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Slowly Simmered Italian Comfort Food – Braised Short Rib Ragu!
As a serious Italian food lover, ragu is one of my all-time favorite things to cook. I first fell head-over-heels for it in my days working as a server at a fine dining Italian restaurant in Milwaukee. My favorite thing on the menu was our ragu della casa, which was always tossed into hand-cut pappardelle. I loved it so much that I begged our chefs to walk me through the basic steps so I could try to recreate it at home. Here we are, 10+ years later, & I still can’t get enough of it – in fact, I’d probably consider ragu to be one of my specialties!
Over the years we’ve shared a number of different well-loved ragu recipes here on PWWB, but today’s is probably my favorite. As far as I’m concerned Braised Beef Short Rib Ragu is the ultimate ragu!
Rich & hearty beef short ribs slowly braise with simple vegetables, loads of aromatics & fresh herbs, tomatoes, & a little bit of red wine for good measure. The short ribs transform into fall-apart tender, melt-in-your-mouth goodness, infusing the tomatoes with richness as they slowly cook. It’s a delightfully hands-off process that results in the most special home-cooked sauce perfect for tossing into a pile of pappardelle pasta with loads of parmesan.
Like many traditional Italian recipes, this short rib ragu is simple to prepare – it’s all about using high-quality ingredients & letting them shine. For that, I always turn to DeLallo & their broad assortment of high-quality Italian staples. You’ll see this short rib ragu uses their beautiful products every step of the way – from extra virgin olive oil & San Marzano-style tomatoes to the most beautiful bronze die extruded pasta – to create a seriously restaurant-worthy braised beef short rib ragu pasta dinner.
Beef Short Rib Ragu Recipe Highlights
You’ll love this short rib ragu recipe because it’s…
- SLOWLY SIMMERED GOODNESS. Ragu, a broad term used to describe a slowly simmered Italian meat sauce, is the epitome of comfort food!
- SERIOUSLY RICH & HEARTY. Slowly braised beef short ribs, hearty vegetables, loads of aromatics, tomatoes, & red wine create an intensely bold & flavorful sauce perfect for serving with any pasta you love!
- THE PERFECT SPECIAL OCCASION MEAL! Since its long cook time is nearly completely inactive, this beef short rib ragu is easy enough for any meal this fall or winter, but it’s special enough for the most celebratory occasions like date night, Christmas, or Valentine’s Day!
If you ask me, comfort food cooking does not get better than that! ♡ Read on to learn more about this Braised Short Rib Ragu recipe, or jump straight to the recipe & get cookin’!
First thing’s first – What is Ragu?
Before we jump into everything you need to know about this braised short rib ragu recipe, let’s back up a second to chat ragu. I first was introduced to ragu in my days working as a server at a fine dining Italian restaurant in Milwaukee. One of our specialties was a rotating house ragu, which would change every week based on what the chefs were in the mood to cook & serve. “What is ragu?!” was always our guests’ most frequently asked question!
“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. In that sense, it’s almost more stew-like than what may come to mind when you think of Italian sauces. However, much like marinara or tomato sauce, ragu is traditionally served with pasta, gnocchi or polenta. Perhaps, without even knowing it, you’ve enjoyed arguably the most famous ragu – bolognese!
The really fun part about learning how to make ragu is that it is infinitely versatile. You can make a beautiful ragu using almost any meaty ingredient that lends well to a slow braise: pork, wild boar, duck, lamb, mushrooms or eggplant for a vegetarian ragu, or, of course, beef short ribs.
Beef Short Rib Ragu Ingredients
Like the best Italian dishes, this short rib ragu recipe is all about coaxing big, bold flavor out of relatively humble ingredients. While a quick glance at the Ingredients list may look long, it’s made up of mostly simple staples that you probably keep stocked in your pantry & fridge.
Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.
The key ingredients include…
- English cut beef short ribs – The star of any short rib ragu recipe! Be sure to look for meaty short ribs with nice marbling for maximum flavor. If beef short ribs are a new-to-you ingredient, check out the Ingredient Spotlight, below, for more information!
- 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, but you can also grate the veggies in a food processor to cut down on active prep time.
