Babe, I’m on Fire: Braised Short Ribs with Horseradish Gremolata and Pumpkin Orzo

Damn, I’m good. Well: either I’m good or I choose very doable, readable recipes. Or I have really good cooking equipment. Or maybe not: maybe I’m just smokin’, I’m so hot. Check it out:

I made this. This is not something I got from a restaurant, I got this from me: from my cutting, braising, stirring and slicing. Ok, there was a little help from Diana (she came over Saturday to eat this and to watch “Crash”) but by the time she got here, the short ribs were already in the oven.

At the risk of being too humble, let me say it like this: if you have a Dutch Oven or a heavy-bottomed skillet you can make this too. It’s so easy. And it’s NOT expensive. Two beef short ribs from Whole Foods cost me $8. The rest of the ingredients were all cheap vegetables with the exception of the bottle of red wine which, hopefully, you have laying around somewhere. The recipe comes from the Babbo cookbook and the results are as good as anything I’ve eaten at Babbo which is saying a lot because I consider Babbo the best restaurant I’ve ever been to ever so do not take that statement with a grain of salt. Take it with a box of Kosher Salt and dump it on your head. It’s really good for the roots.

This may be difficult. I want to share the recipe with you here, but the problem is that there’s the recipe for the Braised Short Ribs and then there’s the recipe for the Pumpkin Orzo and these are on two different pages. What I will do is combine them into one recipe because while the short ribs are in the oven you can start the orzo, which is what I did. Are you ready? Here’s what you’ll need…

For the shortribs…

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 16-ounce beef short ribs [NOTE: I bought two, one for me and one for Diana and that was plenty. Basically buy as many ribs as there are people.]

Kosher Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

2 carrots, peeled and roughly chop [NOTE: because I used half the amount of short ribs, I halved some of this stuff too. I didn’t halve the amount of liquid so this may get confusing. I’ll just share the recipe as Mario wrote it and you can make these choices by yourself.]

1 onion, roughly chopped

2 celery stalks, roughly chopped

5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced


2 cups Barolo or other full-bodied red wine (I didn’t use Barolo, I used Chianti because it was cheaper)

1 16 oz can peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand with their juices

1 cup brown chicken stock [I used boxed chicken stock and it was fine]

1/2 bunch of thyme

1/2 bunch of rosemary

1/2 bunch of oregano

[I tied the herbs together, to make them easier to remove.]


1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

2. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over high heat until smoking. Season the ribs with salt and pepper…


…and cook them over high heat until deep brown on all sides, about 15 minutes total.


[Note: Mario emphasizes in the recipe intro that “the most important step here is the initial browning: do not shorten it or the final braise will not be as intensely flavored or colored.” I cannot agree with him more… when I made beef Bourgignon in the past, the end product was bland and I’m entirely sure it was due to not browning the meat enough. Here, I browned for the full 15 minutes and you can SEE the results here: it makes a huge difference. Brown that meat!]


Remove the short ribs to a plate and set aside.


Add the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic to the pan and cook over high heat until browned and softened, about 4 minutes.


Season with salt and pepper and stir in the red wine, tomatoes and juices, chicken stock, and herbs, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge browned bits.


Bring the mixture to a boil and return the short ribs to the pan.


Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven. Cook for two hours or until the meat is very tender and literally falling off the bone.

Ok, now let’s start the Pumpkin Orzo!

You need:

1/2 lb butternut squash or pumpkin, seeded and peeled

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tbs honey

2 Tbs balsamic vinegar

1 cup orzo

1 cup brown chicken stock

1. Cut the squash or pumpkin into 3 or 4 evenly sized pieces. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with the olive oil and wrap in foil.


Roast in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes or until very soft. Rmove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.


Place the cooked squash in the bowl of a food processor. Add the honey, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper


and pulse to for m a relatively smooth puree.


[Note: this tastes delicious, by the way. Just thought you should know.]

Set aside.

2. Bring 3 qts of water to a boil and add 2 Tbs of salt. Set up an ice bath nearby. Cook the orzo in the boiling water for 3 minutes, to blanch but not cook through.


