Weekend Braised Beef Ragu with Pappardelle
A simple weekend braised beef ragù that is perfect for a warming Sunday supper. Just set it up and let it slowly simmer all day until the meat is fall-apart tender. It’s seriously the most comforting meal!
Just another comfort food obsession here that I’d like to share with you folks!
Warm braised beef ragu that has been slow-simmered with onions, garlic, San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil, and my absolute favorite ingredient in a homemade Sunday sauce – parmesan rind. The meat soaks up all those flavors and just easily falls apart when you shred it with a fork. Saucy, tender, and best when served over pappardelle pasta. Bellissimo!
It’s my favorite kind of meal to make on the weekends. Sometimes I’ll get a head start on Friday and let the braised beef ragu simmer all day long until it’s fall-apart tender. Then I’ll let it cool and hang out in the refrigerator until Sunday. We’ll put together warm bowls of this stuff for Sunday dinner, and something about the magic of slow-simmering the sauce and letting it hang out in the fridge makes this so much more irresistible. The flavors truly have a chance to blend and are so harmonious through and through; all there, just dancing on the tip of your tongue!
And let me just say this. Whether it’s raining, snowing, or there’s just a hint of chill in the air, all of these just add to the vibe I’m going for with this hearty yet comforting meal.
Making beef ragu is easy:
What is a Ragù?
Ragù is a meat-based sauce often made with veal, lamb, beef, or pork. Sometimes a combination of these meats is used. Ragù has a tomato-based sauce and is often slow-simmered with aromatic herbs. Often served over pappardelle, tagliatelle, or spaghetti.
What do you need to make braised beef Ragù?
- Beef: When I first shared this recipe years ago, I had only tested it with a chuck roast. But since then, I’ve also tried it with an eye of round roast – both work well,l but I do find that if you switch from the chuck to an eye of round, it does significantly increase the amount of time needed to braise the ragù.
- Onions + Garlic: the minced onions and garlic are the heart and soul of this sauce. When slow-simmered, they add so much flavor to the sauce.
- Beef broth: I like to use all beef broth for my ragù. However, you can replace some of the stock with red wine as well.
- Tomato products: In a ragù, I really like to pack a punch with my tomato products. So for this recipe, I use tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, and diced tomatoes. The crushed tomatoes, along with tomato paste, make the sauce hearty, and the diced tomatoes are there for texture and pops of brightness.
- Balsamic Vinegar: This is my secret ingredient! The flavor of balsamic vinegar in this recipe takes it to 100. It adds a deep aged flavor to the sauce where you feel like a little an Italian nonna hand-delivered a batch of homemade sauce to your kitchen!
- Aromatics: I use bay leaves, basil, fresh thyme, and some chopped parsley for topping the ragù with before serving.
- Parmesan Rind: The rind is the portion of the parmesan’s protective outer layer. I save this portion every time I buy a block of parmesan cheese in a baggie in my freezer for soups, stocks, and homemade ragù!
- Seasonings: we’ll need a good bit of salt, sugar, and some red pepper flakes to season the sauce with.
How to make the best braised beef ragù:
- Season and develop flavor. The first step is to cut the chuck roast down into pieces. Season generously with salt and pepper and sear the meat in a large cast-iron skillet until caramelized and seared on all sides. Then, remove the meat to a plate and saute the onions and garlic until they pick up all that delicious fond left behind by the meat. We’ll saute the tomato paste in the oil to help bloom the flavors and then deglaze the pan with broth to cream the base of this ragù.
- Simmer. Once the pan has been deglazed, we’ll add balsamic vinegar, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, parmesan rind, bay leaves, fresh thyme, basil, sugar, red pepper flakes, place the seared meat back in the dutch oven, and allow the sauce to gain a simmer. Cover and let it cook on the lowest setting until the meat easily shreds with two forks. I usually shred the meat and then let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes to soak up more flavor. Feel free to skim any excess fat off the top. We always serve it warm over a bed of pappardelle.
What is Fond? Fond is the stuff that sticks to your pan once you’ve browned the meat. Deglazing is the technique where an acidic element (such as stock, broth, wine, or vinegar) is added to pick up all the browned bits left in a pan. You can use the fond to make a sauce once you introduce liquids to the pan.
If you like this recipe, you might also like:
- Weeknight Instant Pot Risotto
- Spicy Shrimp Pasta
- Chocolate Caprese Cake
- Italian Wedding Soup
- Roasted Garlic Italian Couscous Salad
- Eggs in Purgatory
- Homemade Minestrone Soup
- Warm & Cozy Italian Meatball Soup
Original recipe shared Nov. 2016, updated with new pictures and easier directions Feb. 2021.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 - 2½ pounds chuck roast, cut into 4 pieces
- 1 medium onion, chopped finely
- 6-8 cloves of garlic, pressed
- 1¼ cup beef broth
- 2 tablespoons EACH: tomato paste AND balsamic vinegar
- 1 (28-ounce can) crushed tomatoes
- 1 (14-ounce can) diced tomatoes
- parmesan rind (optional)
- 2 bay leaves + a few sprigs of fresh thyme
- a large bunch of basil (a handful or so, no need to be exact)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼-½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- pappardelle, parsley, and parmesan cheese for serving
- Season the chuck roast pieces with salt and pepper all over. Heat the oil in a large, dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the beef into the pot and allow it to sear on each side for roughly 5-7 minutes or until browned, remove the beef to a plate. Add another drizzle of oil if the pan needs it. Saute the onions for 4-5 minutes or until translucent, stirring as needed so that they don't burn. Add the garlic and let cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and allow it to cook, stirring frequently for 1 minute.
- STOVE TOP: Deglaze the pan with beef broth. Scraping with a wooden spoon to loosen anything that might be stuck on. Add the balsamic vinegar, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, parmesan rind, bay leaves, fresh thyme, basil, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Allow the sauce to gain a simmer, stir once. Cover and lower the heat to the lowest setting and let cook for 2 ½ - 5 hours or until the meat easily shreds with two forks. You may need to add a splash of water or broth if too much evaporates or if your beef is taking longer to cook. Mine took about 3 hours to get the meat to just fall apart. I shredded the beef and then let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes in the sauce. Season with salt to taste. Feel free to skim any excess fat off the top and remove the parmesan rind, bay leaves, and basil leaves before serving. Serve over pappardelle with a sprinkle of parsley and freshly grated parmesan.
- SLOW COOKER: Transfer the meat, sauteed onions, garlic, and tomato mixture to a slow cooker. Add all the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker (except those for serving.) Cover and let cook on the low setting for 6-8 hours. Check for doneness around 6 hours, using two forks to shred the meat. You'll know it's done when it falls apart easily. Season with salt to taste. Feel free to skim any excess fat off the top and remove the parmesan rind, bay leaves, and basil leaves before serving. Serve over pappardelle with a sprinkle of parsley and freshly grated parmesan.
- Beef: You can also use eye of round roast in this recipe, however, I do find that it takes close to 6 hours for the meat to be fall-apart tender. You'll also need to check the liquid around the 4th hour and add more stock/water. Also, cooking times may vary if using grass-fed/organic beef.