Home > Dinner > Beef Ragu (Crockpot Recipe) Beef Ragu (Crockpot Recipe) February 5, 2019 | 41 Comments SAVE TO RECIPE BOX Jump to Recipe This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy. Beef Ragu is flavor-packed, Italian-inspired comfort food. Make it easier in the slow cooker and serve it over pappardelle pasta. This is my go-to meal to serve when company is over or when I want to make a big batch of something to last for several meals throughout the week. While it does require a bit of work upfront, the slow cooker does the rest of the work making the meat fall-apart tender and the sauce luxuriously smooth. This past summer when I shared this Bruschetta recipe, I also shared a bit about our trip to Italy. One of our favorite things we did there was to take a cooking class in the countryside near Siena at Le Pietre Vive Farmhouse. Our teacher, Nonna Ciana, and her translators taught us how to make an authentic four-course Italian meal. The class was almost a full-day event and in between preparing the various courses, I asked dozens of questions about all of my favorite Italian dishes and their preparation. It was amazing to learn from her and get her take on Italian cuisine. After the class, her translator sent me an email with dozens of their recipes attached. I guess I wasn’t too discreet about asking for all their cooking secrets! I’ve loved working my way through those recipes and today, I’m sharing a (slightly adapted) version of her Beef Ragu. I switched a few ingredients (left out the milk and pancetta; swapped in broth for wine) and adapted it to go in the slow cooker, but the general ingredients and process come from her recipe. Grazie, Nonna Cianna! So, first off, let’s talk about WHAT exactly this dish is and next how to prepare it! What is a meat ragu? Meat ragu is a hearty, seasoned Italian sauce made up of meat and tomatoes. It is usually used in pasta dishes like this one. While meat ragu can be made with many different kinds of meat this specific meat ragu is made with beef chuck roast. You’ll also generally find finely chopped onions, celery, and carrots in a meat ragu. In Italian cuisine, those three vegetables chopped and then slowly cooked in olive oil becomes soffritto. Soffritto is used as a base for a lot of pasta sauces. QUICK TIP Ragu or ragout? Beef ragu is Italian, and the French equivalent is a ragout. This classic dish is seen in many versions around the world, each with its own specific twist. Because ragu is such a classic dish, one brand of commercial pasta sauce uses it as its product name! What is the difference between a ragu and a Bolognese? Ragu is a meat-based sauce with tomatoes, chopped carrot, celery, and onion (soffritto) and is generally made with red wine. Bolognese is short for ragù alla bolognese and is a variation of ragu. Bolognese sauce originated in Bologna, Italy (ragu comes from Naples), and uses white wine and fewer tomatoes. The pasta generally differs between sauces with thicker noodles for the Bolognese and thinner for ragu. How do I make Beef Ragu? Prepare the beef. Cut into large pieces and generously salt and pepper all sides. Sear the beef and then place it in the slow cooker. Prepare the soffritto. Sauté onion, garlic, carrots, and celery and then add to slow cooker. Add everything else (except the pasta) to the pot. Add the remaining ingredients — some seasonings, tomatoes, and tomato paste. Stir, cover, and cook on low heat. Shred beef and cook pasta. Remove the beef and shred it while you start cooking the pasta. Toss beef with hot cooked pasta. Using tongs, grab the cooked pasta and toss it directly into the pot with the meat ragu. Toss it with some pasta water to get great emulsification. Garnish and enjoy. Top with Parmesan cheese, fresh herbs as desired, and enjoy hot! QUICK TIP Beef Ragu is traditionally prepared with red wine; go with a hearty red, such as Chianti, Pinot Noir, or Sangiovese. If you prefer to not use wine, substitute with a rich beef broth or stock. Tips for the perfect Beef Ragu: Searing the beef really locks in the flavor and is essential to the overall amazing taste of this Beef Ragu. Sautéing the vegetables (carrots, celery onion, and garlic) over low heat adds so much flavor and depth to this recipe; don’t skip this step! The pasta you use makes a huge difference. I love pappardelle pasta in this recipe and I highly recommend DeLallo’s® pappardelle pasta. (It’s perfect for this dish –not sponsored; just a fan!) And while we’re talking pasta, the final step of tossing the meat with reserved pasta water and hot pasta is one of the “secrets” to Italian pastas. It’s called emulsifying and that’s how you get a luxuriously smooth sauce. More info here Another big key is using high-quality ingredients. The one ingredient that makes the biggest difference in this dish (IMO) is the crushed tomatoes. I’ve tried a few different brands and my all-time favorite for this ragu is Muir Glen® Organic fire-roasted crushed tomatoes (again, not sponsored, just a fan!) You can see the picture of these tomatoes above this text. Make a day ahead! See below for more info on why. QUICK TIP Pappardelle is one of the less-common kinds of pasta, but most larger grocery stores carry it. It’s a long, flat, wide noodle–imagine taking a lasagna noodle and slicing it into three long strips. That’s pretty much what pappardelle looks like. Wide egg noodles or fettuccini can fill in if you prefer. See photos farther down in this post. Make-Ahead/Storing Tips: Make-Ahead: I’ve made this dish quite a few times (My husband claims it to be his new favorite!) and I have found this to be the PRIME dish to make ahead of time. Do you know how some foods taste better when they’re reheated? That is what happens with Beef Ragu! If you’re going to be serving company or want to meal prep for the week, cook everything but the pasta in the slow cooker and then store it (covered tightly) in the fridge overnight. The sauce thickens, the flavors deepen, and it makes assembling dinner the next night (or the next