This is the most amazing beef short rib ragu recipe that is slow cooked in a dutch oven and served over pappardelle pasta. This decadent recipe takes time, but it is perfect for Sunday dinner or special occasions.
Sunday dinner has always been a time when we get the family together to enjoy a meal. It's a great time to recharge and enjoy each others company before a busy week.
I love making a hearty and delicious meal for Sunday dinner and this beef short rib ragu is perfect for that. It is cooked low and slow on the stovetop and becomes a thick sauce with a rich, bold flavor that is perfect with pasta, gnocchi or even polenta.
This decadent beef short rib ragu would also be excellent served with a lemon ricotta cake, mini tiramisu cups or chocolate dipped biscotti for dessert.
🍝 Ragu vs. Bolognese
Ragu in Italy isn't the brand of spaghetti sauce you are used to seeing in the grocery store. It is actually a meat based red sauce that is typically served over pasta. This is similar to bolognese, which is also an Italian meat sauce served with pasta.
The difference between ragu vs. bolognese is that ragu is made with red wine, tomatoes and a bit of cream, where as bolognese is made with white wine, less tomatoes and typically no cream.
🍖 Ingredient notes
- Short Ribs - This cut of meat is a short portion of the rib bone and the meat surrounding it. The meat is tougher making it perfect for slow cooking and braising because it has time to break down the connective tissue. They are well marbled with fat so when they are slow cooked, they create a rich, indulgent flavor. I recommend using bone in short ribs for the best flavor, however boneless short ribs will also work.
- Fresh Herbs - Putting a bundle of fresh herbs in the sauce helps to flavor it as is cooks. You can use the pre-packaged bundles sold in the grocery store or just use what you have on hand. Fresh thyme, parsley, basil or oregano would all be great in here. Simply gather the herbs together in a bundle and tie them up in a piece of cheesecloth or with a piece of cooking twine.
📋 Substitutions and variations
- Red Wine - The red wine adds a nice rich and robust flavor to the beef short rib ragu. If you prefer to not cook with wine, you can replace it with extra beef broth.
- Dairy Free - For a dairy free version of this sauce, you can omit the parmesan cheese and replace the heavy cream with unsweetened not dairy milk.
🔪 Step by step instructions
First, pat the short ribs dry with paper towels and season them with kosher salt and black pepper. Heat a large dutch oven or large pot over medium heat with the olive oil. Sear the short ribs in the pot so they are golden brown on all sides and then remove them and set them aside.
Next add the mirepoix of onions, celery and carrots to the pot and cook them until they are softened. Add the garlic and cook for another 30-60 seconds until it becomes fragrant. Then, add the tomato paste and cook for another 30-60 seconds until everything is well combined.
Deglaze the pot by pouring in the red wine and scraping the bottom of the pot to release any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add back the browned short ribs along with the herb bundle, crushed tomatoes and beef stock so that the meat is covered with the braising liquid.
Cover and let the meat cook in the tomato sauce for 2-3 hours until they are tender and fall off the bone. Remove the herb bundle and the bones and shred the meat with two forks or kitchen tongs. Simmer the shredded meat with the sauce for an additional 30-60 minutes until the sauce slightly reduces and thickens.
Stir in the heavy cream and serve over freshly cooked pasta, sprinkled with parmesan cheese.
If you ever don't recognize a tool or skill that I mention, be sure to look it up in the Glossary of Cooking Terms and Definitions for more information.
⭐ Expert tips
- Pat the short ribs thoroughly dry before seasoning them to remove any excess moisture. This will help to create the best sear on the short ribs when cooking them.
- Make sure all of the short ribs are covered in the liquid when cooking them so they all cook evenly.
- If the sauce is bubbling too much, lower the heat to medium-low heat. You want it to simmer, but not boil.
- The beef short rib ragu can be reduced even more if you prefer to have a thicker consistency.
- Add a little bit of the pasta cooking water to the sauce for an even richer consistency.
🥘 Alternative cooking methods
Oven - Instead of letting this simmer on the stove top, you can transfer it to a preheated 325˚ oven to cook after adding the tomatoes, broth and herbs. Cooking time will be about the same as it is on the stove top.
