When you’re thinking of all the slow cooked beef recipes you can make, beef ragu should be high on your list. This Italian meat sauce is amazing tossed through cooked pasta for a crowd-pleasing family dinner. A slow cooked beef ragu is a step up from the classic bolognaise sauce made with mince. This is cooking to take your time over, filling your kitchen with delicious aromas as tougher cuts of beef simmer gently in a rich tomato and red wine sauce. It’s ready when the meat is tender enough to fall apart into shreds, all the better to fold through fresh pasta or gnocchi, or spoon over a plateful of soft polenta.
Make this easy ragu sauce in your slow cooker
While you can simmer a ragu sauce in a casserole pan on the stovetop or in the oven, we think the best method for beef ragu is the slow cooker method. Cooking in your slow cooker keeps the heat very low so you don’t boil the beef, which can make it tough. Once all the ingredients are in the slow cooker you can simply leave it on high for 4 hours (or on low for 6 hours), rather than having to come back and stir to stop the ragu from catching on the base of the pan.
If you’re using a slow cooker for this ragu recipe you will also need a frying pan for browning the beef, pancetta and vegetables and deglazing the pan with wine before adding everything to the slow cooker. Some slow cookers have a flameproof removable bowl or a browning function to make this step easier and cut down on clean up. The stovetop version can be done all in one casserole pan for a one-pot sauce, ready to serve with your favourite sides.
Tips and tricks for an authentic ragu bolognese sauce
Choosing the right cut of meat can make a big difference to the flavour and texture of your ragu. This slow cooker beef ragu recipe is made with gravy beef, also known as beef shin. This great-value cut is full of flavour but needs long slow cooking to break down and become tender. If you can’t find gravy beef, an easy alternative cut for this beef ragu recipe is to use chuck steak.
For the best flavour, brown the beef first in a frying pan over medium-high heat before transferring to your slow cooker. This gives a richer colour and flavour to the finished dish. This ragu recipe uses Italian-style pancetta together with onion, carrot and celery to create an authentic flavour base for the sauce. After browning these ingredients, add red wine to the pan and cook until the liquid reduces – this is known as deglazing and it helps to release extra flavour that has cooked onto the base of the pan.
The combination of dried bay leaves and fresh oregano and thyme adds lots of flavour to this beef ragu recipe. If you only have dried herbs, reduce the quantity to 1 tsp oregano leaves and ½ tsp thyme leaves.
How to serve this beef ragu recipe
When the beef is very tender, remove it from the sauce and coarsely shred the meat – it’s easiest to do this using 2 forks to gently pull the beef apart. Then return the shredded beef to the sauce so it’s ready to serve. We’ve served the beef ragu with gnocchi, which is quick and easy to cook – just add the gnocchi to boiling water and when it floats to the surface, it’s ready. All you need to add is some shaved parmesan and basil leaves for freshness. Beef ragu is also great served with any fresh or dried pasta or spooned over soft polenta. This Italian ragu recipe also makes a perfect base for other family favourites including lasagne and Italian-style cottage pie.
Now get cooking
Whip up this easy ragu sauce in your slow cooker and serve it with fresh gnocchi for a mouth-watering meal. Or go for tagliatelle and spice up the sauce with red chillies like in our tagliatelle with beef ragu recipe. Want more Italian recipe ideas? Make lamb shank ragu with pappardelle, serve pork ragu on creamy polenta or turn mushroom ragu into lasagne. Plus, find more Italian inspiration in our slow cooker recipes collection. If you need a speedy shortcut, grab ready-made ragu from Coles and make beef ragu with polenta or our delicious beef ragu bake – it’s a great way to use up leftover homemade ragu, too.