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Today’s recipe is a hearty short rib ragu! This traditional Italian delight, made from tender, slow-braised beef short ribs bathed in a rich tomato sauce, is a true crowd-pleaser. Served over pappardelle pasta, these robust flavors meld together to create a comforting and satisfying dish. And what’s even better? It’s surprisingly easy to make at home!
Why this short rib ragu recipe works
- The star of the dish, beef short ribs, are slowly braised until you are left with tender, melt-in-your-mouth beef.
- Made with a combination of crushed tomatoes, wine, and aromatic herbs, the rich and robust sauce is deeply flavorful and velvety.
- Not only is this dish delicious, but it’s also an excellent choice for dinner parties. You can make it in advance, and it even tastes better the next day!
- Despite its gourmet taste, this short rib ragu is surprisingly straightforward to prepare. Most of the cooking time is hands-off.
- Served over pappardelle pasta, the hearty ragu sauce is perfectly paired with thick, wide noodles that hold up well to the robust flavors.
- And let’s not forget about the homemade garlic bread – made with fresh herbs and plenty of garlic. It’s the perfect way to clean off your plate!
What’s the difference between ragu and bolognese?
Many people often confuse ragu and bolognese, thinking they are the same thing. However, there are some key differences between the two!
Ragu is a meat-based sauce, while bolognese is a tomato-based sauce (though both are from Italy). In terms of texture, ragu tends to have larger chunks of meat and vegetables compared to bolognese, which is smoother and more uniform.
Additionally, ragu typically has a longer cooking time compared to bolognese, which makes the flavors more deeply developed.
- Beef short ribs
- Yellow onion
- Dry red wine
- Crushed tomatoes
- Tomato paste
- Better Than Bouillon beef paste
- Beef stock
- Fresh rosemary sprigs
- Bay leaves
- Fresh thyme sprigs
- Pappardelle pasta (prepared al dente)
- Fresh parsley
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- Grated pecorino romano
- Homemade roasted garlic bread (optional)
When buying the short ribs, look for well-marbled pieces, as they will add more flavor to the ragu. You can also ask your butcher to cut them into smaller, bite-sized pieces for easier cooking and serving.
How to make homemade short rib ragu
Making this braised short rib ragu may seem intimidating at first, but I promise you it’s worth the effort. The slow and low cooking method will result in tender and flavorful beef that melts in your mouth.
Here is a step-by-step tutorial on how to make this delicious dish:
Step 1: Season and sear short ribs
The first thing you want to do is to generously season the short ribs with kosher salt and black pepper on all sides.
Tip: To really get the seasoning to stick, pat the short ribs dry before seasoning them.
- Heat up a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat and add some olive oil.
- Once hot, sear the short ribs for about 1 minute per side until golden brown and the short ribs have a nice crust.
- Remove the from the Dutch oven and place it in the slow cooker.
Are beef ribs and short ribs the same?
No, they are not. Beef ribs come from the rib section of the cow, while short ribs come from the lower rib area to the plate.
Short ribs are basically ribs that are cut to about 3″ thick across the bone. There are other styles, like flanken and spare ribs, but for this recipe, you’ll want to go with short ribs.
What if I can’t find any beef short ribs?
If you can’t find any beef short ribs, you can substitute them with boneless beef chuck roast cut into large cubes.
Do I have to sear the short ribs before adding it to the slow cooker?
Searing the short ribs on both sides before slow cooking gives them a delicious caramelized crust. This not only adds flavor but also helps seal in the moisture for juicy and tender meat.
Tip: When you’re searing, make sure not to overcrowd the short ribs, or they’ll end up steaming instead of getting that nice brown crust.
Step 2: Sauté onions and aromatics
Once the ribs have been seasoned and seared off, it’s time to build the flavors of this delicious ragu.
- In the same Dutch oven, lower the heat and add the diced onions. Sauté until they are soft and translucent, about 4 minutes.
Step 3: Deglaze with red wine
Deglazing is a technique used to loosen up those brown bits from the bottom of the pot, called “fond.” The fond adds a lot of flavor to your ragu.
- Pour some dry red wine into the Dutch oven with the sauteed onions and scrape off all those delicious brown bits with a wooden spoon.
- Allow everything to reduce for 6 minutes.
Note: Reducing the red wine cooks off the alcohol and really amps up the flavor, making the dish taste even better.
What’s the best kind of red wine to use when making ragu?
Any dry, full-bodied red wine will work. Some good options are Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, or Syrah.
Can I use non-alcoholic wine for this recipe?
Yes, you can use non-alcoholic red wine as a substitute for regular red wine in this recipe.
Step 4: Combine ingredients in slow cooker
Everything is prepped and ready to go; now it’s time to combine all of the ingredients in your slow cooker.
- Pour in a can of crushed tomatoes and tomato paste.
- Add the sautéed onion mixture on top of the short ribs in your slow cooker.
- Stir everything together until well combined.
- Add chopped carrots, celery, fresh rosemary sprigs, bay leaves, and fresh thyme sprigs.
- Finally, add in some bouillon paste, beef stock, or water until the short ribs are just covered.
- Use some tongs to spread the ingredients evenly.
Can I use dried herbs?
Yes, you can use dried herbs instead of fresh ones. Just remember to adjust the amount accordingly since dried herbs are more potent than fresh ones.
Do I have to use bouillon paste?
