My Beef Ragu recipe cooks for hours until the beef is incredibly tender and flavorful. Serve it with pappardelle pasta for a hearty and impressive dinner! Recipe includes a how-to video!
Beef Ragu with Pappardelle
This cozy and satisfying beef ragu recipe is inspired by my late Italian great-grandmother’s family-famous fettuccine. While I should preface this recipe with the fact that this is not her recipe (sadly, I don’t have it), she did teach me what good Italian food should taste like, and this is most definitely it.
My version is rich, thick, hearty, and warm-you-straight-down-to-your-toes satisfying. It is *perfect* cold weather comfort food, and takes only 30 minutes to prep before going in the oven. You’ll love how tender the meat gets after cooking for hours, (much like with my beef stew).
If you’re intimidated about cooking a roast–don’t be. We’ll be breaking it down into smaller pieces and searing on the stove for just a few minutes before the oven does the rest. This is a mostly hands-off recipe, and great for preparing in advance! I highly recommend serving with some garlic knots or breadsticks for the full stick-to-your-ribs experience.
One note before we begin: Do not use a non-enameled cast iron pot! The iron will react with the tomato sauce and will make the final dish taste distinctly metallic after cooking all that time. I’ve learned this the hard way 🙁
What You Need
This beef ragu is a flavor explosion of carefully-selected ingredients, including:
- Beef. Chuck roast is the best choice here. It shreds nicely and becomes super tender and flavorful after cooking for a few hours.
- Veggies. We use a mirepoix; carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and tomatoes. We’ll also throw in some herbs including bay leaves and thyme.
- Red wine vinegar. It’s Imperative (Yes, capital “I” — it’s very important!) that you cook down the red wine vinegar as indicated, otherwise your beef ragu will have a vinegary taste. When cooked properly, it improves the tenderness of the beef and makes the sauce rich and flavorful. Cook it until you can no longer smell the acidity when you waft the steam from the pot towards you. When in doubt, always opt to cook for more time rather than less.
- Pasta. I like to use thick pappardelle or tagliatelle noodles or even fettuccine. Broad noodles are best for this type of sauce.
SAM’S TIP: If you don’t want to use vinegar, a dry red wine (like merlot) could be used instead. You can increase this to ½ cup, but still reduce it on the stovetop as indicated.
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Beef Ragu
- Sear the meat – Season your beef with salt and pepper, then sear it over medium high heat until browned on all sides. Remove the beef to a plate.
- Cook the veggies – Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter. Once melted, toss in the carrots, celery, and onion and cook until softened.
- Create a flavorful base – Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then stir in the tomato paste.
- Deglaze the pan – Add the red wine vinegar, scraping the pan as you do to incorporate any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Cook until the vinegar is 50% reduced and no longer has a pungent odor.
- Add the remaining ingredients – Stir in the beef broth, tomatoes, water, and crushed red pepper. Once simmering, add the beef and herbs.
- Cover and cook – Cover the pot with a lid and cook at 350F for 3 hours.
- Test for doneness – Once the beef is tender, remove it to a plate.
- Create the sauce – Mash the vegetables in the pot until smooth.
- Shred the meat – Shred the beef, then return it to the pot. Taste test for seasoning.
- Enjoy! Toss with cooked pasta and top with grated parmesan, or serve as desired.
SAM’S TIP: If you plan to serve your beef ragu with noodles, save some of the pasta water! It helps the sauce cling beautifully to the noodles. If you’re tossing everything together, I also recommend just starting with ¾ lb of noodles (as the noodles absorb a lot of the sauce) and only add more if needed.
Frequently Asked Questions
I prefer a broad pasta noodle like pappardelle, fettuccini, or tagliatelle. You could also do rigatoni, gnocchi, or cavatappi. If you don’t want to serve your beef ragu over pasta, any other grain could work (like polenta!) or you could even serve it over mashed potatoes.
