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Italian Meat Ragu is cooked low and slow in the oven – giving this rich meat sauce an incredible flavor.
In today’s day and age of fast cooking, there’s still much to be said for classic, slow cooked recipes like this Italian Meat Ragu.
Don’t misinterpret that last sentence: This isn’t a slow cooker or crock pot recipe*. This Italian Meat Ragu is cooked the traditional way – first seared in a heavy pot on the stove, then cooked in a low-heat oven, and after a few hours, you’ll be rewarded with amazing, tender, and very delicious Italian Meat Ragu that can be served with thick strands of pappardelle pasta.
What is a Ragu?
A ragù is a classic Italian meat-based sauce that is served with pasta. While tomatoes and other vegetables are included, a ragu is really more about the meat rather than the tomatoes and vegetables in the sauce around it.
How do you make an Italian Meat Ragu?
You’ll start by cutting a five or six pound chuck roast into four large pieces, then sear the pieces on all sides in a large dutch oven. Remove the beef to a platter.
Next, saute some pancetta, Italian sausage, onions, carrots, celery and garlic in the same pot. Add tomato paste, then red wine to reglaze the pan. Then add chicken stock and a large can of crushed tomatoes to the pot, along with a variety of fresh herbs. Nestle the seared beef into the sauce along with the sausage and vegetables.
Then – let the oven do the rest of the work. Place your dutch oven full of Italian Meat Ragu in the oven and allow it to braise for about two hours. Flip the pieces of beef over in the sauce and braise for another hour and half, or until the beef is fork tender.
While the beef braises for the last few minutes, cook your pasta. Wide flat pappardelle is the traditional pasta served with an Italian Meat Ragu – because the sturdy strands can hold up to the thick, meaty ragu.
Shred the beef with a fork, then return it to the sauce – then ladle it over the cooked pasta.
*But CAN I cook this in a slow cooker?
I know that some of you will ask, and sorry, the answer is no. A slow cooker essentially steams food and you just won’t get the same reduction and caramelization as when you make this Italian Meat Ragu in the oven. The deliciously rich and intense flavors just won’t develop in the slow cooker.
You may enjoy these other Italian classics:
5–6 pound chuck roast
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 ounces pancetta, diced small
1 pound sweet sausage, removed from casing but left in the sausage shape and cut in half across the middle
1 ½ cups red onion, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup celery, diced
2 tablespoons fresh garlic, minced
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
½ cup bold red wine, such as Merlot
2 cups chicken broth or stock
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 small bunch fresh thyme
4 large sprigs fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
1 pound pappardelle pasta
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Cut beef into four uniform pieces and coat all sides with the salt and pepper.
In a large Dutch oven over medium high heat, add two tablespoons of the oil and sear two pieces of the beef on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove the two seared pieces of beef to a plate, add one more tablespoon of the oil and sear the second two pieces, then remove them to the plate.
Reduce heat slightly and add the last of the oil then add the pancetta and cook until browned, about five minutes.
Add the sausage pieces and cook to brown, about three minutes then remove to the plate with the beef.
Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook to soften, about three minutes, scraping the bottom as you cook.
Make room in the center and add the tomato paste and cook two minutes.
Add the merlot, scraping the bottom and cook to evaporate, about one minute.
Add the stock and tomatoes and stir.
Tie the thyme, parsley and bay with twine and place in the pot along with the beef and sausage pieces.
Cover and place in the oven for two hours.
Remove and flip the pieces over, cover and cook for up to 90 minutes more until beef is tender and shreds with a fork. Different cuts and grades of chuck will take longer than others so the timing depends on how tender the meat is at the two-hour mark.
Boil and salt water to cook the pasta and cook according to package instructions, about 10-12 minutes.
Remove and discard the herbs and bay leaves from the beef pot.
Remove the four pieces of beef and shred with two forks. Remove any large strands to your cutting board and cut in half.
Gently stir the beef back into the sauce along with a half cup of the Parmesan.
Once the pasta is cooked, save the pasta water but with a spider, remove and place the pasta back into the pasta pot. I saved the water in a large 2-quart glass measuring cup.
Ladle in the Ragu along with enough pasta water to loosen the mixture and serve.
Sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan cheese and serve.
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