Beef and Noodles Italiano is a hearty two-pot-one-meal pasta dish with vaguely Italian sensibilities. Adapted from a 1964 community cookbook published by the St. Louis Symphony, Beef and Noodles Italiano has a little bit of a fancy company vibe to it, in keeping with the mildly patrician sensibilities of the rest of the book. The recipe run counter to the quick-and-easy casserole theme of the 1960s, opting instead for slow-simmered beef and fresh vegetables in a rich basil-scented gravy. There’s still a convenient one-pot feel to the final preparation, elevated by the use of quality ingredients.
Among those “premium” ingredients is an unusual concoction called Kitchen Bouquet, an unsung hero of the kitchens of yesteryear. For the uninitiated, Kitchen Bouquet is kind of like a thick, syrupy food coloring for gravy. According to the internet Kitchen Bouquet is caramel color and a veggie-based bouillon. I know it as the stuff that my grandma used to make the dark brown gravy for her Swiss steak. Like chipped beef and Cheez Whiz it’s no longer a kitchen staple, but I’ve never had a problem finding it at local grocery stores.
Preparation is straightforward. Brown strips of round steak in oil, then simmer in red wine with Kitchen Bouquet, dried basil, and pepper. The simmering process produces a thin gravy with a deep coffee-colored hue and rich beefy backbone. Mushrooms and green beans are added halfway through, then combined with cooked pasta.
I’ve made a couple of adjustments to the recipe and have some either/or recommendations in the comments. The original recipe calls for round steak, which is inexplicably expensive at the moment. I substituted instead thick strips of sirloin steak, which was several dollars per pound cheaper. Any lean cut of beef will work fine. Whenever possible I try to use fresh mushrooms instead of canned. Fresh mushrooms were hard to come by in the 1960s. These days they’re cheap and easy. The original recipe calls for frozen green beans, which in my area are usually better quality than fresh. If you choose to use fresh beans add them later in the cook, about ten minutes left in the simmering.
The cookbook recommends serving Beef and Noodles Italiano with “hot French bread and a salad”, a worthy recommendation. I served it as a standalone meal with nothing more than some fresh-grated Parmesan and ground black pepper. There were plenty of green vegetables, and the bread seemed like overkill for a carb-heavy dish. In the future I’ll add more vegetables, and serve with sliced tomatoes to add a hint of acid. Either way this is a nice way to switch up pasta night. Enjoy!
- 3 lbs round steak (or other lean cut)
- 6 tbsp neutral cooking oil
- garlic salt
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 cup water
- 2 tsp Kitchen Bouquet (see note for substitutions)
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 8 oz sliced mushrooms
- 16 oz frozen green beans
- 1 lb mostaccioli or penne (cooked as per package directions)
- Slice round steak into half-inch thick strips. Season liberally with garlic salt. Heat cooking oil in a large, deep skillet and brown beef strips deeply on both sides, working in batches as needed.
- Add steak back to pan and cover with liquid ingredients and seasoning. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes.
- Add mushrooms and frozen green beans. Return to a boil, then simmer, covered, for 20 minutes more. (If using fresh green beans add them ~10 minutes after adding the mushrooms)
- When finished, fold in the pasta and toss gently to combine. Serve with parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper to taste.
Gravy Master is another brand name product similar to Kitchen Bouquet. If you are unable to find either substitute 2 tbsp of soy sauce, and season the beef with garlic powder rather than garlic salt.