- Aromatics – A generous amount of aromatics helps build a boldly flavored sauce. This short rib ragu recipe calls for tons of garlic & loads of fresh herbs like rosemary, sage, & thyme. The secret ingredient, though, is a parmesan rind, which is a great freezer staple for fall & winter cooking since you can use it to infuse sauces & soups with rich umami flavor.
- Tomatoes – The perfect combination of petite diced San Marzano-style tomatoes, which add flavor & body to the short rib ragu, & tomato paste for its concentrated flavor. DeLallo’s tomato paste tube is my absolute favorite. It’s double concentrated, packing an even bigger punch of flavor.
- Wine – A bold red wine stands up to the rich flavor of the beef short ribs. I always like cooking with Italian wine when I make ragu – Chianti is a great option for this recipe.
Ingredient Spotlight – Beef Short Ribs
If beef short ribs are a new-to-you ingredient, you’re in for such a treat!
There are 2 common cuts of beef short ribs: flanken beef short ribs (long strips cut across the bone) & English-cut beef short ribs (hearty pieces cut along the bone). While flanken short ribs are great for quick-cooking methods, like grilling (you may recognize them from Korean kalbi), English-cut short ribs are a tougher cut. They benefit from cooking low & slow, which breaks down all of the connective tissue in the meat & makes the beef totally fall-apart tender. As such, you’ll often see them in braised dishes, like this beef short rib ragu!
These days, you can find English-cut beef short ribs at most conventional grocery stores with a nice butcher section. If you have trouble finding beef short ribs, you can make this ragu recipe using beef chuck roast.
How to Make Braised Short Rib Ragu
Cooking this braised short rib ragu is a pretty straightforward process consisting of 3 main steps: browning, deglazing, & simmering. The process is time-intensive, since the goal is to tenderize a tough cut of meat & pull big flavors out of relatively simple ingredients, but it’s almost entirely hands off!
First, sear the short ribs.
Coat a large, heavy-bottomed pot with olive oil. While the oil heats, season the beef short ribs really well with salt & ground black pepper. Once the oil is hot, add the short ribs to the pot & cook them a few minutes per side, until they’re deeply golden brown.
Why take the time to brown short ribs? ⇢ In short? Flavor, flavor, flavor! Thanks to the Maillard reaction, the short ribs take on a beautifully golden crust when they come into contact with the hot surface of the pan, giving the meat itself deeper, richer flavor. Plus, as the short ribs brown, they leaves browned bits on the bottom of the pan (fond being the technical French term), which is what creates the base flavor of the braised ragu. Browning creates the base flavor upon which the rest of the short rib ragu is built, so it’s incredibly important to take the time to sear the short ribs well.
A couple of quick tips for nailing the perfect sear:
- The short ribs need to be completely dry. Moisture is the natural enemy of a good, hard sear, so use paper towels to pat them as dry as you possibly can.
- You need a good, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, which retains its heat well & distributes it evenly. I’m a lifelong superfan of Staub’s Dutch ovens, which are beautiful & retain heat incredibly well.
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
Next, brown the soffritto & aromatics.
Add the soffritto veggies – carrots, celery, & onion – to the same pot used to brown the short ribs. Cook until deeply browned – borderline caramelized! Stir in the garlic & tomato paste & continue to cook another 5 minutes, until deeply fragrant. In total, this process should take no less than 20-25 minutes – we’re after deep color & flavor, here!
20-25 minutes?! Why cook the aromatics so long? ⇢ Many of the ragu & bolognese recipes I’ve read over the years call for simply softening the aromatics, & I couldn’t disagree with that more! These aromatic ingredients provide the base of flavor for the entire sauce. Taking the time to ensure you achieve deep browning serves two purposes. First, it coaxes out all of their flavor, adding so much more flavor to the short rib ragu. Second, similar to the browned short ribs, the soffritto & tomato paste leave browned bits on the bottom of the pot (fond being the technical French term), which translates to big flavor in the braising liquid. Take your time & resist the urge to speed this step up – the results are worth it!
Deglaze & Build the Short Rib Ragu Sauce.
