Rich, slow cooked Shredded Beef Ragu Sauce with pappardelle pasta. Stunning Italian comfort food at its best. www.recipetineats.com
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4.98 from 129 votes

Slow Cooked Shredded Beef Ragu Pasta

Recipe video above. Ragu is one of those recipes that really showcases the beauty of Italian cooking - everyday ingredients, fast prep, leave it to cook long and slow and you end up with a luscious dish that tastes like a million bucks. This recipe makes enough sauce to serve 8 and freezes great.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time2 hrs 50 mins
Course: Pasta, Slow Cooked
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Beef ragu, Ragu, Ragu Sauce, Slow Cooked Shredded Beef Ragu
Servings: 5 - 6 people
Calories: 678kcal
Author: Nagi | RecipeTin Eats

Ingredients

Ragu

  • 1.2kg / 2.5 lb chuck beef or other slow cooking beef cut, cut into equal 4 pieces (Note 1)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • Black pepper
  • 3 tbsp olive oil , separated
  • 3 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1 onion , diced
  • 1 cup carrots , diced (Note 2)
  • 1 cup celery , diced (Note 2)
  • 800g / 28oz crushed canned tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes , crumbled (Note 3)
  • 1 cup / 250ml red wine , full bodied (like merlot, cabernet sauvignon), or sub with beef broth/stock
  • 1 1/2 cups / 375 ml water (Note 3)
  • 3/4 tsp dried thyme or 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 dried bay leaves

To Serve (Not all Sauce is used)

  • 1 lb /500g dried pappardelle , or other pasta of choice (Note 4)
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese or parmigiano reggiano
  • Fresh parsley , finely chopped (optional)

Instructions

  • Pat beef dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper
  • Sear Beef: Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over high heat in a heavy based pot. Add beef and sear each piece aggressively on all sides until very browned (3 - 5 minutes in total), then remove onto a plate.
  • Turn stove down to medium low and add remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil.
  • Soffrito: Add garlic and onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Then add the carrots and celery and sauté slowly for 5 minutes.
  • Add remaining Ragu ingredients and return the beef to the pot (including pooled juices). Turn the stove up and bring it to a simmer, then turn it down to low so it's bubbling very very gently. (Note 7)
  • Slow cook: Cover the pot and let it cook for 2 hours or until beef is tender enough to shred. (Note 5 for slow cooker and pressure cooker).
  • Shred: Remove beef then coarsely shred with 2 forks. Return beef to the pot. Simmer for 30 minutes until sauce is reduced and thickened - beef will soften slightly more during this step.
  • Final season: Do a taste test and adjust the seasoning to your taste with salt and pepper. ALSO, add 1/2 tsp sugar if sauce is a bit sour for your taste (Note 6). Place the lid on and set aside until ready to serve (it's even better the next day and freezes well for months!).

To Serve (Note 4):

  • Bring a very large pot of water with 1 tbsp of salt to the boil.
  • Add pasta and cook for 1 minute less than the recommended cooking time as per the packet instructions.
  • Meanwhile, place 5 cups of the Ragu in a very large fry pan, dutch oven or use 2 normal size fry pans. Heat over high heat while the pasta is cooking.
  • When the pasta is ready, transfer it directly from the pot into the fry pan using tongs.
  • Add 3/4 cup of pasta water into the fry pan.
  • Gently toss the pasta (I use 2 wooden spoons) for 1 to 2 minutes, until the sauce water evaporates and leaves you with a thick Ragu sauce that coats the pasta.
  • Yell for your family to sit down at the dinner table because you need to serve it immediately!
  • Serve with plenty of freshly grated parmesan, or even better, with parmigiano reggiano.

Notes

1. Beef - Cut the beef into 4 pieces that are around the size of a baseball. The cook time of this recipe assumes you do this. 
2. Celery and carrots sautéed with the onions and garlic is called "soffritto" in Italian cooking. It is a very traditional base for many Italian dishes. Cooking them slowly over low heat releases their flavour and adds an extra dimension to this dish. But it's not a deal killer if you skip these ingredients.
3. Beef stock - You could use liquid beef stock instead of water + stock cubes.
4. Pappardelle pasta is the thick wide pasta and is ideal for this recipe because the shreds of beef cling to the thick pasta strands. If you can't find it, just use the widest pasta you can find eg tagliatelle, fettuccine.
Don't skip the step of tossing pasta with the sauce! This is called "emulsifying" and it is a KEY secret to awesome pastas because it makes the sauce cling to the pasta. Italian Nonna's will roll over in their graves if you don't do this! I can't stress enough what a difference emulsifying makes to pastas!
5. Slow Cooker & Pressure Cooker/Instant Pot - follow recipe to the end of Step 4 on the stove (or sauté function on your appliance). Turn heat up to high, add wine, stir and simmer for 3 minutes. Then transfer it all to the slow cooker or pressure cooker/IP, and add all remaining ingredients but DO NOT add water and extra salt & pepper.
Slow cook on low for 6 - 8 hours (i.e. 6 is enough, 8 hrs is fine, any more = beef turns to mush). Or pressure cook on high for 40 minutes. Shred beef then follow recipe.
6. Sugar - The sweetness of canned tomatoes differs depending on brand (typically more expensive = sweeter). So adjust the sweetness of your sauce to your taste by using sugar - 1/2 tsp at a time.
7. Low and slow - Turn the heat of the stove down to a level where it is bubbling very, very gently - a few bubbles here and there. This usually LOW on Gas Stoves but might be medium low on electric stoves. If it is too high - i.e. simmering rapidly (lots of bubbles appearing rapidly) - then you run the risk of the bottom burning. If it is too low, it will take longer to cook.
8. Recipe source: This recipe is based on classic slow cooked ragu recipes from Italian greats including Lidia Bastianich, Stafano Manfredi. It is not an exact replica of any, but is similar to many!
9. Storage - sauce keeps for 5 days in the fridge, or months in the freezer. 
10. Beef Ragu nutrition assuming sauce serves 8. Nutrition includes 80g / 2.7oz dried pasta per serving (standard quantity). Note: recipe as written uses 500g/1 lb pack of pasta which will serve 5 - 6 people.

Nutrition

Calories: 678kcal | Carbohydrates: 69g | Protein: 42g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 170mg | Sodium: 1451mg | Potassium: 1155mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 62.1% | Vitamin C: 16% | Calcium: 10.7% | Iron: 35.4%