Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: April 28, 2022

Slow cooking meat allows the meat to break down slowly and prevents it from becoming chewy and tough, even with the cheapest cuts of meat.

Slow-cooked ragu is a tender, fall apart, beautifully rich, and rustic tomato beef sauce infused with so much flavor and can be served in many different ways.

There are many ways to make beef ragu, but the recipe we have selected for you today is a delicious, mouth-watering winner, every time! Follow the recipe below, and feel free to add other ingredients to it if you like.

Quick Summary

  • Slow cooker beef ragu is made by firstly browning beef brisket in olive oil.
  • Then, the brisket is transferred to the slow cooker and topped with pan-fried onion and garlic.
  • Finally you will add ingredients such as tomato paste, beef broth, red wine, diced tomatoes, and herbs and spices like basil and oregano and slow-cook it for 7 to 8 hours.

Ragu: A Quick Overview

Beef Ragu served on a pasta

Ragu is one of the most famous sauces in Italian history! People from all places of the world have been recreating this recipe for their families time and time again.

It is one of those dishes that feel so much like home and just never gets old. Many variations have stemmed from this magical recipe, with Bolognese being the most popular.

Despite the world enjoying ragu as an Italian dish, the sauce originated as part of a medieval French specialty and was served as a hearty second course.

Ragu was initially called ragout, which refers to stews of vegetables and meat cooked for a long time over low heat. Back then, tomatoes weren't part of the dish yet as we all know it today.

Recipe Overview

Top view of Beef Ragu with pasta dish
  • Preparation Time: 30 Minutes
  • Cooking Time: 7 to 8 Hours (low heat)
  • Total Time: 8 Hours & 30 Minutes
  • Servings: 14 – 16 cups
  • Calories: 398kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil (divided)
  • 1 medium onion (finely chopped)
  • 4 Garlic cloves (minced or finely chopped)
  • ½ cup (120ml) cup red wine
  • ½ cup (120ml) beef broth/stock
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 or 2 tsp salt (to your taste)
  • crushed black pepper (to your taste)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4lbs (2kg) round roast or beef brisket (trim off fat)
  • 2 x 14oz (410g) tins diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tsp Maizena (cornstarch) mixed with 2 tbsp water to thicken the sauce

I prefer to get my beef from ButcherBox meat delivery for convenience.

Instructions

Slow cooked Beef Ragu on a bowl with spoon
  1. In a large skillet or pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sear both sides of the roast or beef until browned. Transfer the prepared seared meat to your slow cooker (6qt). Searing should take no more than 5 minutes on each side.
  2. Leave the leftover olive oil in the pan, add the garlic, and fry until the garlic is fragrant.
  3. Add the onion and fry until it is transparent.
  4. Add the onion and garlic mixture over the meat in the slow cooker.
  5. Add all the remaining ingredients except the water and cornstarch mixture, which you will only add later on to thicken the sauce.
  6. Cover the slow cooker with a lid and cook it for 4 to 5 hours on high heat or for 7 to 8 hours on low heat.
  7. To test if the meat is ready, use two forks to pull the meat apart. It should have almost the same pull as pulled pork. If the meat falls apart easily, it is ready.
  8. To thicken the sauce, stir the water and cornstarch mixture into the sauce, cover with the lid and allow it to cook for a further 30 minutes.
  9. Once done, continue to shred the meat into pieces using the two forks and mix it through the sauce.

How To Serve

Over On With
  • Polenta
  • Pasta
  • Zucchini noodles
  • Pasta
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Pizza as a topping
  • Sliders
  • Grilled cheese
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Rice
  • Baked potato
  • Roti or flatbread
  • Olive brushed and toasted French loaf

What Is The Difference Between Beef Ragu & Bolognaise?

Ragu is a dish that showcases the beauty of authentic Italian cooking.

However, many folks have wondered if there is a difference between beef ragu and bolognese sauce. All in all, it comes down to the same type of sauce, but some minor differences in taste and texture separate the two. So, let's compare;

Beef Ragu

Beef Ragu sauce on top of pasta with blurred background

Beef Ragu is a rich meat-based Italian sauce with a thick consistency.

The sauce contains more tomatoes than a bolognese, and it is made with red wine instead of white wine.

Ragu is usually served with thinner pasta like spaghetti but also tastes incredible when served with Pappardelle pasta.

Beef ragu usually uses cream or milk as a thickening agent, however, thickening the sauce is optional.

Bolognaise

Bolognaise top view spaghetti

Bolognaise is a meat-based Italian sauce that contains fewer tomatoes than ragu and has a substantially thinner consistency.

Bolognaise (or Ragu alla Bolognaise) is best served with wider, flatter pasta such as tagliatelle and fettuccini.

Some people think that bolognese is made with red wine, while it is actually made with white wine.

Although you could add it to your bolognese sauce, cream or milk is not a typical bolognese ingredient.

Can You Substitute The Tomato For Another Ingredient?

There is a saying, "different strokes for different folks," and it is the same with food. Although beef ragu is famous for its tomato meatiness, there are those individuals who don’t like tomatoes in any shape or form.

This could become a problem in a household where a lovely beef ragu is king, but one of the family's soldiers doesn't eat the glorious red stuff.

There is a way to prepare ragu without using tomato paste, canned tomato, passata, or whole tomatoes.

It involves a whole lot of delicious mushrooms, carrots, celery, white wine, garlic, herb, spices, and more! Check out this white ragu recipe, and remember you can swap the ground beef and sausage for brisket if you would like.

Create this recipe in a slow cooker following the instructions of the slow cooker beef ragu recipe at the top of this article.


 

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