Short Rib Ragu is a fragrant and flavorful meat based Italian sauce which uses the cooking method of browning, seasoning and searing to lock in the flavors. Slow cooked in the oven with a rich red wine and tomato sauce, fresh and dried herbs, this meat is not only fall-off the bone delicious, it's also as tasty as this Creamy Beef Ragu And Pasta
What is Ragu?
A ragu is an Italian based sauce, that's first. In a broader response, it's also a rich and slowly cooked Italian meat sauce. That's it.
Okay let's add more to the question "What is a Ragu?" It's an intense Italian (a fitting description indeed) flavorful slow cooked sauce that's traditionally served with pasta, gnocchi or polenta.
Short Rib Ragu
This is comfort food at its best. Slow cooked fall apart meat, which I love serving on the weekend with polenta, mashed potato or pappardelle. Hearty and flavor based, much like our other Italian recipes on the blog. Since we are on the topic of serving, let's quickly talk about the pasta which is in the beef ragu and not under the ragu.
What's The Best Pasta To Serve With Beef Ragu?
Even though you can use spaghetti, linguine, shells, fettucine, ziti/penne even macaroni, this slow cooked beef ragu sauce will be best with pappardelle. Pappardelle is made to mop up every inch of not just the sauce but the shredded beef.
So many people spend time and patience waiting for the beef ragu and then plonk it over the pasta???? No, please make sure that you let these two become one. The pappardelle is waiting to mop up the rich and delicious sauce, so in the last few minutes of the pasta cooking time (even 2 minutes) get that pasta in there.
How To Finish Short Rib Ragu
Transfer the cooked pasta directly into the low simmering ragu sauce, making sure to toss or as I like to say 'fold it in'. You know, this is such a beautiful dish and for me to say 'toss it in' I feel like I'm talking about a salad. It's a Beef Ragu. It takes time and you must have patience but its both rewarding and in that we grow. Did you know that learning something is growth? Cooking a new dish, cooking the same dish but a different way, the process, the time, it teaches us more than just cooking. Anyway, you get the gist of what I'm saying right, and maybe for another day 🙂
Point is, the ragu must coat the pasta all round and if you find that it's too thick, pour in some pasta water to thin it out, if it's too loose, add about a half a cup of grated parmesan cheese. Have it on low simmer so that the pasta and beef ragu can have a conversation, they can marry and absorb the sauce.
What Cut of Meat To Use For Beef Ragu?
This recipe uses beef short rib, other great cuts of meat for beef ragu are beef chuck roast and beef brisket. All great choices for slow cooking.
What Makes A Ragu A Ragu?
Ragu is a meat-based sauce where traditionally, pieces of meat and a soffritto are slow cooked in a beef stock and red wine.
Can A Ragu Be Made With Any Meat?
Yes, you can use any meat that is good for a slow braising type of cooking. Chicken, lamb, wild boar and yes, short ribs.
Ingredients For Short Rib Ragu
Short Rib: We use bone-in or boneless since they are both the same meat and our family is very divided on this (it's an actual discussion). The boneless piece is cut from either the chuck of plate and without the bone. Personally, I think that the bone-in has a little more fat (so perhaps use less oil in the recipe) but my goodness it makes a good pot of beef ragu! Fat and bone always add incredible flavor. You remove the bones anyway to shred the meat.
Soffritto: Onion, Celery, Carrots, the base of a soffrito and how many Italian recipes start including most stew recipes.
What Is A Soffrito?
A soffritto is a a slow fry of vegetables. Essentially cooking the onion, carrots and celery on low heat for long. This in Italian cooking is known as building the flavor profile of the dish and its also how many Italian dishes start.
Garlic: This is added to the soffritto in this recipe. We use 5 cloves of minced garlic. If you prefer, you can use less.
Tomato Paste: It's concentrated so it adds depths of flavor and as I mentioned in my creamy beef ragu, I always add the tomato paste to the aromatics and not to a liquid as in after the stock/wine. It's a lot more effective in the aromatics you can see the soffritto come alive after the paste is added, love it!
