Serving the short ribs over pasta is optional -- the previous time I made this, I broke up the meat into large chunks and served it more like a stew. I do think tender homemade noodles do add a certain something, though. I modified my basic pasta recipe by using four egg yolks, one whole egg, and a little water with two cups of flour to make the dough: this made the pasta a little richer than usual, a better foil for the unctuous sauce.
You will need: 3 - 4 lbs short ribs (if there is not much meat on the bones, get a little extra -- usually I try to aim for a little more than a half-pound of meat per person, and in this case you have to take the weight of the bones into account.)
3/4 cup flour
4-6 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 medium yellow onions, chopped into large chunks
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 bottle red wine (a Bonny Doon Grenache worked exceptionally well -- but anything you'd like to drink with the meal will probably work well in the recipe)
1 can vegetable broth
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
a handful of fresh parsley
Preheat your oven to 350. To prep the short ribs, let them come up to room temperature, season them with salt and pepper, and coat them lightly with flour.
In a large dutch oven or stew pot, cook the bacon over medium-high heat to render out its fat. When the bacon has crisped and has released its fat into the pan, remove the bacon and drain some of the fat, leaving just enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the floured short ribs and cook over medium-high heat until the meat is browned on the sides. Remove the meat and set aside.
Toss the onion chunks into the pan, season with a little salt, and stir around the pan so the onions begin to bring up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and tomato paste, and cook until the tomato paste no longer looks or smells "raw."
Pour in the wine -- about a half bottle -- and stir to bring as much of the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Return the meat and bacon to the pan, and add enough vegetable broth to bring the liquid a little more than halfway up the sides of the chunks of meat. The meat should not be completely submerged in the liquid. Toss in two bay leaves and a few sprigs of thyme, place the lid on the pot, and bring to a boil.
When the pot has reached a boil, turn off the burner and place the pot in the oven (tightly covered -- if the lid is not very tight-fitting, cover the pot with a layer of aluminum foil and place the lid over that.) Braising the ribs in the oven is preferable to the stovetop because the heat is much more gentle and even -- instead of all of the heat entering the food from the stove's burner or coil in one concentrated spot, it is penetrating the food from all sides. Let the meat braise in the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the meat is tender when pierced with a fork and begins to fall off the bone.
If you are going to serve this dish more like a stew, remove the meat from the pot and let it rest and cool for a few minutes, then tear it into chunks (removing the bones) and return it to the pot. Check the seasoning, add salt and pepper as necessary, then ladle into bowls and top with a little fresh parsley.
If you are going to serve the dish with noodles, remove the meat from the pot and put the sauce over medium-high heat on the stovetop to reduce. Meanwhile, boil a large pot of salted water for the pasta. When the sauce has thickened to the desired consistency, check the seasoning (this is why you don't want to add too much salt early on -- the more the sauce thickens, the saltier it will get). Add salt and pepper if necessary. Cook the noodles according to the package directions, or if making homemade pasta (see the note at the top of the page), cook for about a minute in boiling water, then transfer the noodles directly to the sauce using tongs or a strainer spoon. The pasta water clinging to the noodles will help the sauce adhere. Put each serving of noodles in a shallow bowl and top with the meat and a little fresh parsley.
This dish is enough to serve four hungry carnivores. Enjoy!