This is the BEST beef short rib ragu recipe that is slow cooked in a dutch oven and served over pappardelle pasta. This decadent recipe takes time, but it is perfect for Sunday dinner or special occasions.
This post was originally published in September 2022 and has been updated for content.
Sunday dinner has always been a time when we get the family together to enjoy a meal. It's a great time to recharge and enjoy each other's company before a busy week.
I love making a hearty and delicious meal for Sunday dinner and this beef short rib ragu is perfect for that. Cooked low and slow on the stovetop, this thick sauce has the most delicious flavor.
🍝 Ragu vs. Bolognese
In Italy, Ragu isn't a brand of spaghetti sauce at the grocery store. It is a meat based red sauce served over pasta. It is similar to bolognese, which is also an Italian meat sauce served with pasta.
The difference between ragu vs. bolognese is that ragu is made with red wine, tomatoes, and a bit of cream. Bolognese on the other hand is made with white wine, less tomatoes, and no cream.
🍖 Ingredient notes
- Short Ribs - This cut of meat is a short portion of the rib bone and the meat surrounding it. The meat is tougher, which makes it perfect for slow cooking and braising. Doing so gives it time to break down the connective tissue. Short ribs are well marbled with fat. When slow cooked, they create a rich, indulgent flavor. I recommend using bone in short ribs for the best flavor, however boneless short ribs will also work. Make sure to try my Italian braised short ribs too!
- Broth - Use beef broth or beef stock. Either will add so much flavor to the sauce.
- Fresh Herbs - Fresh herbs cooked in the sauce helps to add flavor. You can use the pre-packaged bundles sold in the grocery store or just use what you have on hand. Fresh thyme, parsley, basil, or oregano would all be great. Simply gather the herbs together in a bundle and tie them up in a piece of cheesecloth with a piece of cooking twine.
- Pasta - Pappardelle pasta is one of my favorite things to serve with this short rib ragu. Tagliatelle or fettuccine are other kinds of pasta that could be used.
📋 Substitutions and variations
- Red Wine - A dry red wine adds a nice rich and robust flavor to the beef short rib ragu. If you prefer to not cook with wine, you can replace it with extra beef broth or stock.
- Dairy Free - For a dairy-free version of this sauce, you can omit the parmesan cheese and replace the heavy cream with unsweetened non-dairy milk.
🔪 Step by step instructions
First, pat the short ribs dry with paper towels and season them with kosher salt and black pepper. Heat a large dutch oven or large pot over medium heat on the stove top with the olive oil.
Sear the short ribs in the pot so they are golden brown on all sides and then remove them and set them aside.
Next, add the mirepoix of onions, celery, and carrots to the pot. Cook until they are softened. Add the minced garlic cloves and cook for another 30-60 seconds until it becomes fragrant.
Lastly, add the tomato paste and cook for another 30-60 seconds until everything is well combined.
Deglaze the pot by pouring in the red wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to release any browned bits with a wooden spoon.
Add back the browned short ribs along with the herb bundle, crushed tomatoes, and beef stock so that the meat is covered with the braising liquid.
Cover and let the meat cook in the tomato sauce for 2-3 hours until they are tender and fall off the bone. Remove the herb bundle and the bones and shred the meat with two forks or kitchen tongs.
Simmer the shredded meat with the sauce for an additional 30-60 minutes until the sauce slightly reduces and thickens.
Stir in the heavy cream and serve over freshly cooked pappardelle pasta, sprinkled with parmesan cheese.
If you ever don't recognize a tool or skill that I mention, be sure to look it up in our Glossary of Cooking Terms and Definitions for more information.
⭐ Expert tips
- Bring the short ribs to room temperature and pat them dry before seasoning them to remove any excess moisture. This will help to create the best sear.
- Cover the short ribs mostly in liquid so they braise evenly.
- If the sauce is bubbling too much, lower the heat to medium-low. You want it to simmer, but not boil.
- Remove the cover a reduce the beef short rib ragu for a thicker consistency.
- Add a little bit of water from the cooked pasta to the sauce for a richer consistency.
🥘 Alternative cooking methods
Oven - Instead of letting this simmer on the stovetop, you can transfer it to a preheated 325˚ oven to cook after adding the tomatoes, broth, and herbs. Cooking time will be about the same as it is on the stovetop.