Deglaze the pot by sloooooowly pouring in the red wine, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits developed on the bottom of the pan by browning the short ribs & soffritto. Why? ⇢ The wine simmers immediately upon hitting the hot pot, creating steam that releases the browned bits that developed on the bottom. Again, this fond is where all of the flavor is, so you want to scrape it up to incorporate it into the short rib sauce.
Build the beef short rib ragu sauce, adding in the remaining ingredients: fresh herbs, bay leaves, the parmesan rind, tomatoes, & a little beef stock! Quick Braising Tip! ⇢ Rather than taking the time to chop all the herbs, use kitchen twine to tie them together whole. The herbs infuse all of their flavor into the braised short rib ragu & the twine makes it easy to remove them all at once before serving.
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
Slowly Braise the Beef Ragu Sauce.
Now for the fun part – letting the sauce simmer! Nestle the browned short ribs into the braising liquid, bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Cover the pot & let it cook until the short ribs are fall-apart tender – your kitchen will smell like absolute Italian comfort food heaven.
How long to braise short rib ragu? ⇢ Have patience – braising short ribs takes a good amount of time! Because they come from such a hard-working part of the cattle – just behind the shoulder – it will take a while to break down all of the connective tissue & tenderize the meat. Plan for a solid 2 1/2 – 3 hours. You’ll know the short ribs are ready when they fall apart & shred very easily.
Alternate Cooking Methods, + Other Tips & Tricks
Based on the amount of time you have or how hands-on you’d like the cooking process to be, you can easily adapt this braised short rib ragu for a couple of different cooking methods:
- Can I make short rib ragu in the oven? ⇢ Yes! Oven-braised short rib ragu is my favorite alternate cooking method. You get all of the flavor associated with braising the short ribs in the same pot used to brown the base ingredients, with an added benefit of not having to worry about having a pot on the stove for a few hours. Check the Recipe Notes, below, for full oven-braised short rib ragu directions.
- Can I make short rib ragu in a slow cooker or Crockpot? ⇢ Yes! Here too, a slow cooker or Crockpot’s low & slow environment is great for slowly cooking short ribs until they’re fall apart tender. For maximum flavor, plan to brown the short ribs & the aromatics on the stovetop, then build the sauce in your slow cooker. Bonus points – if your slow cooker has a browning or searing feature, you can make this entire recipe in your slow cooker! Full slow cooker short rib ragu directions are also provided in the Recipe Notes, below.
- Can I make short rib ragu in the Instant Pot? ⇢ Yes, but of all the methods detailed here, the Instant Pot short rib ragu is my least favorite. An Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker is really effective in getting the short ribs to cook & tenderize quickly, but this quick cook time compromises some of the deep, rich flavor achieved by slowly braising the beef short rib ragu. If that’s all you’ve got time for – go for it! Full Instant Pot directions are also provided in the Recipe Notes, below.
Make-Ahead & Freezing Short Rib Ragu for Later.
If you’re wondering whether you can cook short rib ragu ahead of time or freeze some of it for later, you’re in luck! Both are great options. Like other stews & sauces, ragu is the type of thing that gets even more flavorful as it sits & its flavors have the chance to meld & deepen.
Make-Ahead Short Rib Ragu ⇢ Transfer the cooled short rib ragu sauce to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. To serve, all you have to do is heat it up & toss with your pasta of choice – easy! Check the Recipe Notes, below, for full make-ahead short rib ragu directions.
Freezing Short Rib Ragu for later ⇢ Transfer the cooled short rib ragu sauce to a freezer container or divide between a few smaller containers for perfectly portioned meals down the road. To serve, simply thaw, heat, & toss into your pasta of choice – again, super easy! Check the Recipe Notes, below, for the full how-to on freezing short rib ragu sauce.
Finishing Touches – What to Serve with Short Rib Ragu
Once the ragu sauce is simmered to perfection & the beef short ribs are fall-apart tender, it’s time for the best part of making short rib ragu at home – serving it!
What’s the best pasta for beef short rib ragu?
