When you want to treat yourself, try this unctuous and rich, slow-braised beef short rib ragu. It will melt in your mouth!
Stick to your ribs
Substantial pasta needs a substantial sauce. A sauce that will show some love by coating all the noodles with a hearty flavor. Deeply satisfying, a beef short rib ragu is the sauce for a big noodle like pappardelle. Slow-braised, the short ribs become melt in your mouth tender.
Layer the flavor
One of the key steps to develop savoriness in the ragu is to layer flavor. This will build complexity and depth in the sauce. The first step is rendering the fat in the pancetta. There will be a lot. But this gives you the chance to control how much will be in the final sauce. If you don't want pancetta, no big deal; try bacon.
Once you have finished rendering the pancetta, remove it from the pan. Now it is time to SEAR the short ribs, on all sides. Don't hurry this step. First, browning the meat carmelizes the surface and develops a rich flavor. Second, fond develops on the bottom of the pan, which is gold! Again think flavor development.
Lastly, the ribs are removed from the pan and the vegetables are sauteed until lightly browned. Tomato paste is added and combined with the vegetables. When the tomato paste is a rust color, you will again be adding a layer of caramelized flavor.
Add everything back to the pan along with thyme, bay leaves, red wine, and beef stock. Your hard work is over. Cover the pan and place in the oven for 2 ½ - 3 hours.
When the meat is fall off the bone tender, it is time to complete the sauce. Take the short ribs out of the pan. Remove the bones - super easy. Removing the fat cap on top, pull the meat away with a fork. You may want to remove some gristly fat within the meat fibers. How big you keep the pieces of meat is up to you. Some people want bigger chunks, some people prefer to have the meat in shreds.
Strain the remainder of the sauce in the pan. I remove some of the pancetta pieces off to the side. Also, remove the thyme stalks and the bay leaves. The vegetables and some of the pancetta are then put in the blender to puree. If need be add some of the cooking liquid to the blender to get the puree going.
Add the puree and the reserved pancetta back to the pan with the stock/wine and stir together. Once everything is a beautiful homogenous sauce, pop in the meat and give it a stir. So good!
Finishing touch #1
While any pasta would benefit from the addition of this ragu, pappardelle is often used. Add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and your meal is ready.
Finishing touch #2
There is a lovely tavern in my neighborhood that has a warm and inviting atmosphere, a wonderful list of craft cocktails and beer, and a hole in the wall counter for the kitchen next door. One of the most popular menu items is the short rib poutine. A nice switch from the usual bar burger.
As a nod to the very tasty poutine, I like to dress up a baked potato with some roasted carrots, crispy brussels sprout leaves, brie cheese, and a ladle full of ragu. All the roasty flavors!
When I want to treat myself, I make this beef short rib ragu recipe. On pasta, baked potato, and maybe a toasted piece of crusty bread, this sauce can be used for so many things!
Beef Short Rib Ragu
- dutch oven or stockpot
- fine mesh strainer
- 2 pounds beef short ribs
- 8 ounces pancetta diced
- 1 cup onion 1 medium onion, sliced into ¼-inch pieces
- ¾ cup celery 2 stalks, sliced into ¼-inch pieces
- ½ cup carrot 2 carrots peeled and sliced into ¼-inch pieces
- 3 cloves garlic sliced
- 1 ½ tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup red wine
- 3 cups beef stock
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Salt and pepper the short ribs liberally on all sides. Let the meat sit at room temperature until you are ready to use it.
- Place a dutch oven over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, fry the pancetta until it is crisp and the fat is rendered. Remove from the pan and set aside. Remove excess fat, leaving 2 tablespoons in the pan.
- Add the short ribs to the hot pan, fat cap side down. The bone side should be on top. Once the meat is seared and browned thoroughly, turn the short ribs to another side. When you have completely browned the meat on all sides, remove it from the pan and set it aside. Again remove any excess fat, leaving only 2 tablespoons in the pan.
- Add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the pan so that the vegetables are coated in the fat. Add salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned.
- Add the tomato paste and stir to coat the vegetables. Continually stir so that the vegetables do not stick to the bottom of the pan. The tomato paste will start to turn a rust color as it cooks.
- Now pour in the red wine and the beef stock. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the fond or brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Add the pancetta and short ribs back to the dutch oven on top of the vegetables. Throw in the bay leaves and the thyme. Bring to a light simmer.
- Cover the pan and put it in the oven.
- The ribs will need to cook for up to 3 hours. After each hour, check the pan to make sure the meat is still covered with liquid. If it isn't, add more stock. After 2 ½ hours, poke the meat with a fork. If it is ready, the meat will fall easily from the bone. If it still feels tough, put it back in the oven for 30 more minutes. It should be ready after three hours.
- Remove the bones and pieces of short rib from the pan. Pour the contents of the pan (vegetables, herbs, and pancetta) into a fine-mesh strainer placed over a large bowl. Pour the beef stock/red wine cooking liquid back into the pot. Skim any fat off the top of the liquid. Take out the thyme stalks and the bay leaves from the strainer. You can refrigerate the cooking liquid so that the fat solidifies and you can remove it much easier.
- Remove some of the pieces of pancetta and leave to the side. Add the cooked vegetables to a blender. You will need to add a little of the liquid to the vegetables. Blend until everything is pureed.
- Add the puree to the cooking liquid in the pot, stirring until combined. Keep warm with low heat. Check the season and adjust if need be.
- The bones should be easily removed from the meat. Pull the meat into chunks, removing any large pieces of fat or gristle. Add the meat to the reserved liquid in the pot. Adjust the salt and pepper to your taste.