This Beef Cheek & Porcini Pasta Bake was a sensational meal for a large family or a bunch of mates.  I made it in my pressure cooker, so it was a set and forget kind of meal and can easily be made ahead of time so that when your guests arrive, you can just whack it in the oven and serve it with a fresh green salad.  The Beef Cheek & Porcini mixture may seem extremely saucy but for me, this is essential with pasta bakes as they are notoriously dry.  Undercooking the pasta and tossing it through loads of sauce will ensure a juicy, rich dish with loads of flavour and al dente` pasta.  It is a really filling meal so it goes a long way, we had leftovers for days and it also froze really well.  Just freshen it up with a sprinkling of parmesan and a few basil leaves after reheating.

The Beef Cheek & Porcini sauce can also be made in the slow cooker or oven but as Beef Cheeks are an extremely tough cut of meat, it is essential to cook them for a long time.  If cooking in your slow cooker, follow the method and then cook on high for at least 8 hours or until the meat pulls apart easily with a couple of forks.  For the oven, I would cook, covered, for at least 6 hours on about 160°C and again, it is ready when the meat falls apart.

Prep time:  30 Minutes

Pressure cooking time:  1 Hour and 40 minutes

Oven cooking time:  30 – 45 minutes depending if you make ahead

$  Low Budget – I used two beef cheeks and it would easily feed 6-8 people

For the Beef Cheek & Porcini Pasta Bake:

Extra virgin olive oil

500gm of large pasta shells or spirals

2 large Beef Cheeks (I had approximately 800gm)

2 tbs of flour, seasoned with Salt & Pepper

30gm of Dried Porcini mushrooms, reconstituted in boiling water – save the water for the sauce when draining & roughly chop the porcini

500gm of assorted fresh mushrooms (I used portobello and King Oyster Mushrooms), sliced

1 large brown onion, finely diced

6 garlic cloves, finely minced

3 rosemary stalks, leaves removed and stalks discarded, finely chopped

3 fresh bay leaves

2 cups of dry red wine

1 cup of beef stock

1 cup of porcini stock

400gm tin of cherry tomatoes

500ml of passata

2 tbs of tomato paste

1 heaped tsp of sugar

Sea salt & Pepper

1 cup of Grated Parmesan Cheese

5 Bocconcini Rounds

A handful of fresh Basil leaves

Serve with a fresh green salad and crusty sourdough or ciabatta

I have a multi function pressure cooker that browns, saute’s etc.  If you don’t have one like this or are using a slow cooker, make the sauce in a large pan or pot and then transfer to your preferred cooking method.

Heat the pressure cooker and add a little oil.  Lightly dust the beef cheeks with well seasoned flour and brown on all sides until golden.  Remove from the cooker and set aside.

Add a little more oil and fry the onions until soft before adding the garlic, rosemary and bay leaves.  Fry until aromatic and then add the mushrooms and drained porcini, fry for a few minutes until they are starting to cook down and then add the red wine.  Allow the wine to reduce by about half and then add the stock, porcini water, cherry tomatoes, passata and tomato paste.  Season with the sugar and salt and pepper and stir well to combine.  Allow the mixture to come to a simmer and then place the beef cheeks back in the pressure cooker, making sure they are fully immersed in the sauce.

Place the lid on the pressure cooker and close the valve.  Cook for 50 minutes and allow the pressure to release before opening the lid.  Give the mixture a stir and pop the lid back on and again, close the valve.  Cook on high pressure for a further 50 minutes, allow the pressure to release and let the mixture rest for 10-15 minutes.  Once rested, remove the beef cheeks from the sauce and shred with a couple of forks, it should just fall apart.  If not for some reason, continue cooking until it does.  Add the shredded meat back to the sauce and remove the bay leaves.

Cook your pasta for about 3 minutes under the recommended time on the packet in a large pot of salted boiling water.  Drain the pasta and place back in the pot, then pour the sauce over the pasta.  Stir with a large spoon to combine and transfer the mixture to a large baking dish.  Scatter over the parmesan cheese and tear the bocconcini balls over the top.  Sprinkle over some dried oregano and bake in a 180°C oven until golden and bubbling.  Remove the Beef Cheek & Porcini Pasta Bake from the oven and allow to rest for a good 10 minutes before serving with a fresh green salad and crusty bread.  This dish pairs beautifully with a nice bold Cab Sav or Shiraz.