1. Cut the beef into 4 pieces that are around the size of a baseball. The cook time of this recipe assumes you do this. In Australia, you can buy chuck and other slow cooking beef cut into cubes or into thick slices. If you use cubes, reduce the cooking time by 30 minutes, and just be mindful that it takes slightly longer to shred because you're working with lots of pieces of beef.
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 is optional! I don't often have celery lying around and also, sometimes I don't have the energy for the extra chopping!
3. 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.
You need a really large fry pan or dutch oven to make this using an entire 1lb/500g packet of pasta because you need the space to toss the sauce and pasta together with the pasta water. This is called "emulsifying" and it is a KEY secret to awesome pastas. Italian Nonna's will roll over in their graves if you don't do this! So if you don't have a large fry pan, do this step in two fry pans. I can't stress enough what a difference emulsifying makes to pastas!
5. To make this in a slow cooker or pressure cooker, follow recipe to the end of Step 4 on the stove (or if your slow cooker has a saute function, you can do it all in the slow cooker). Turn heat up to high, add wine, stir and simmer for 3 minutes. Then transfer it all to the slow cooker or pressure cooker, and add all remaining ingredients EXCEPT 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 following recipe.
6. 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. 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. Beef Ragu Nutrition analysis per serving of pasta with the sauce (assuming 1 packet of pasta + 5 cups of Ragu Sauce serves 6 people, as per the above recipe directions):