Drain the orzo and plunge it into the ice bath. Once cooled, drain it and lay it out on a baking sheet to dry.


3. Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a 12-inch saute pan. Add the orzo and the squash puree and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until the chicken stock is fully absorbed by the orzo. Season with salt and pepper.


[Try to time it so this finishes right when the short ribs come out of the oven.]

Make the gremolata… {What’s a gremolata? Anyone? Anyone?}

In a small bowl, combine 1 bunch of flat-leat parsley, zest of 2 lemons cut into julienne strips and 1/4 lb fresh horseradish grated. Here’s Diana with the horseradsih:


[This was my first non-jarred horseradish. I feel so earthy!]

Here’s Diana grating it into a small bowl with the parsley and lemon:


[I think, for the horseradish alone, the gremolata is worth making: horseradish and meat go wonderful together. Give it a try.]

Now, let’s bring it all together…

This is the most glorious moment that comes with cooking something like this: the moment it comes out of the oven. For two hours it’s been quietly simmering, its chemical properties changing, its muscle fibres loosening… what will it look like? Let’s remove the aluminum foil!


Mmm: that picture says it all. It fills me with wonder and excitement: this is what cooking is all about. This is why you cook at home. For this, moments like this. Cue Kelly Clarkson: “For a MOMENT LIKE THIS…”

The final step is: “Divide the pumpkin orzo evenly among four warmed bowls. Place one short rib in each bowl, top with a little of the pan juices and a handful of the gremolata, and serve immediately.”


If you’re a meat-eater, and I pray you are, I urge you to give this recipe a try, if only for the pure visceral thrill of lifting that foil and inhaling those heavenly, meaty, stewy vapors. It causes me to open the book I started reading last night–“The Vintage Guide to Classical Music”–to share with you this quote about what makes great classical music great, but I think it works just as well for a great recipe: “Greatness and genius–like love and compassion and joy and God, and most of the supremely important things in life–are vague and indefinable, more complex than we will ever be able to fathom, acting in mysterious ways spread tenuously across history and measureless numbers of people.”

I’m not a great cook, but this recipe is a great recipe. Give it a try.

38 thoughts on “Babe, I’m on Fire: Braised Short Ribs with Horseradish Gremolata and Pumpkin Orzo”

  1. Great post, Adam! I will be making this one as soon as possible… Mario would be proud, this is a great promotion for his cookbook.

  2. I was searching for a good beef short rib recipe, and this one looks fabulous. But the orzo prep seems overly involved. Is all that blanching, draining, plunging, draining, and drying really necessary? When I make this I think I will just sautee the raw orzo in the chicken broth for a couple of minutes (with a little extra broth or water)and then add the pureed squash. I can’t imagine that the final result could be very different. Could it?

  3. If you’re planning ahead, it’s a good idea to marinate the short ribs in the wine overnight. The acids in the wine help break down the tough fibrousness of the meat, making it come out even more tender, and it adds some more flavor. Also, I usually braise my shortribs at 300 or 325 degrees for 3-4 hours, which also makes them more tender.

    And if you’re feeling especially adventurous, try adding 1/2 cup of coffee or about an ounce of chopped unsweetened chocolate to the cooking liquid, for an even richer, deeper flavor… It sounds crazy, but it’s fantastic.

  4. This looks like a wonderful dish. I’ve made short ribs lots of times, and they are always deeply satisfying. You might think about making more than just one rib for each person — like many braises, they’re far better the second or even the third day. I always make enough for leftovers — and I often cook them in advance.

    I’ve only ever made the gremolata for osso bucco, which is just garlic, parsley, and lemon zest. But horseradish sounds delish.

  5. I don’t want to be rude but…

    What do others think about Diana and that Horseraddish? I have to say that I thought of another type of horse, a stallion, or more specifically a part thereof!

  6. That’s a huge piece of horseradish! What the hell did you do with the rest of it? BTW – I was at Otto tonight and I swear I saw you on your way out, but wasn’t sure. I love going there, the only thing I hate is the wait.

  7. I am making this Sunday. It looks too good not to try! My wife hates all things pumpkin so I will probably make some mashed potatoes or risotto with it.

