]

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Add the pasta and cook to al dente, with a bite to it. [So easy to say, so tough to do, but I'm learning. Part of my learning process includes standing over the pot, babysitting the pasta and getting a great facial.]

While the water and pasta work, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon EVOO (1 turn of the pan). Add the pancetta to one half of the pan; the sausage, both hot and sweet, to the other. Break up the sausage into bits and brown while the pancetta renders, then combine and cook together another minute or so. [I break up the sausage with my fingers as I am adding it to the pan. Seems to make it easier for me to get it into small enough pieces without throwing out my shoulder from trying to break it up with a spatula.] Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Add the remaining tablespoon of EVOO, then the beef and veal. Brown and crumble the meat into tiny bits and season with allspice, salt and pepper. [It's that allspice that makes it Christmasy, so don't leave it out!]

Add the carrots, onions and garlic and cook another 5 to 6 minutes to soften the vegetables, then add sausage and pancetta back into the pan, draining away some of the fat. Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up all the good bits with a wooden spoon. Stir in the stock, then the tomatoes. Check the seasoning. Simmer over low heat until ready to serve, at least 10 minutes. Stir in half the parsley to finish. [I forgot to but the parsley at the store. Oops.]

Drain the pasta and add back to the hot pot. Ladle a few spoonfuls of the sauce over the pasta and add a couple of handfuls of the Romano cheese to the pot. Stir to coat the pasta evenly.

Transfer to a large serving dish or individual bowls and top with the remaining sauce and parsley. Pass extra Romano.

Merry Christmas Pasta!


  1. I always wanted to try this recipe. I think it was featured in her magazine last year too...It's great to know that it's worth attempting (I'd hate to buy all of that meat if it wasn't edible) ;)

  2. It's definitely a splurge to spend that much on the meat, but it's good for a special occasion.

  3. Sounds really good. Yesterday on her talk show her mother was a guest and they said they didn't do the seven fishes thing because her mother only liked four out of the seven. They made a stuffed fish and stuffed mushrooms and they looked really good. Her mother was so cute too.

  4. Anony - just goes to show that just because it's a tradition doesn't mean you have to keep doing it!

  5. I've been meaning to try this recipe since I saw it in her magazine last year and then again in 365. Glad to know it's good. Maybe now that we're not strapped for cash because of the house I can splurge on a dish that involves 5 kinds of meat!

  6. Home Cook - same thing for me. I finally seized the day!

  7. I'd love to try this but I don't have any good delis nearby that sell pancetta, and I am not a fan of veal. I suppose I can just do a mix of ground pork for the veal?? What could I substitute for the pancetta, though??

  8. You could substitute bacon for the pancetta. Rachael ususally uses center cut bacon. And you definitely could use pork instead of the veal. I saw one review of this recipe where someone substituted lamb for the veal and loved it.


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