A couple of months ago, I decided to finally stop at the ostrich meat stand at my local farmer’s market. I had passed by on numerous occasions, staring with amazement at the enormous off-white ostrich and speckled blue-green emu eggs adorning the stand’s table, thinking to myself that I would try the meat “next week.” So there I was, asking the ostrich farmer all about the ostrich. I learned a lot about ostrich meat that morning. In fact, I can’t recall all the interesting facts that gentleman explained to me about his animals, with heated passion. But, I did come away with the knowledge that ostrich meat is an anomaly, being the only “white” red meat. It looks like ground beef in color, but it cooks like poultry, which it is.
You don’t have to spend as much time cooking the meat as you would ground beef. For instance, if you’re making a pasta sauce with meat, you allow the base of the sauce to cook its normal amount of time, adding the ostrich meat in at the very end, and allowing it to cook for about 8-10 minutes only. Ostrich meat is a lovely alternative for those people who, for whatever reason, have sworn off red meat. It even contains less fat and cholesterol than chicken, and honestly, it imitates the taste of beef pretty well. Now for the cool factor, at least in my house: “What are we having for dinner, mom?”….. “Ostrich?!?”…..”Cool!” My son loves to learn about the food he’s about to consume, and when it happens to be something he’s not too familiar with, it provides us an opportunity to explain more about a certain animal or vegetable, which can lead to interesting dinner table conversations, to say the least!
The title of this recipe is obviously geared more towards children, but the ostrich sauce works well on any shaped pasta, not just orecchiette (aka: UFO). Of course you could tweak the spices, herbs, vegetables, and meat in the sauce to your liking. Experiment away!
For the sauce:
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 lg. carrot, peeled and chopped into small pieces
1 28 oz. can ground tomatoes
1 lb. ostrich meat
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves removed from stalk and finely chopped
2 bay leaves
small handful whole allspice berries (about 6)
1 whole cinnamon stick
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 olive oil, for sautéing
1/3-1/2 c. water
salt, pepper to taste
1/2 box Orecchiette “small ears” pasta
In a large sauté pan on medium-high heat, add the oil, onion, garlic, and carrot. Allow to cook until softened, about 5-6 minutes. Lightly salt and pepper the vegetables, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes, rosemary, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, and allspice berries. Add some water to thin the tomatoes out a bit. (But don’t drown the sauce!) Give it a good stirring, then lower the heat to the lowest setting possible; cover pan and allow to cook slowly for about 30-45 minutes. Once sauce has finished cooking, add the ostrich meat and cook for about 8-10 minutes. **If you are using another type of meat, such as beef, it should be added after the onion and garlic and cooked the entire time with the sauce.**
Meanwhile, bring a large stock pot, filled with water, to a rolling boil. Add 1 large spoon of coarse salt along with your pasta. Allow the pasta to cook according to package instructions. Drain and add 1-2 Tbl. butter to the cooked pasta; reserve. Remove the cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and allspice berries from the sauce. If you wish, add the pasta to the sauce pan, or, keep the pasta separated from the sauce. Serve with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and finely chopped parsley. Now you and your crew are ready for take off……..