Navigate This Post
- Restaurant-Worthy Beef Ragù at Home!
- Beef Ragu Recipe Highlights
- What is Beef Ragu?
- Key Ingredients
- How to Make Beef Ragu Sauce
- What to Eat with Beef Ragu – Pappardelle Pasta & More!
- More Tips & Tricks
Restaurant-Worthy Beef Ragù at Home!
I first learned of the delicious world of ragu during my time working as a server in a fine-dining Italian restaurant in Milwaukee after college. Our house specialty, ragu della casa – a made-from-scratch ragu sauce tossed with hand-cut pappardelle – was not only one of the most popular dishes on our menu, but also my personal fave. Eventually, after enough begging, Chef taught me how to make it.
10+ years later, it’s still one of is my all-time favorite things to eat & cook. Creating a restaurant-worthy ragu sauce at home is truly quite simple. Pair a hearty protein with fresh herbs, wine, & Italian tomatoes, & just let all of their naturally beautiful flavors shine!
We’ve shared a number of amazing ragu recipes over the years, from Lamb Ragu, to Chicken Ragu, to even Wild Mushroom Ragu. Our most popular, though, is our Short Rib Ragu, & today we’re giving it a little twist with this Slowly Braised Beef Ragu recipe.
Unlike pricey short ribs, affordable & accessible beef chuck roast is the star of the show in this recipe. Slowly braised with aromatic veggies, tomatoes, & red wine, the once-humble cut transforms into a fall-apart tender beef ragu sauce with incredible depth of flavor. Simply toss the beef ragu with pappardelle & enjoy. Maximum flavor, minimal effort – comfort food truly doesn’t get better than that!
FREE Email Series: PWWB Pasta School
Make restaurant-worthy pasta at home!
Beef Ragu Recipe Highlights
You’ll love this recipe for beef ragu! It’s…
RICH & HEARTY COMFORT FOOD. Slowly simmer hearty beef chuck with vegetables, loads of aromatics, tomatoes, & red wine to create the coziest, boldly flavored sauce. Pair it with fresh pasta, gnocchi, or polenta for a trip to comfort food heaven!
SLOWLY SIMMERED GOODNESS. Unlike quicker cooking pomodoro or marinara sauces, the key ingredient here is time. A low & slow braise is the best way to create a meltingly tender beef ragu sauce with insanely rich flavor. Simple, hands-off cooking at its finest!
ABSOLUTE PERFECTION. I first learned how to make ragu from my Italian kitchen co-workers 10+ years ago & I’ve tested my beef ragu recipes to perfection ever since. This is a tried & true recipe great for cozy Sunday suppers, special occasion dinners, or whenever you’re craving something extra comforting.
Comfort food doesn’t get better than ragu! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make Braised Beef Ragu, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!
What is Beef Ragu?
Ragu della casa, a rotating ragu sauce served with hand-cut pappardelle, was the signature dish at the Italian restaurant where I worked. Even so, nearly every evening a guest would see it on the menu & ask me, “What is ragu?!”
Ragu is a broad term that describes a rich, slowly cooked Italian meat sauce. It’s hearty, intensely flavorful, & always all about the meat. As a meat-based sauce, ragu is much more stew-like than other Italian sauces like marinara but is still often served with pasta, gnocchi, or polenta.
You can make killer ragu sauce with almost any hearty ingredient – lamb, wild boar or pork, chicken or duck, or even meaty veggies like eggplant & mushrooms. Perhaps without knowing it you’ve likely already enjoyed one of the most famous ragu sauces – bolognese! But beef is the king of ragu.
Ragu FAQ ⇢ What’s the difference between beef ragu & Bolognese? Beef ragu refers to a slowly simmered meat sauce made with beef (in this case, beef chuck roast). Bolognese is a type of ragu sauce specific to the Bologna region of Italy & is usually made with ground beef & pork. Learn more! 🤓 ⇢ PWWB’s Best-Ever Bolognese Recipe
If you’ve never made ragu before, you’re in good hands! 🤗 I’ve been cooking various ragu recipes for 10+ years, ever since I learned how to make ragu at home. It’s one of my favorite things to cook, & I’m excited to share it with you.
The best Italian dishes are all about coaxing big, bold flavors out of relatively humble ingredients. This beef ragu recipe is no exception!
Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.
- Beef chuck roast – I love how this simple cut of beef transforms with low & slow cooking. The key is a gentle braise – after several hours, the humble chuck roast turns meltingly tender & super flavorful. It’s a great cut of beef for restaurant-worthy results on a budget.
