Sometime in the recent past, flush with a fresh paycheck, I was inspired to take on a dish that I had always dismissed as costly and absurdly time-consuming: a beef ragu recipe. I don't readily cook with red meat, so this was a step outside of my comfort zone. But, dear reader, I'm so very glad I took that step.
If you've ever been intimidated by a ragu recipe, fear not. I experimented so that you don't have to. This was my first time ever making both a ragu and fresh pasta from scratch, and I survived to write the tale. If I can do it, you can too! It's well worth the effort.
What you'll need from the shops for your ragu recipe:
A head of garlic
Fresh herbs - I used parsley and time
2 X tinned tomatoes
Some tomato paste
High-quality short rib - I bought about 700g, which was enough for two people
It wouldn't be a ragu without pasta! I'd recommend serving this sauce with a long, flat ribbon-like pasta like tagliatelle or, even better, pappardelle. If you want to learn how to make your own pasta from scratch...well, you're just going to have to stay tuned for next week's recipe by subscribing to the Ballitist newsletter!
And, here it is: a simple beef ragu recipe
Step 1: Prep your kak
First, you're going to want to chop your fresh veg into little cubes. It's kind of a soffritto, kind of a mirepoix. It doesn't matter. It's delicious.
Oh, by the way, someone special gifted me with a dough scraper for my kitchen adventures. I love it, and I highly recommend getting one. It's not at all essential, but I've found it to be much more effective than a knife for scraping up chopped veg and tossing them into a pot. I also used it when I made the pasta from scratch.
Now is also a good time to prep a bundle of parsley and thyme into a bouquet garni. Simply tie your herbs into a little bundle with a string that you wouldn't mind putting into your food, because that's precisely what you're going to be doing.
Step 2: Brown your meat
The real meat cooking happens in the oven, but you have to brown the meat first. So, get a Dutch oven or some other durable vessel hot on the stove at medium-high heat. Toss in a very little bit of neutral oil to help the browning along. Then, place your short ribs down (hear that sizzle!) and brown them.
You see all that brown stuff at the bottom of the pan? That's the fond, and it's an essential base for our ragu sauce. Turn the ribs over and brown them on all four sides.
You're looking for a healthy sear on the meat - see the photograph for a visual guide to Maillard's magnificence. When you're satisfied, remove the short ribs and let them chill out somewhere else for a bit.
Step 3: Cook your veg
Now, turn down the heat to a low-medium level and do not clean it out. Leave all the juices from the short ribs in the pan, then add a generous slab of butter. Tip your soffripoix into the mix. Cook that down on medium heat until it softens and someone emerges sniffing from elsewhere in the house to ask what you're cooking. This is a positive sign.
Pro tip: you don't ever have to peel garlic for a slow-roasted sauce. Just halve the head and pop it in; you can squeeze the cloves out when they're super soft later on.
Step 4: Shove it all in the oven
When your veg has cooked down to semi-softness, gently nestle your cooked short ribs back into the veg. Toss in your bouquet garni. Then, bung it in the oven at about 180 degrees Celcius and settle in. That baby is going nowhere for at least five hours.
You heard me right. I tried a shorter cooking time, and it did not go well. The meat needs a long, long soak in the oven before it falls off the bone. Take it from me: let the ragu cook for at least five hours on low heat.
Step 5: Find something to do for five hours
You may notice a distinct lack of photographs after this point in the blog. That is because I only started the cooking time for the ragu in the afternoon, and it was late in the night (and very dark) before I took it out. You'll have to use your imagination from now on.
Anyway, do your dishes. Catch up on your gardening. Watch two feature films back to back. Attend a live rock concert. See you in five hours. Don't forget to stir every so often to prevent burning.
Step 6: Prepare for deliciousness
In the last half hour of cooking, you'll want to prepare your pasta. Cook it according to packet instructions.
While that's happening, remove the ragu from the oven. Take out the short ribs and shred the meat from the bone using two forks. Put the shredded meat aside. Then, discard the bouquet garni and toss the slow-roasted vegetables into a blender. Use an immersion blender if your countertop blender can't handle hot stuff. Remember to squeeze out your garlic cloves - that skin won't blend.
Then toss your cooked pasta, blended ragu sauce, and shredded short rib back in the Dutch oven. Stir through. Serve hot with some parmesan shavings. Call me personally to thank me for introducing you to a fundamentally life-changing dish.
Enjoy. And tune in next week to learn how to make pasta from scratch!