Canned Tomatoes: Crushed, diced or whole is doesn't matter. I always use crushed and diced if I don't have whole. A good quality whole tomatoes carries a lot more richer tomato juice. It is not necessary to add the tomatoes to a food processor (but feel free if you prefer to do it that way). The ragu is in the oven or on the stove top for a minimum of 2 ½ hours, trust me when I tell you, they will no longer be whole. My only thing with crushed is they tend to have a lot of water if they are not great quality.
Red wine: A red wine that you won't mind drinking. Red wine and beef slow cook are a match made in heaven, the wine adds a boost to the sauce. There is simply nothing like a tomato slow cook and adding red wine adds such a boost to the flavor that you cannot get from stock and water. (true story).
Which Red Wine To Use With Beef Short Rib Ragu?
I always say merlot and beef are in a marriage, they go so well together! However, any red wine that you can drink, you can cook with. If you want to splash out a little then there are some great Italian wines if you are okay with sharing a cup with the ragu. I tend to go with Merlot and if not a merlot, then a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Beef Stock: Store bought or homemade. There are some great organic choices in store bought if you haven't made your own beef stock. You can also use chicken stock but like adding water, the taste and color will be different in the end dish. Still good, but different.
Pasta: This recipe uses pappardelle but you can use other pasta types. I have added more on this in the creamy beef ragu if you want to know, but essentially all pasta's work, pappardelle is just the best choice.
How To Make Short Rib Ragu
Quick Note: I used a Dutch-oven to but you can use any pot that's heavy and thick enough to retain heat and deep enough. You are going to be adding chunks of meat and liquid so it needs to be quite deep. It also need to be go into the oven with the lid, so oven friendly! You can also make beef ragu in a slow cooker and in an IP, I just havent got there yet and am not sure I will. The idea of a slow cook beef ragu is the part 'slow cook'.
The Method In How To Slow Cook Short Rib Ragu
Drying The Short Rib
You are not going to get a 'standing ovation' for not browning the meat. If your meat is not dry and you want a standing ovation, dry the meat! I mean it seriously, and I cannot express this part enough, dry the meat using kitchen tissue paper or towels. Ive also shared more on this in Creamy Beef Ragu And Pasta. I've shared more on this too in my creamy beef ragu because so many people continue 'being in a hurry' and skipping on this step, but no, it's important. Moisture or damp don't equal brown meat, simple.
Season with salt and pepper. I used this Salt and Pepper Basics. All in one perfect ratio of sea salt and fresh black pepper, we have one everywhere and everyone asks for it!
You've dried the beef short rib, seasoned it and now you are ready to sear.
Sear/Braise Short Ribs
Each step in making beef ragu is important. Browning creates the the flavor foundation, it's like building your home. It will fall down if the foundation is not good, same here, it will not taste good without the browning.
How Long Does It Take To Brown/Sear Short Rib
Does it hapen in 5 minutes or does it happen 2 to 3 minutes per side? You won't believe it but neither of those times apply. You know why? All our stoves are different and only you will know when your meat is brown enough and looks flavorful enough. That's how long it takes to brown meat. It happens when the meat is brown, properly brown, like this.
Add olive oil to the base of your Dutch oven/pot and let it heat up. Once the oil is hot, carefully add the short ribs to the pot. Cook until each side is a deep golden brown. Try not to over-crowd the pot and preferably cook them in batches so that there is even browning. Remember this process is all about locking in those flavors so cook the short ribs in batches and brown on both sides. This is the genius of Italian cooking where you need to use each step in a way that gives you maximum flavor in the end result. I'm sharing one of the images from the creamy ragu of this deep brown. I love this recipe so much because it speaks to my style of cooking. As an anosmic home cook, layering the flavors is all I've got. Flavor and color.
Once you've browned the meat and moved it to another plate or bowl you can get started on the soffritto.
If you've been following my blog or are part of our newsletter then you will know how intense I get about the soffritto! Seriously it needs to cook for as long as you can muster it, which is all of 20 minutes? Yes? Great! Sometimes (99%) I let it cook for 30 minutes on very low heat.
Making The Soffritto and Aromatics
Add the vegetables - onion, carrots and celery to the pot. Same pot with the oil where you browned the meat! Never wash the pot, keep the same oil, we are building flavor on flavor every step of the way!
My only suggestion here would be to remove some of the oil before adding the vegetables if you have too much oil in the pot. Leave about 3 tablespoons of oil for the soffritto to cook. Remember that we want to cook for 20 to 30 minutes so it needs the oil.