Crock Pot - Sear the short ribs in a pan on the stovetop and then transfer them to a crock pot. Saute the onions, carrots and celery in the same pan and then add the garlic and tomato paste. Deglaze the pan as directed, scraping the bottom of it to remove any stuck on bits. Add this mixture to the slow cooker and then add in the fresh herbs, tomatoes and beef broth. Cover and cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 6-8 hours until tender.
⏲️ Make ahead and storage instructions
This sauce can be made ahead of time and heated up later. It also freezes well. Store the completely cooled sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days or in the freezer for 3 months.
Frozen sauce should be thawed completely before heating it back up. Sauce is best heated up in a pot on the stovetop over medium low heat, while stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
🍝 More sunday dinner recipes
If you loved this beef short rib ragu recipe, then check out these other sunday dinner recipes that I know you will love too!
- Sunday Pot Roast Dinner
- Italian Style Meatloaf with Marinara
- Jumbo Shrimp and Scallop Scampi
- Cast Iron Chicken Pot Pie
Beef Short Rib Ragu Recipe
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 3-4 pounds bone in beef short ribs
- 2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup diced yellow onions approximately 1 medium onion
- ½ cup diced carrots approximately 1 medium carrot
- ½ cup diced celery approximately 1-2 ribs of celery
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 fresh herb bundle see note
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups beef stock
- ½ cup heavy cream
- pasta for serving
- parmesan cheese for serving
- Heat a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot with the olive oil over medium heat on the stovetop.
- Pat the short ribs dry with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture and then season them on all sides with the salt and pepper.
- Sear the short ribs in the hot oil, working in batches if needed. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until browned and then remove them from the pot.
- Add the onions, carrots and celery to the pot and saute for 3-5 minutes until they start to soften.
- Add the garlic and cook, while stirring, for 30-60 seconds until it becomes fragrant.
- Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 30-60 seconds until it begins to melt into the vegetables.
- Deglaze the pot by adding the red wine and scraping the bottom to release any stuck on bits.
- Add the short ribs back to the pot along with the herb bundle, crushed tomatoes and the beef broth.
- Cover the dutch oven with the lid and allow the short ribs to simmer for 2-3 hours until they are tender and fall off the bone.
- Remove the herb bundle and the bones from the pot and using two forks or kitchen tongs, shred the meat into smaller pieces.
- Stir the meat together with the sauce and let it simmer, uncovered, another 30-60 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened and reduced.
- During the last 15-20 minutes of cooking, boil the pasta and drain it, reserving ½ cup of the pasta cooking water.
- Stir the heavy cream and reserved pasta cooking water into the sauce and then serve over the freshly cooked pasta, topped with grated parmesan cheese, if desired.
- The fresh herbs can be a pre-packaged bundle sold at the grocery store, or a mixture of what you have on hand, such as fresh thyme, parsley, basil or oregano. Gather the herbs together and tie them up in a piece of cheesecloth or with cooking twine.
- Pat the short ribs thoroughly to create the best sear on the short ribs.
- Make sure the short ribs are covered in the liquid when cooking them so they all cook evenly.
- If the sauce is bubbling too much, lower the heat to medium-low heat. It should simmer, but not boil.
- The sauce can be simmered uncovered as long as you want to reduce it as thick as you want.
Substitutions and Variations
- Red Wine - Replace with extra beef broth if you don't want to cook with wine.
- Dairy Free - Omit the parmesan cheese and replace the heavy cream with unsweetened not dairy milk.
Hi Amanda- I work full time and wanted to cut the prep time mid-week into three steps, if possible. Could I do everything up to deglazing step and adding red wine, then next day- adding the short ribs, etc, and simmer 2-3 hrs (shred meat and set aside). Then day of serving- last simmer with meat added? Some weeks I have the weekends to do this, but wanted to do this one sooner. If you have a better idea, or tell me it won’t be best that way- I’m all ears and would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you! .
Hey Janie! Yes, you could definitely split it up. I would probably do it all the way up to adding the stock, etc. Then let it cool in the refrigerator (lid off). Then the next day, heat it back up to let them simmer and then shred. Then the next day, heat it back up to the last bit.
I made this recipe for my family full of picky eaters. Everyone loved it! The ribs are so tasty in the sauce. It made very delicious leftovers the next day too. I used it over gluten-free pasta for me and regular pasta for everyone else. I will definitely be making this again!
Hi Rachel! I'm so happy to hear that. Thanks so much for trying the recipe. I'm glad to hear it's become a favorite!