A general rule of thumb to keep in mind in choosing what pasta to pair with your sauce is the heartier the sauce, the wider the pasta. Thin or delicate pasta is best served with light sauces & rich, hearty sauces like ragu or bolognese are best paired with wider or heartier pasta. Some suggestions:
- Suggested long pasta. ⇢ I love tossing together braised short rib ragu pappardelle, a traditional wide-cut egg pasta. DeLallo’s pappardelle is my favorite! Made in Italy with 28% egg, it has the best rich flavor. Plus, all of DeLallo’s pastas are bronze die extruded, which creates a rough texture on the surface of the pasta to which the sauce clings more easily. Other great long pastas for short rib ragu include fettuccine, spaghetti alla chittarra (flat spaghetti), bucatini (tubular spaghetti with the best chewy texture!), fusilli col buco (a tubular spiral pasta with similar amazing chewy texutre!).
- Suggested short pasta. ⇢ If you prefer short pasta, choose a shape that will capture bits & pieces of the hearty beef short rib ragu for even more delicious bites of pasta. Rigatoni is my all-time favorite, though orecchiette, shellbows, or casarecce with short rib ragu are also great!
- Other ideas. ⇢ For the ultimate comfort food meal, serve the ragu over creamy polenta or make short rib ragu gnocchi!
How to Make Short Rib Ragu Pasta:
The #1 mistake I see home chefs make serving pasta at home? Simply plopping their beautifully braised ragu atop a pile of pasta. Please don’t do this! Al dente pasta should always cook with sauce for couple of minutes on the stovetop, allowing the two separate components to come together as one cohesive dish. If you feel like your pasta never turns out as good as it does in a restaurant, this simple step helps tremendously!
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
How to Properly Finish Your Short Rib Ragu with Pasta:
- Boil pasta: Cook your pasta to al dente in generously salted water. Before draining, carefully dip a liquid measuring cup into the pot to reserve some of the starchy pasta water. Drain the pasta, but do NOT rinse it. Why? ⇢ Rinsing washes the starches off the surface of the pasta, preventing it from absorbing & clinging to the braised short rib ragu sauce.
- Finish the beef short rib ragu sauce: Meanwhile, stir a little bit of heavy cream and grated parmesan into the ragu. Simmer 1-2 minutes, allowing everything to meld together. Why? ⇢ Cream adds beautiful richness to the ragu. Grated parmesan adds extra flavor & helps tighten up the sauce.
- Finish the short rib ragu pasta: Add the cooked pasta straight into the simmering ragu, tossing to combine well. Adjust as needed so the ragu coats the pasta evenly. If it’s too thick, toss in some of the reserved pasta water; if the mixture is too loose, toss in an extra handful of parmesan. Cook for a couple minutes more, allowing the pasta to meld with & absorb some of the sauce.
Serve & Enjoy!
At this point, your braised short rib ragu pasta will be beautifully prepared, your kitchen will smell like absolute heaven, & everyone in your house will be so excited for dinner!
Portion the beef ragu pasta into your favorite pasta bowls & finish with your toppings of choice – I like a generous sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan, loads of cracked black pepper, & a little bit of finely chopped parsley for freshness. Be sure to serve with a nice Italian red – I suggest a good Chianti Classico, Montepulciano, or a bold Super Tuscan. Enjoy!
I cannot wait for you to try this Short Rib Ragu! It’s total & complete comfort food, & I know you’ll love it as much as we do! If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations!
Love classic Italian comfort food? They’re my FAVE! 🙌🏼 Be sure to try my Best-Ever Bolognese, Creamy Pasta Marsala with Sausage & Mushrooms, or Best-Ever Minestrone next. You will NOT be disappointed! Happy cooking! ♡Print
Beef short ribs slowly braise until fall-apart tender with simple vegetables, fresh herbs, tomatoes, & red wine, creating a hearty, & boldly flavored ragu. Toss it into pappardelle or any pasta you love or serve it atop polenta or gnocchi. Slowly Braised Short Rib Ragu is the ultimate Italian comfort food meal!