I always remove the oil and leave some behind but I hold onto the oil that I've removed just incase you notice that the soffritto needs more oil you have it in hand! Keep the heat on low to medium and if your soffritto is burning, lower the heat but keep it going.
Now things really start to get interesting..... and you can use a lot more garlic if your family loves garlic!
While the soffritto cooks, in the last 5 or so minutes of the cooking time, add the garlic let it cook into the soffritto for 2 minutes and then add the tomato. Mix and stir in the ingredients - soffritto, garlic, tomato for 2 to 3 minutes on low heat. By now you should have a thick sauce? Add the tomato paste and mix it in allowing it to cook in.
Tomato paste is concentrated and needs to cook in almost in caramelization so continue cooking for at least 10 minutes keeping the heat nice and low.
Why Cook The Tomato Paste With The Aromatics?
The soffritto gets to cook for 30 to 40 beautiful minutes by the time you've added the rest of the ingredients, and not only that, here's what happens.
The tomato paste caramalizes into the soffritto and garlic and the taste is off the charts DELICIOUS!
And now for my very own tip that's (not Italian) but so worth it.....
Curry Paste! Add the curry paste in with the tomato paste and spread it out with the back of a wooden spoon mixing and stirring it in. Let this cook for 5 minutes and my dear friends, this is what you get!
WORTH EVERY SECOND OF COOKING........!
With the browning done and locking in that flavor in both the searing and soffritto we are ready to take this Italian Slow Cook Short Rib Ragu to the next level!
Can You Freeze Short Rib
Yes you can definitely freeze short rib ragu if you have any leftovers that is! In the case that you do, do not discard, it tastes better the as it sits! Simply let it cool completely to room temperature before you transfer it to an airtight container. It will freeze and be safe to eat up to 3 months. Don't forget to take the time to mark the date on a sticker for the container or write it on the heavy duty freezer bag, using a bag. If you are like me, you won't remember when you put it there. I have learnt and now have everything marked. If it's in the freezer, there's a date!
Make Ahead Short Rib
This is a great recipe to make ahead because as always, it saves you time. Transfer the cooled sauce to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. It will stay good for about 4 days. When you ready, cook your pasta and serve. When I make my creamy beef ragu, I use the same method to make ahead, move the cooled rib ragu sauce to an airtight container. The next day, since everything is done, all I have to do is rewarm it on the stove and pour in the cream.
How To Save Pasta Water
Very easy! Wait for the pasta water to cool down, don't spill it, instead, pour it into a container or glass jar, seal and leave it in the fridge, done! To warm up beef ragu, simply take the water out the fridge as the beef ragu warms up (if you had left overs) and use of the pasta water that you need to create a sauce and enjoy all over again!
Deglaze and Layer The Short Rib Ragu Sauce
Here's what we need to deglaze;
- Red wine
- Beef stock
- Herbs and spices
Add the red wine and immediately start scraping up with a wooden spoon all the bits at the bottom of the pan.
Every step in this recipe is about building our flavor profile.
Add the tomato, beef stock and herbs and spices. You can chop up some fresh herbs or use kitchen twine to tie them and pop them into the beef ragu before it goes into the oven. We use both the fresh herbs and dried herbs. Fresh for aroma infusion while they are in the oven (then discard the fresh herbs) and dried herbs to enhance the umami flavors. Garlic and Herb + Involtini are the spices we use in beef ragu.
Always add the spices to the aromatics.
Stealing images from the newly updated Creamy Beef Ragu And Pasta
When To Add The Braised Short Ribs Back To The Ragu
When the short ribs have been seared, soffritto and aromatics cooked, tomato and wine have both enriched the sauce, it's time to bring those flavor packed seared short ribs back. Get all the short ribs, preferably with a pair of tongs comfortably into the pot snuggling into the ragu as you add them.
Place the lid on and into the oven it goes for 3 ½ to 4 hours until the meat is fall-apart, fall apaaarrrt tender! Check in at random points of the cooking process just to make sure that the liquid is still enough and it does need a dash more then add a little.
Can You Cook Ragu For 2 Hours?