- Soffritto – The Italian holy trinity of onion, carrot, & celery. I like chopping my soffritto by hand for bigger, chunkier pieces of veggies in my ragu sauce. You can also grate the veggies in a food processor to cut down on active prep time.
- Aromatics – This recipe calls for tons of garlic & loads of fresh herbs like rosemary, sage, & thyme. But the secret ingredient is a parmesan rind – my fall & winter freezer staple for infusing sauces & soups with rich umami flavor.
- Tomatoes – Tomato paste for its concentrated flavor & crushed tomatoes, which add a velvety body to the beef ragu sauce.
- Red wine – A bold, dry red wine stands up to the rich beef flavor in this recipe. Try an Italian wine like Chianti!
- Finishing touches – A little parmesan finishes the ragu sauce with savory depth, while a splash of heavy cream helps round out its intense flavor after the hours-long braise.
What Meat to Use for Beef Ragu?
Any hearty cut of beef that benefits from low & slow cooking works great in this beef ragu recipe. The result will always be tender & flavorful! We like using beef chuck roast since it’s easy to find & often a more affordable option. Pre-cut stew meat is also a convenient store-bought shortcut.
For a next-level beef ragu sauce, you can also use beef short ribs! English-cut short ribs love a long braise, & our well-loved Short Rib Ragu recipe yields extra-special results if your budget allows. (& if not, no biggie! I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed in the flavor of this beef chuck roast ragu. 🙌🏼)
How to Make Beef Ragu Sauce
This beef ragu recipe comes together to 3 main phases: browning, deglazing, & simmering. Patience is key to pulling big flavors out of a ragu’s simple ingredients. It takes some time, but the results are so worth it! The good news is most of the work is entirely hands-off – just let it simmer on the stovetop while you enjoy your day. (Or, let your oven, slow cooker, or Instant Pot do the work – more on that below!)
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
Sear the beef chuck. Season the beef chuck roast generously, then brown it well in olive oil. Be sure to let each side cook untouched for several minutes until deeply golden brown. Why? ⇢ In short, flavor, flavor, flavor! A beautiful golden crust gives the beef a deep, rich flavor thanks to a process called the Maillard reaction. It also leaves flavorful browned bits on the bottom of the pan called fond (we’ll make use of this later!). For best results, make sure the beef is completely dry. Moisture is the enemy of a good, hard sear!
Brown the soffritto & aromatics. Add the carrots, celery, & onion to the same pot used to brown the beef chuck & cook until borderline caramelized, about 20 minutes. Then add the garlic & tomato paste & cook 5 minutes more until deeply browned. Why cook for so long?! ⇢ These aromatics are the base of flavor for the entire sauce, so it’s important not to rush it! Time coaxes out all their flavors & leaves more fond in the pot which translates to big flavor in the braising liquid. I’m telling you, this simple step is where the magic happens – letting the aromatics really brown is the difference between a good ragu sauce & a great ragu sauce.
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
Deglaze. Slowly pour in the red wine. It will immediately simmer when it hits the hot pot, creating steam that releases the flavorful browned bits on the bottom of the pot! There’s tons of flavor in this fond, so be sure to scrape it up with a wooden spoon to incorporate it into the beef ragu sauce. Let the wine reduce until it’s is almost completely absorbed into the soffritto.
Build & simmer the beef ragu sauce. Add fresh herbs, bay leaves, parmesan rind, tomatoes, beef broth, & browned beef chuck to the pot. Let everything simmer on low heat for a solid 2 ½ – 3 hours. Why? ⇢ A long simmer allows all of the flavors to meld together for epic results, & low & slow heat gently breaks down the connective tissue in the beef, tenderizing the meat. This all takes time! You’ll know the beef ragu sauce is ready when your kitchen smells heavenly & the beef shreds easily with the nudge of a wooden spoon.
Alternate Cooking Methods
Oven-Braised Beef Ragu
An oven-braise is my favorite alternate cooking method for this beef ragu recipe – you can achieve the same rich flavor of a long braise without having to worry about keeping a pot on the stovetop. Simply follow the stovetop directions & transfer your ragu sauce to the oven for 2 ½ – 3 hours. Refer to the Recipe Notes, below, for full directions!
