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Scibelli’s ragu is easy and adaptable

Fran Scibelli’s Italian sauce can be made with all kinds of meats.
Fran Scibelli’s Italian sauce can be made with all kinds of meats. Jennifer Lover

Versatile and easy are two of my favorite words when it comes to cooking. It’s great to be able to use what you have on hand (versatile), and not have to spend hours getting to a fantastic end result (easy).

Fran Scibelli, longtime Charlotte restaurateur and owner of Fran’s Filling Station, says, “The beauty of this sauce is that you can make it from many things – brisket, short rib, oxtail, pork or lamb shoulder – as long as it isn’t too lean. Very versatile and easy.”

Not to mention that the flavor of the sauce is incredible.

Conveniently, Scibelli’s brother, Frank, owns Midwood Smokehouse. It made my job simple because the recipe calls for leftover brisket and Frank makes some of the best in town. I swung by the smokehouse and picked up 2 pounds of unsliced brisket to use in the ragu. See? Easy! I didn’t even need to prepare the brisket ahead of time.

What might be my favorite part of this recipe, though, is the versatility of the broccoli rabe pesto. It truly is the perfect topping on the meat ragu and balances the richness of the sauce perfectly. But I can also see it on a multitude of dishes – roast chicken, salmon, eggs. The list goes on.

Fran says it’s excellent on a crostini with fresh ricotta. I hope to see that on her menu soon.

Are you looking for a recipe from a Charlotte-area restaurant? Send your request to Jennifer Lover, or on Instagram (@jenniferlover). Please include your name, why you like the recipe, the area where you live and the restaurant’s location. Lover is a creative director, stylist and cook who lives in Charlotte.

Fran’s Filling Station

2410 Park Road, 704-372-2009.

Fran’s Braised Beef Ragu

From Fran Scibelli, Fran’s Filling Station. The Italian meat sauce called ragu has its roots in France, where it was spelled ragout.

1 ounce dried mushrooms, preferably porcini, or 1 cup fresh

1 pound rigatoni or other favorite pasta, cooked al dente

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 medium carrot, chopped

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 cup red wine

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

3 to 4 cups cooked brisket with juices, shredded by hand in large pieces, then roughly chopped

1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled plum tomatoes with juices, crushed by hand

1/4 cup each chopped fresh parsley and basil

Red pepper flakes, to taste

Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese

Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with 1/2 cup hot water. Let stand 30 minutes. Rinse, pat dry, then roughly chop.

Cook the rigatoni in well-salted water until al dente, just until done. Start the sauce. When pasta is done, reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta and set aside.

For the sauce, in a 4-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high heat, sauté the onion, celery, carrot and mushrooms in the olive oil until soft. Add the garlic and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add tomato paste, stir to combine, and cook over medium heat until the tomato paste becomes a deeper red. Add red wine and boil until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add salt, pepper and brisket.

Cook, stirring, until brisket is heated through. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the pasta to the sauce and toss, adding some of the reserved pasta water if needed. Stir in the fresh herbs and red pepper flakes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve topped with grated Parmesan.

Yield: 6 large servings.

Broccoli Rabe Pesto

1 bunch broccoli rabe

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Pinch crushed red pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

Trim tough lower stems from the broccoli rabe and blanch in a large pot of salted boiling water, 1-2 minutes. Remove from pot and immediately plunge into a bowl of ice water. This will prevent overcooking and set the bright green color. Drain and press out extra moisture with paper towels.

Roughly chop the blanched broccoli rabe by hand or in a food processor, making sure that stems are well chopped. Place in a medium bowl.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and saute garlic until lightly golden. Cool and pour over broccoli rabe. Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Adjust seasonings to your taste.