How tender do you want the beef? Remember that this cut of meat lends itself easily to slow cooking and anything less than two and half hours will probably still be tough. Okay you may not need 3 ½ to 4 hours you could want to make my creamy beef ragu for 2 ½ to 3 hours, now that's something!
Pasta and Serving Preparation
- Remove the Dutch oven/pot from the oven and let it rest in the pot 5 minutes.
- Remove the meat into a plate or platter and this is where you get to decide if you want to remove all the bones or not. I remove half the bones because I prefer just the mouthwatering fall apart meat while my husband prefers bone in. Here we have a half/half situation of bone-in and bone taken out.
Top Tips For Short Rib Ragu
- The short ribs need to be dry so use kitchen tissue paper or a clean kitchen towel to get as much damp (moisture) from them as you can.
- You need 2 forks to pull the meat apart, seperate the meat from the bones and if you are serving just the meat then keep the bones, they make a great stock!
- Thick based pot or a Dutch oven that retains heat which will most likely be able to go into the oven as well if you are cooking these ribs in the oven. For a stove-top version of this beef ragu take a look at this Creamy Short Rib Ragu Recipe.
- When adding the cheese, add in parts instead of all at once, it makes a difference.
More Italian Recipes
Serve the short rib ragu and pasta with freshly grated Parmigiana (Parmesan cheese) and chopped fresh herbs or sprinkles of thyme. Serve warm and enjoy!
More Comfort Food Recipes
If you love this short rib ragu recipe then I'm sure that you will find something you love below!
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Short Rib Ragu, Slow Cooked (Oven)
Browning the beef
- 1 kg beef short rib
- 1 teaspoon salt and pepper
- 3 to 4 Tbsps. olive oil
- 1 onion finely diced
- 3 carrots medium to large or 4 small ones, finely diced
- 3 celery stalks finely diced
- pinch of salt
- 5 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp. Fresh thyme and rosemary see notes below We uses our soup & stew herbs & spices
- 140 grams tomato paste
- 2 tsps curry paste
- 1 cup red wine
- 410 grams canned tomato chopped/crushed
- 2 cups beef stock or water
- 500 grams pasta
- Parmesan cheese grated
- fresh thyme
- black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 160°C and place the rack in a lower position to fit your Dutch- Oven/pot.
Browning the Beef
- Dry the meat and season well with salt and black pepper. Heat the oil in a large thick based pan or Dutch oven and once the oil is hot carefully add the seasoned meat using a tongs and cook them till a deep brown color on either side. The time will depend on your stove, the amount of meat that you have in the pan and how brown and flavorful you want them, it can be 5 to 7 minutes or 10 to 20 minutes, depends.
- Remove the black bits in the surface of the oil from the burning of the black pepper (if any) and leave the remaining oil in there for the soffritto. If the oil is more than 2 to 3 tablespoons take some out. You can also remove the oil by soaking it up with kitchen tissue paper and discard.
Soffritto & Aromatics
- Add the onion, celery carrots and a pinch of salt. Cook on medium to low heat for 20 minutes. In the last 5 minutes add the garlic and continue cooking another 2 minutes. The soffritto should cook until it almost caramelizes and if it starts sticking to the pot, lower the heat.
- Add the herbs, spices and tomato, cook while stirring for 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and the curry paste, keep cooking and stirring for another 10 minutes until your sauce is thick.
- Add the wine, increase the heat and let it cook for roughly 10 minutes until most of the alcohol has cooked down. Add the beef stock or water, cover with the lid and place in the oven. Cook for 3 ½ hours checking once or twice to see if it needs water and only if it does, go with half a cup don't add too much water.
- Transfer the short rib to a plate, use two forks to remove the bone and shed the short rib. If you used whole herbs (see notes below) you can remove any visible bits and discard now.
- Cook the pasta according to packet instructions but stop cooking at least 2 minutes before the required time. With the beef ragu on simmer, transfer the pasta to the beef ragu. Do not drain the pasta, simply transfer directly to the ragu. It will come with specks of pasta water, that's good as the pasta water will help emulsify the sauce and create a creamy sauce without the actual cream. Add pasta water if you want your beef ragu thinner and add parmesan cheese if you want the ragu thicker.
- Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese, fresh black pepper and chopped fresh thyme.