few nights) an absolute breeze. Once it’s cooked, this ragu stores well in the fridge for up to 4-5 days. To freeze, check out this guide by Pinch of Yum. Repurpose Beef Ragu into a different meal. This recipe makes a lot, which is great when you’re serving it to a crowd. But if you aren’t, this is the perfect dish to make ahead and repurpose into a few different meals. Obviously, you can make it with the pappardelle pasta for several meals, but here are some other ideas for using this delicious meat sauce: Serve it over baked potatoes, polenta, or gnocchi. Pile it on top of some crusty rolls, top with mozzarella cheese, and broil. Serve it over zucchini noodles for a low-carb option. Add additional beef broth to make a hearty soup. Serve Beef Ragu with one of the following sides: Italian Salad Caprese Salad Roasted Vegetables (or just Roasted Brussel Sprouts) Quinoa Salad Bruschetta FOLLOW ALONG! Subscribe to my newsletter and follow along on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates, recipes and content. Beef Ragu 5 from 10 votes - Review this recipe Beef Ragu made in the slow cooker and served over pappardelle pasta is Italian-inspired comfort food! SAVE TO RECIPE BOX Print Recipe Beef Ragu 5 from 10 votes - Review this recipe SAVE TO RECIPE BOX Print Recipe Beef Ragu made in the slow cooker and served over pappardelle pasta is Italian-inspired comfort food! Course Dinner, Main Course Cuisine Italian Keyword beef ragu Prep Time 30 minutes Cook Time 7 hours Slow Cooking Time 7 hours Total Time 7 hours 30 minutes Servings 8 -10 servings Calories 673kcal Author Chelsea, adapted from Nonna Cianna (from an Italian cooking class) Equipment5-quart or larger slow cooker Ingredients▢ 2 lbs. 8 oz. beef chuck roast, cut into 6 large equal pieces▢ Fine sea salt and freshly cracked pepper▢ 3 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided▢ 3 cups mirepoix (diced onion, carrots, celery -- I use a cup of each)▢ 1 and 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic▢ 1 cup red wine (or beef stock/broth for non-alcoholic)▢ 1 can (28 oz.) crushed fire-roasted tomatoes (I highly recommend Muir Glen Organic fire-roasted crushed tomatoes)▢ 3 tablespoons tomato paste▢ 3/4 teaspoon EACH: dried thyme, dried basil, dried oregano▢ 3 bay leaves▢ 1 large beef bouillon cube (See Note 1)▢ 3 packages (8 oz. EACH) pappardelle pasta (I recommend DeLallo's brand)▢ reserved pasta water▢ Freshly grated Parmesan cheese and finely chopped fresh parsley (optional) InstructionsPlace chuck roast on a cutting board and dab both sides with a paper towel. Cut the roast into 6 even pieces and generously salt and pepper all sides.( I use almost a full tablespoon salt and about 1 teaspoon pepper.)Heat 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven (or oven-safe heavy-bottomed pot) over medium-high heat. Brown the pieces on all sides for 3 minutes total. To get a good sear, don't overcrowd the meat; you can sear the meat in batches if needed). Don't skip this step. We are adding layers of flavor here. Once the meat is nicely seared with a good crust, remove the pieces from the Dutch oven and place them in the slow cooker. Use a 5-quart or larger slow cooker.Turn heat down to medium-low and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Next, add in the carrots and celery and sauté, stirring occasionally for 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.Turn the heat to high, add red wine or beef stock, and scrape up any browned bits. Stir and simmer for 3 minutes and then pour the stock and veggie mixture into the crockpot. While the veggies are simmering, you can add in everything else to the slow cooker: the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, dried thyme, dried basil, dried oregano, bay leaves, and beef bouillon cube (See Note 1).Cover the cooker and cook on low heat (high is not recommended) for 6 - 8 hours (The meat is perfect right around 7-7.5 hours -- tested in both of my slow cookers.) Remove beef, discarding any gristle or fat, and shred with 2 forks then return to crockpot.Adjust the meat sauce's seasoning to your taste with salt and pepper. Cover and place on warm or cover and store in the fridge overnight if you're making this ahead of time.WHEN READY TO SERVE: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of salt and then add the pappardelle pasta* (See note 2). Cook according to package instructions but do not drain! Right before the pasta is done cooking, remove 1 cup of the pasta water.Meanwhile, place about half of the meat sauce in a very large pan. Put over high heat. Once the pasta is cooked, use tongs to grab it straight from the pot and add to the pan. Toss the pasta with the meat sauce, slowly adding in the reserved pasta water as needed. (I'll use anywhere from 1/2 cup to the full cup.) If serving a large group, use all of the sauce.Toss everything until you have a thick sauce that coats the pasta and the pasta water has evaporated. Serve immediately topped with fresh parsley as desired and plenty of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Recipe NotesNote 1: Here are the exact beef bouillon cubes I use. These are dual strength meaning you'll need 2 teaspoons of bouillon powder or 2 smaller cubes. Note 2: This dish makes a lot of food. I generally make it for 2 meals unless I'm serving a crowd. To do so, cook half of the pasta and toss with half of the meat sauce. Reserve the rest of the (uncooked) pasta and the rest of the meat sauce to prepare later on in the week. Nutrition FactsCalories: 673kcal | Carbohydrates: 69g | Protein: 40g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 169mg | Sodium: 404mg | Potassium: 800mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 195IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 68mg | Iron: 5mg We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed. DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? I love hearing from you when you've made one of my recipes! Tag me on Instagram at @ChelseasMessyApron or leave me a comment below.