1 pound well-marbled chuck roast, cut into very small cubes, or ground beef
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
2 cups beef stock or water
1 cup strained tomatoes
1 to 2 tablespoons milk or cream (optional)
1 pound rigatoni
Grated Parmesan and parsley, garnish
Heat oven to 350° F
Heat a 14-inch sauté pan (with a lid) over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the olive oil, swirl the pan and add the beef. Season it with a healthy pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Stir and brown it on all sides.
Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and herbs, and stir. Add the balsamic and let it reduce to a tablespoon or so.
Add the tomatoes, 2 cups of water, and the dairy (if using). Stir, taste, and add salt and pepper as necessary. Bring the mixture to a boil and add the pasta. Shake the pan to spread the pasta evenly across the pan, and bring it all back to a boil.
Put a lid on it, place it into the oven, and set a timer for 20 minutes.
When the timer sounds, remove the pan from the oven, remove the lid, stir and taste a piece of the pasta. If it is still crunchy, put the lid back onto the pan and put it back into the oven for another 10 minutes.
Remove the pasta from the oven. Top with lots of Parmesan and parsley and serve.