  8. This looks so good. I’ve only done short ribs using a slow cooker, browning them first and throwing all sorts of veggies on. I guess it’s time for a Dutch Oven…Do you think this would work in a slow cooker? Thanks for the recipes, I’m going to try them tomorrow!

  9. gidget bananas

    The Silver Palate cookbook has a wonderful recipe for braised short ribs too — I’m going to eat the last of a batch I made today. I second the recommendation that you make extra, or, if you have the time and iron willpower, make the dish a day ahead so the flavors can marry. You can also skim some of the fat off the sauce if it’s made ahead of time, to make the dish marginally healthier.

    The orzo sounds great, but a simple side of noodles with butter and parsley is great too; the better to soak up the to-die-for sauce.

  10. Thanks for the insiration Adam! I just fixed this meal tonight at a birthday dinner party for my Mom’s 52! My grandfather, VERY VERY picky older gentleman that he is, commented, “That’s the most tender meat I’ve ever put in my mouth.” Guess I did well! Thanks again!

  11. this is my first time on your site, and i must say, you rock. listening (reading) to you talk (write) about food is almost as good as thinking about it myself. you took the words right out of my head and put them on my tongue. delicious. truly, delicious.

  12. I am recovering from surgery today, and all i have been thinking about is making a big dinner that will take a long time to cook (so the apartment will smell warm and “homey” for hours), and I saw a Food Network show about short ribs and thought “perfect!”…but, I needed a recipe that did not call for pancetta (or any pork, for that matter) so I googled “kosher short ribs” and found your site…just reading the recipe and process and taking in the steps via the photos made me feel better! So thank you for a great recipe, and a great feeling when i really need it!

  13. Hello- I am a pretty darned cook…..this recipe is excellent. The orzo is phenomenal, unexpected! I thought it may be too sweet, however, it is perfect. You are absolutely right about browning the ribs adequately…..My house smells heavenly right now. Thank you, Jane

  14. i’m in florida on biz and i’m cooking short ribs for my relatives but i just needed to re-check babbo’s recipe…and your site came up! Great site! It’s a joy to see people passionate about food this way.

  15. I found a very similar recipe that I’m going to try out. both yours and the other recipe said that once the ribs are ready to go into the oven, to top the pan off with foil. I’m using a le creuset dutch oven for my cooking. Can I just top it off with the oven’s lid?

  16. Adam – Short ribs are my favourite cut and I braise them regularly. Have you tried adding some fresh horseradish (a smidgin) to the braising liquid. You’ll be happy with the results!!

  17. Adam-Googling for a different version of a pork short rib dins as I’m doing that tonight (Friday). Came across this recipe and am DEFINETELY doing this soon (got it bookmarked). A great dish for company especially this time of year (november) and living in Montreal–wheeee cold !!

    PS. the pics and layman chat is quite excellent and entertaining also…Thx again.Blair

  18. I plan to try this, probably sans horseradish, since I have none.

    I do agree on two prior comments:

    1) 375 degrees is too hot, 250-300 would be ideal. At 375 the cells in the meat will burst and release their fluid into the braising liquid. You will get tougher meat (but better sauce).

    2) I think the orzo preparation would do just fine browning the orzo and then adding some stock.

  19. After dining on braised short ribs many times in restaurants convinced i could not have the same amazing taste sensations at home, i found your recipe and cooked up a batch. I have to say this is quite possibly the most delicious one pot meal ever! Thanks for a great post!

  20. dude, i appreciate your gusto and love for the braise. i too savor that moment. and the quote at the end is lovely. a juxtaposition of poetry and the short rib.

  21. I just made the short ribs and my bf is now my slave for life. Thanks for the recipes and the pics were very helpful. BTW, I strained the vegetables and spices from the liquid, added a dollop of sour cream and it was great.

  22. I just wanted to say who cares about the ribs and the pumpkin orzo….anything would taste good with a beautiful woman like you cooking it.

  23. Wow! Looks like a great recipe. I am going to make the short ribs tonight. The pictures are fantastic and seem to make the whole process foolproof. Thanks for the great effort.

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