No, you do not have to use bouillon paste. However, I find that it adds a lot of flavor and richness to the ragu. If you don’t have any on hand, you can substitute with beef stock or water.
Step 5: Cook low and slow
It’s time for the magic to happen! Set your slow cooker to cook on low heat for 6-8 hours.
Note: The longer cooking time will result in a richer and more flavorful ragu. This dish shouldn’t be cooked on high, or the short ribs will be tough.
Can I braise the ribs in the oven instead?
Absolutely! You can braise the short ribs in the oven at 350°F for 2.5-3 hours. You can use that same Dutch oven pot you used to sear everything and then transfer it to the oven.
Step 6: Prepare pasta and garlic bread
While the ragu is cooking, prepare your pappardelle pasta according to package instructions.
Tip: To add even more flavor, cook the pasta in the same pot you used for braising.
Step 7: Shred beef and reduce sauce
Once the cooking time is up, carefully remove the lid from your slow cooker. The short ribs should be fork-tender and falling off the bone.
- Use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the short ribs from the slow cooker and place them on a cutting board.
- Remove any bones as well as all of the herbs.
- Grab two forks and start shredding those short ribs, getting rid of any fatty bits.
- Give the sauce a quick stir (a skim for any bones left behind) before returning the shredded beef to the slow cooker.
- Turn the slow cooker on warm.
How do I know when the ragu is done?
The beef should be tender and easily pulled apart with a fork. The sauce should also have reduced and thickened, coating the back of a spoon. If the sauce is too thin, you can turn the slow cooker to high and cook for an additional 30 minutes with the lid off.
How to serve beef short rib ragu
It’s time to put everything together and enjoy your delicious beef short rib ragu!
Serve the ragu over a bed of pappardelle pasta in a shallow bowl. Top with freshly grated pecorino romano cheese and chopped fresh parsley.
And, don’t forget to serve some garlic butter rolls on the side for dipping in that rich, flavorful sauce.
For a full meal, consider making this kale Caesar salad with chickpea croutons as a refreshing side dish.
How to store and reheat leftovers
Any leftover short rib ragu and pasta can be stored separately in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 4 days.
When reheating, add the desired amount of ragu and pasta to a pot with a splash of water or beef broth. Cook over medium heat until warmed through, stirring occasionally.
If you plan to freeze this short rib recipe, allow the ragu to fully cool and store it in a flat layer in a freezer bag. When you’re ready to serve, just pop it in the fridge to defrost overnight, then warm it up in a pot until it’s nice and hot!
I hope you enjoy this slow cooker short rub ragu!
Looking for more slow cooker recipes?
- Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja
- Beef Short Ribs With Polenta
- Slow Cooker Beef Chili
- Fall-Off-The-Bone Dry Rub Ribs
- Slow Cooker Guinness Beef Stew
Made this recipe and loved it? Leave a star rating below!
- 3 1/2 pounds beef short ribs (see note)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
- 1 yellow onion (diced (1 1/2 cups))
- 2 cups dry red wine (cabernet)
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 3 medium carrots (peeled, diced ( 1 1/2 cups))
- 3 ribs celery (diced (3/4 cup))
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon beef paste
- 1/2 cup beef stock
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 3 bay leaves
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 1 pound pappardelle pasta (prepared al dente)
- Fresh parsley (chopped to garnish)
- Freshly grated pecorino romano to garnish
- Homemade roasted garlic bread (optional)
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
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- Salt and pepper all sides of the short ribs.
- In a dutch oven over medium/high heat, add 2 tbsp olive oil. In batches, sear each side of the short ribs for 1 minute, until a browned crust forms. Remove from dutch oven and place in slow cooker. Repeat with remaining short ribs.
- Lower the heat to medium, add 2 tbsp olive oil and diced onions. Sauté for 4 minutes, until onions begin to soften. Pour in 2 cups of red wine to deglaze the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up flavorful short rib bits on bottom of pot. Allow the liquid to reduce for 6 minutes. Carefully add to slow cooker.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the crockpot: crushed tomatoes, carrots, celery, tomato paste, bouillon paste, beef stock, rosemary, bay leaves, and thyme. Using tongs, disperse ingredients evenly.
- Set slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours.
- Once the short ribs are done cooking, carefully remove from the crockpot and place on cutting board. They are so tender, some of the bones may have already fallen out. Discard the bones. Remove the thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves as well, discard. Use two forks to shred short ribs, removing and discarding fatty bits. Return the shredded short ribs back into the sauce and stir to combine. Turn the slow cooker on warm.
- Prepare pasta al dente
- Serve ragu over pasta and top with freshly chopped parsley and freshly grated pecorino romano. Enjoy short rib ragu with homemade garlic bread on the side, to soak up all the delicious sauce.
Beef short ribs:
- Bone-in vs. boneless short ribs: you can get boneless short ribs, but for maximum flavor and best texture, you want to use bone-in short ribs for this recipe.
- Try and select the short ribs that are thick and have a lot of meat on the bone.
Slow cooker temperature:
- This dish should be cooked on a low heat setting for tender and juicy meat. If cooked on high, the short ribs can be tough.
- Making ahead: If making ahead, fully prepare the short rib ragu and store. Prepare the pasta fresh, when ready to eat.
- To store: Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- To freeze: Allow the short rib ragu to fully cool and store in a flat layer in a freezer bag. Defrost overnight in refrigerator and heat up in pot till warmed through.