Slow Cooker or Crockpot Beef Ragu
The gentle, low-heat environment of a Crockpot or slow cooker is fantastic for cooking a beef chuck roast until meltingly tender. You should still brown the beef, soffritto, & aromatics on the stovetop for maximum flavor before building the sauce in your slow cooker. If your slow cooker has a browning feature then you can do everything right in its insert. Refer to the Recipe Notes, below, for full directions.
Electric Pressure Cooker or Instant Pot Beef Ragu
While it’s is a definite time-saver, it’s probably my least favorite cooking method for this beef ragu recipe. An Instant Pot specializes in cooking & tenderizing quickly, but it simply can’t achieve the same deep, rich flavor as a slow & gentle braise. That said, if it’s all you have time for, go for it! Check out the Recipe Notes, below, for full directions.
What to Eat with Beef Ragu – Pappardelle Pasta & More!
Once the beef ragu sauce is slowly simmered to perfection & the beef chuck is fall-apart tender, it’s time for the best part – serving it with some cozy carbs. Beef ragu pappardelle is my all-time favorite, but this sauce pairs beautifully with any variety of pasta, gnocchi, polenta, or even mashed potatoes – more on this below!
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
How to Make Braised Beef Ragu Pasta
The most critical mistake I see home cooks make when serving pasta at home is plopping a beautifully braised sauce on top of a pile of pasta. Please don’t do this! You should always allow al dente pasta to quickly cook with a sauce to build a cohesive dish. This simple step is the secret to a restaurant-quality beef ragu! Learn more! ⇢ How to Cook Pasta Perfectly Every Single Time.
Boil your choice of pasta. Generously season boiling water with salt & cook the pasta to al dente according to the package directions. Don’t forget! ⇢ Before draining, carefully dip a liquid measuring cup into the pot to save some starchy cooking water. From there, drain the pasta but do not rinse it.
Finish the beef ragu sauce. As the pasta cooks, finish the ragu by stirring in a bit of heavy cream & grated parmesan. Why? ⇢ Cream rounds out the intensity of the beef ragu with beautiful richness, while parmesan adds extra flavor & helps tighten up the sauce.
Add the cooked pasta to the ragu & simmer. Add the pasta to the beef ragu sauce, tossing it well to coat evenly. From there, adjust: if things seem a little too thick, loosen them up with a splash of the reserved cooking liquid; if things feel a little too loose, sprinkle in an extra handful of parmesan or crank up the heat for a more vigorous simmer. Allow everything to meld together over medium-low heat for a few minutes to create the perfect braised beef ragu pasta.
What’s the Best Pasta for Beef Ragu?
Hearty sauces like ragu are best paired with wider, heartier pasta.
I love making beef ragu pappardelle. This traditional wide-cut egg pasta is actually one of the simpler pastas to make from scratch using our Homemade Pasta recipe. When I don’t feel like making fresh pasta dough, I always source from DeLallo.
Other fantastic long pasta for this beef ragu recipe include fettuccine, spaghetti alla chittarra (flat spaghetti), bucatini (tubular spaghetti with the best chewy texture!), or fusilli col buco (a tubular, spiral pasta with similar amazing chewy texture!). If you prefer a shorter pasta, rigatoni is a great option.
Other Serving Suggestions
You can also pair beef ragu sauce with cozy carbohydrates like pillowy gnocchi, warm polenta, or even mashed potatoes. I love how the richness of the sauce soaks into the creamy, warm starches – the ultimate comfort food!
Whether you’re enjoying beef ragu pappardelle or polenta, be sure to finish your bowl off with some freshly grated parmesan, cracked black pepper, & finely chopped parsley for a restaurant-worthy presentation. A glass of nice Italian red wine like Chianti Classico, Montepulciano, or a bold Super Tuscan adds an extra-special touch!
More Tips & Tricks
Make-Ahead Beef Ragu
Cooking beef ragu sauce ahead of time is a great timesaver at dinnertime! Like other stews & sauces, ragu only gets better as it sits & the flavors have a chance to meld & deepen. To make it ahead of time, simply simmer the beef ragu sauce as directed & store it in the fridge until you’re ready to enjoy. Then reheat & toss with your pasta of choice. Super easy! Refer to the Recipe Notes, below, for full directions.
Ragu is one of my favorite things to have stocked in the freezer, & this beef ragu is so freezer-friendly! To save any leftovers, divide the cooled beef ragu sauce into a few smaller freezer containers & freeze them for perfectly portioned meals. Then simply thaw, heat, & enjoy as you desire. Refer to the Recipe Notes, below, for more guidance!