Crock Pot - Sear the short ribs in a pan on the stovetop and then transfer them to a crock pot. Saute the onions, carrots, and celery in the same pan, and then add the garlic and tomato paste. Deglaze the pan as directed, scraping the bottom of it to remove any stuck-on bits. Add this mixture to the slow cooker and then add in the fresh herbs, tomatoes, and beef broth. Cover and cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 6-8 hours until tender.
⏲️ Make ahead and storage instructions
Make the ragu ahead of time and heat it up later. Store the completely cooled sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days or in the freezer for 3 months.
Thaw frozen sauce completely before heating it back up. Re-heat in a pot on the stovetop over medium-low heat, while stirring occasionally, to prevent burning.
🍝 More Sunday dinner recipes
If you loved this beef short rib ragu recipe, then check out these other Sunday dinner recipes that I know you will love too!
- Sunday Pot Roast Dinner
- Italian Style Meatloaf with Marinara
- Jumbo Shrimp and Scallop Scampi
- Cast Iron Chicken Pot Pie
Beef Short Rib Ragu Recipe with Pappardelle
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 3-4 pounds beef short ribs bone in
- 2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup diced yellow onions approximately 1 medium onion
- ½ cup diced carrots approximately 1 medium carrot
- ½ cup diced celery approximately 1-2 ribs of celery
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 1 cup dry red wine merlot, cabernet or pinot noir
- 1 fresh herb bundle see note
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups beef stock or beef broth
- ½ cup heavy cream
- pappardelle pasta for serving
- parmesan cheese for serving
- Heat a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot with the olive oil over medium heat on the stovetop.
- Pat the short ribs dry with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture and then season them on all sides with the salt and pepper.
- Sear the short ribs in the hot oil, working in batches if needed. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until browned and then remove them from the pot.
- Add the onions, carrots and celery to the pot and saute for 3-5 minutes until they start to soften.
- Add the garlic and cook, while stirring, for 30-60 seconds until it becomes fragrant.
- Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 30-60 seconds until it begins to melt into the vegetables.
- Deglaze the pot by adding the red wine and scraping the bottom to release any stuck on bits.
- Add the short ribs back to the pot along with the herb bundle, crushed tomatoes and the beef broth.
- Cover the dutch oven with the lid and allow the short ribs to simmer for 2-3 hours until they are tender and fall off the bone.
- Remove the herb bundle and the bones from the pot and using two forks or kitchen tongs, shred the meat into smaller pieces.
- Stir the meat together with the sauce and let it simmer, uncovered, another 30-60 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened and reduced.
- During the last 15-20 minutes of cooking, boil the pasta and drain it, reserving ½ cup of the pasta cooking water.
- Stir the heavy cream and reserved pasta cooking water into the sauce and then serve over the freshly cooked pappardelle pasta, topped with grated parmesan cheese, if desired.
- Herbs - Buy pre-packaged bundles sold at the grocery store, or a bundle a mixture of what you have on hand. Fresh thyme, parsley, basil, or oregano all work great. Gather herbs together in a piece of cheesecloth and tie them with cooking twine.
- Short Ribs - Bring ribs to room temperature and pat them dry to get the best sear.
- Red Wine - Can be substituted with extra beef broth or stock.
- Dairy Free - Omit the parmesan and replace the cream with unsweetened non-dairy milk.
- Braising - Make sure short ribs are mostly covered in the liquid so they cook evenly.
- Temperature - If the sauce is bubbling too much, lower to medium-low. It should simmer, but not boil.
- Cover - Simmering the sauce uncovered to reduce it to an even thicker consistency.
- Oven - After covering the pot, move to a preheated 325˚ oven to cook for 2-3 hours until fork tender.
- Crock Pot - Sear ribs in a pot on the stovetop and transfer to a crock pot. Saute the onions, carrots, and celery in the same pot, and then add the garlic and tomato paste. Deglaze the pan as directed and add this mixture to the slow cooker. Add in the fresh herbs, tomatoes, and beef broth. Cover and cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 6-8 hours until tender.
- Make Ahead - Store cooled sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days or in the freezer for 3 months. Frozen sauce should be thawed completely. Heat in a pot on the stovetop over medium-low heat, while stirring occasionally to prevent burning.