A beef cut that shreds nicely is best; for me, that’s chuck roast. Brisket could also work, but it’s not my favorite choice here. As a bonus, chuck roast is generally pretty inexpensive, and while it’s a tough cut of meat, the long, slow cooking process makes it unbelievably melt-in-your-mouth tender by dinnertime.
Yes! Beef ragu will keep in the freezer in an airtight container for several months. To thaw, let sit in the fridge overnight before reheating.
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
- 3 lb (1.4 kg) chuck roast patted dry and cut into fist-sized pieces
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon butter salted or unsalted
- 2 (154 g) carrots chopped (about 1 heaping cup)
- 2 (112 g) celery stalks chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 (185 g) medium yellow onion diced (about 1 ½ cup)
- 1 ½ Tablespoons minced garlic about 5-6 cloves
- 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
- ⅓ cup (78 ml) red wine vinegar may substitute a dry red wine
- 2 cups beef broth may substitute chicken broth or chicken stock
- ¼ cup (60 ml) water
- 28 oz (794 g) crushed tomatoes
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper optional
- 2-3 fresh thyme springs or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 12 oz-1 lb (375-500 g) Pappardelle or preferred pasta for serving
- Parmesan cheese for serving
- Large enameled Dutch Oven with lid (I do not recommend using cast iron that is not enameled)
- Arrange rack to center of oven and preheat oven to 350F (165C).
- Season beef on all sides with salt and pepper.3 lb (1.4 kg) chuck roast, 1 teaspoon table salt, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Heat oil in a large enameled Dutch oven over medium/high heat. Once oil is shimmering, add beef and sear on all sides until deep brown in color (once you place the beef in the pot, let it sit for about 2-3 minutes before touching/turning it so you get a nice sear). After searing, remove to a plate and set aside. There should be lots of browned bits on the bottom of the pot – leave those, they’re great for flavor.2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Reduce heat to medium. Add butter to the pot and, once melted, add carrot, celery, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened (about 3-5 minutes).1 Tablespoon butter, 2 (154 g) carrots, 2 (112 g) celery stalks, 1 (185 g) medium yellow onion
- Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant (about 30 seconds).1 ½ Tablespoons minced garlic
- Add tomato paste and stir until well-incorporated with veggies.3 Tablespoons tomato paste
- Deglaze the pan by slowly pouring in red wine vinegar and scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any brown bits. Cook until the vinegar is reduced by about 50% and the steam from the pot no longer has a pungent vinegar odor.⅓ cup (78 ml) red wine vinegar
- Add beef broth, water, crushed tomatoes, and crushed red pepper (if using). Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.2 cups beef broth, ¼ cup (60 ml) water, 28 oz (794 g) crushed tomatoes, ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Return beef to the pot and add bay leaves and thyme (make sure they are submerged), cover with lid, and transfer to the oven.2-3 fresh thyme springs, 2 dried bay leaves
- Cook for 3 hours or until beef is extremely tender and may be easily shredded with a fork (but don’t shred it yet).
- Remove beef from the pot. Use a potato masher to break up the vegetables in the pot (for a smoother sauce, use an immersion blender, but I like mine a bit heartier). Shred the beef and return to the pot. Taste-test and add additional salt/pepper as needed.
- Serve as desired, I like to serve mine over pappardelle. If you’d like to toss the noodles with the bolognese sauce, reserve a bit of the pasta water (about ½ cup) and add it into the sauce with the noodles and simmer over low heat for several minutes until thickened and clinging to the noodles before serving. Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.12 oz-1 lb (375-500 g) Pappardelle or preferred pasta, Parmesan cheese
Slow CookerFor best flavor in a slow cooker, I recommend first following steps 1-7 then transferring everything (beef, veggies/vinegar in pot and remaining ingredients) to the slow cooker and cooking for 7-8 hours on low or 5 hours on high. Don’t skip the steps or the sauce will be thin and vinegary tasting.
StoringStore in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for several months.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.