Check the Recipe Notes, below, for Oven-Braised, Slow Cooker & Instant Pot directions, as well as make-ahead & freezing instructions.
for the Slowly Braised Short Rib Ragu sauce:
- 4 pounds English cut beef short ribs
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 3 large carrots, peeled & diced
- 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 stalk celery, finely diced
- 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 1 cup dry red wine
- one (1) 0.75-ounce package fresh “poultry herb blend” (or approx. 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, 4 sprigs fresh sage leaves & 12 sprigs fresh thyme)
- 2 bay leaves
- optional: 1 parmesan rind
- 14 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups low-sodium beef broth/stock or water
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
for Short Rib Ragu pasta:
Braised Short Rib Ragu Sauce:
- Brown the short ribs: Add 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 short ribs as dry as possible. Generously season the short ribs with 1 heaping tablespoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Once the oil in the pot is shimmering hot, carefully add in the seasoned short ribs. 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 short ribs to a plate & set aside. Repeat, as necessary, with the remaining short ribs. Once all of the short ribs are browned, carefully drain off all but 2 tablespoons drippings from the pot. Set aside & discard once cooled. Returning the pot to medium heat.
- Brown the soffritto: Add the soffritto (carrots, onion, & celery) to the same pot used to brown the short ribs, seasoning with 1 teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Stir to combine & cook, stirring occasionally, until the soffritto is deeply browned, 15-20 minutes.
- Add aromatics. Add the garlic to the pot with the soffritto. Stirring constantly, cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add the tomato paste to the pot, stirring to coat the soffritto. Cook 2-3 minutes, until browned.
- Deglaze: 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 3-4 minutes, until the wine is almost completely absorbed into the soffritto.
- Build & simmer the short rib 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, beef broth/stock (or water), & browned short ribs from Step 1. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a low. Cover & simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 1/2 – 3 hours, or until the short ribs are fall-apart tender. If the ragu 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 short rib ragu: Carefully transfer the short ribs 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 short ribs into bite-sized pieces, discarding the bones as you go. Return the shredded short ribs to the pot with the ragu. 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 short rib ragu pasta (below).
Short Rib 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!
- Finish the short rib ragu sauce: Meanwhile, as the pasta boils, bring the braised short rib ragu up to a simmer. Stir in the heavy cream & parmesan cheese. Continue to simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally.
- Short rib ragu pappardelle: Add the cooked pasta to the pot with the braised short rib ragu sauce, tossing to coat. The short rib 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 short rib ragu pappardelle 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:
- Storage Instructions: Beef short rib 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 6 of Recipe Directions, above. Once cooled, transfer to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. Whip up a batch of short rib ragu pasta during the week by reheating the braised short rib ragu in a skillet, & completing the recipe according to “Short Rib Ragu Pasta” Steps 1-4, above.
- Freezing Instructions: Short rib ragu is also incredibly freezer-friendly. To freeze, transfer the cooled short rib ragu sauce to a freezer container (or divide it up between multiple freezer containers for smaller portions). 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 “Short Rib Ragu Pasta” Steps 1-4, above
Alternate Cooking Methods:
- Oven Braised Beef Short Rib Ragu: Prep the recipe according to Steps 1-5, 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 short ribs are fall-apart tender, then finish the short rib ragu sauce as directed in Step 6 & complete the recipe according to “Short Rib Ragu Pasta” Steps 2-4.
- Crock Pot / Slow Cooker Short Rib Ragu: Prep the recipe according to Steps 1-4, above. Transfer the soffritto mixture to the slow cooker, along with the aromatics, tomatoes, broth/stock (or water), & browned beef short ribs as directed in Step 5. Slow cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 7-8 hours, stirring occasionally. Finish the short rib ragu sauce as directed in Step 6 & complete the recipe according to “Short Rib Ragu 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 short rib ragu sauce recipe (Steps 1-6) in the slow cooker.
- Electric Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot Short Rib Ragu: Use your Instant Pot’s “Sauté” setting to cook the recipe according to Steps 1-5, 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 Steps 6. Complete the recipe according to “Short Rib Ragu Pasta” Steps 2-4, which you can do right in your pressure cooker pot.
Keywords: braised beef short rib ragu, short rib ragu, pasta recipes, Italian recipes, comfort food recipes
Recipe & Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.