We can’t wait for you to try this Braised Beef Ragù recipe! It’s low-effort, high-reward goodness, & you’ll be stunned by its restaurant-worthy flavor. We’re pretty sure you’re going to love it just as much as we do.
If you do give it a try, be sure to let us know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE hearing about your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy cooking!
More Recipes Like This:
Classic Italian Comfort Food
“Ragu” is a broad term used to describe a rich, slowly cooked Italian meat sauce. It’s hearty, intensely flavorful, &, unlike a slowly simmered marinara or tomato sauce, ragu is all about the meat (or a meaty ingredient, like mushrooms!).
I learned how to cook ragu 10+ years ago, working at a fine dining Northern Italian restaurant. To this day, it’s one of my favorite things to cook! We’ve shared many ragu recipes over the years here on PWWB, & we’re adding to the collection today with this Slowly Braised Beef Ragu.
When slowly simmered with aromatic veggies, fresh herbs, Italian tomatoes, & red wine, hearty & tough beef chuck transforms into the most beautiful homemade ragu. The beef is meltingly tender & succulent, infusing its richness into the sauce. Whether you toss it into pasta (beef ragu pappardelle, pictured) or spoon it over creamy polenta or mashed potatoes, this beef ragu is insanely comforting, impressive, & totally restaurant-worthy.
To learn all about ragu, be sure to check out the blog post, above, & for alternate cooking methods, like slow cooker or Instant Pot ragu, check out the Recipe Notes, below. ♡ Happy cooking!
for the Braised Beef Ragu Sauce:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 ½ pounds beef chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat & cut into 4–6 large pieces
- 3 large carrots, peeled as desired & diced
- 1 stalk celery, finely diced
- 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
- 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 1 cup dry red wine
- one ¾-ounce package fresh “poultry herb blend” (or approx. 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, 4 sprigs fresh sage leaves & 12 sprigs fresh thyme)
- 2 dried bay leaves
- optional: 1 parmesan rind
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups low-sodium beef broth/beef stock or water
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
for Braised Beef Ragu Pasta:
Braised Beef Ragu:
- Brown the beef: Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to a large, heavy-bottomed pot (I use a 5-qt Dutch oven) over medium-high heat. Use paper towel to pat the surface of the beef as dry as possible, then generously season with 2 teaspoons kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Once the oil in the pot is shimmering hot, carefully add in the seasoned beef. Work in batches, as necessary, to avoid overcrowding the pot (which prevents browning). Cook for 3-4 minutes per side, until nicely browned. Transfer the browned beef to a plate & set aside. Repeat, as necessary, with any remaining beef.
- Brown the soffritto: Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the same pot used to brown the beef. Once hot & shimmering, add the soffritto (carrot, celery, onion), seasoning with 1 teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Stir to combine & cook, stirring occasionally, until deeply browned, 15-20 minutes. If the veggies begin to brown too quickly, reduce heat to medium or medium-low.
- Add the aromatics & deglaze: Add the garlic to the pot with the soffritto. Cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, 1-2 minutes. Add the tomato paste to the pot, stirring to coat the soffritto. Cook 2-3 minutes, until browned. Increasing the heat to medium-high, pour the red wine into the pot. Stir constantly, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits that may have formed at the bottom of the pot. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until the wine is almost completely absorbed into the soffritto.
- Build & simmer the beef ragu: Tie the herbs together using kitchen twine (or finely chop if you do not have twine), then add to the pot with the bay leaves & parmesan rind (if using). Add the crushed tomatoes, broth/stock or water, & browned beef chuck from Step 1. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a low. Cover & simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 ½ – 3 hours, or until the beef is fall-apart tender. If the beef ragu sauce begins to reduce too much (i.e. it loses too much of its liquid too quickly), feel free to add in a splash more water &/or reduce the heat further.
- Finish the braised beef ragu sauce: Carefully transfer the braised beef chuck to a plate or cutting board. At this point, you can remove & discard the spent herbs, bay leaves, & parmesan rind from the pot, as well. Use tongs or 2 forks to shred the beef into bite-sized pieces. Return the shredded beef to the pot with the ragu sauce. Stir to combine. At this point, you can cool & store for later use (see Recipe Notes for storage & freezing directions), or proceed with making the beef ragu pasta (below).
Braised Beef Ragu Pasta:
- Boil the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is cooked to al dente according to package directions. Carefully dip a liquid measuring cup into the pot, reserving about 1 cup of the starchy pasta water, and set aside. Carefully drain the pasta – do NOT rinse it! (Learn more ⇢ How to Cook Pasta Perfectly Every Single Time!)
- Finish the braised beef ragu sauce: Meanwhile, as the pasta boils, bring the braised beef ragu up to a simmer. Stir in the heavy cream & parmesan cheese. Continue to simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally.
- Braised beef ragu pasta: Add the cooked pasta to the pot with the braised beef ragu sauce, tossing to coat. The beef ragu should evenly coat the pasta. Add in some of the reserved pasta water if the ragu needs to loosen up a little; add in an extra handful of parmesan if it needs to tighten up a little. Cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, allowing the pasta to meld with & absorb some of the ragu.
- Serve: Portion the beef ragu pasta into individual pasta bowls, topping with additional grated parmesan, chopped fresh herbs, &/or crushed red pepper as desired. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
- Make-Ahead, Storage & Freezing:
- Beef Ragu Pasta Storage & Reheating: Once assembled, beef ragu pasta will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave until warmed through.
- Make-Ahead Beef Ragu Sauce Storage & Reheating: Beef ragu sauce stores incredibly well – it’s the type of thing that gets even better as it sits & its flavors have the chance to meld together. To store, prep the sauce through Step 5 of Recipe Directions, above. Once cooled, transfer to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. Whip up a batch of beef ragu pasta during the week by reheating the braised beef ragu in a skillet, & completing the recipe according to “Braised Beef Ragu Pasta” Steps 1-4, above.
- Beef Ragu Sauce Freezing Instructions: Beef ragu sauce is also incredibly freezer-friendly. To freeze, transfer the cooled beef ragu sauce to a freezer container (or divide it up between multiple freezer containers for smaller portions – Souper Cubes are our fave!). Freeze up to 3 months. To thaw, place the frozen ragu in the refrigerator overnight or submerge the freezer container in room temperature water for a quicker thaw. Reheat the ragu sauce in a skillet. If the thawed ragu sauce is a little watery at first, simply allow any residual water simmer out. If the thawed ragu sauce is too thick, simply add in a splash of water or stock until your desired consistency is reached. Complete the recipe according to “Braised Beef Ragu Pasta” Steps 1-4, above.
- Alternate Cooking Methods:
- Oven Braised Beef Ragu: Prep the recipe according to Steps 1-4, above. Rather than braising on the stovetop, transfer the covered pot to a 325 degree F oven. Braise in the oven for 2 ½ – 3 hours, until the beef chuck is fall-apart tender, then finish the beef ragu sauce as directed in Step 5 & complete the recipe according to “Braised Beef Ragu Pasta” Steps 1-4.
- Crock Pot / Slow Cooker Beef Ragu: Prep the recipe according to Steps 1-3, above. Transfer the soffritto mixture to the slow cooker, along with the aromatics, tomatoes, broth/stock (or water), & browned beef chuck as directed in Step 4. Slow cook on high for 2-3 hours or on low for 5-6 hours, stirring occasionally. Finish the beef sauce as directed in Step 5 & complete the recipe according to “Braised Beef Ragu Pasta” Steps 2-4, which you can do right in your slow cooker. If your slow cooker has a searing/browning feature, you can use it to cook the entire beef ragu sauce recipe (Steps 1-5) in the slow cooker.
- Electric Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot Beef Ragu: Use your Instant Pot’s “Sauté” setting to build the sauce according to Steps 1-4, above. Cover & seal the pressure cooker and cook on manual high pressure for 50 minutes. Allow the pressure cooker to naturally release pressure for 10 minutes before carefully flicking the valve to its “venting” position to vent out any residual pressure. If the ragu seems a little too liquidy, feel free to turn on the Sauté setting again, letting the sauce simmer down a little before finishing as directed in Step 5. Complete the recipe according to “Braised Beef Ragu Pasta” Steps 2-4, which you can do right in pressure cooker pot.
- 10-Minute Meal Prep: Nearly all of the active prep work for this braised beef ragu recipe comes from prepping the veggies. Take care of this in advance – it takes 10 minutes, tops – & you can jump straight in to cooking during the week:
- Prep the veggies: Dice 2 medium carrots, 1 stalk of celery, & 1 medium yellow onion. Transfer to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (10 minutes active prep)
Keywords: braised beef recipes, beef chuck roast recipes, ragu sauce, homemade beef ragu, beef ragu pasta, pasta sauce with beef
Recipe & Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.