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Short Rib Ragu with Mafaldine Pasta

This short rib ragu recipe is made by braising boneless short ribs and a whole lot of vegetables in a red wine sauce until the meat is fall apart tender.

Short Rib Ragu is what comforts my soul on a cold gloomy day. After a long slow simmer in the oven, the sauce is so thick and meaty that you can eat it with a fork, but you will want to serve it over ribbony Mafaldine for a deliciously hearty meal. The ribbons on the Mafaldine are perfect for holding a hearty Italian meat sauce like this or my Vodka Sauce with Sausage.

A white plate with mafaldine pasta topped with a meat ragu.

So what exactly is “ragu”?

Well, ragu is an Italian term used to describe a pasta sauce that features meat as it’s star ingredient. You will find all kinds of variations of ragu throughout Italy. This slow cooked short rib recipe is one of my favorites. It’s bold flavor and fork tender meat make a rich sauce that is perfect enjoyed as a holiday meal or a family dinner on a wintery Sunday afternoon.

Ingredients for making short rib ragu.

Ingredients you will need and substitutions

  • Boneless beef short ribs – You can also use bone in short ribs. For this recipe I use English cut short ribs. If you can’t find short ribs you can substitute a chuck roast that has been cut into large pieces.
  • Whole tomatoes in puree – You will want to crush the tomatoes by hand to get nice chunks in the sauce.
  • Carrots, Celery and Onion – I like to cut the vegetables into a very small dice. Most of the vegetables will melt into the sauce while cooking.
  • Beef stock or beef broth – I often use store bought stock when making this recipe.
  • Red wine – Use a red wine such as a merlot, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon or chianti. I like to use a wine that I will be serving with the ragu.
  • Fresh thyme – Feel free to add other fresh herbs such as parsley or sage.
  • Bay leaves – dried.
  • Pasta: I love the ribbons in Mafaldine but you can also serve this short rib ragu sauce over other long pasta shapes like pappardelle or bucatini. If you prefer a short pasta rigatoni or ziti and hearty shapes for holding the sauce. Feel free to use your favorite pasta!
4 process photos of making a ragu,1 brown the meat, 2 cook vegetables, add wine, completed sauce.

How to make short rib ragu – Step by step instructions and cooking tips

  1. Brown the short ribs. If you want to get optimum flavor in the ragu, you need to get a really nice sear on the short ribs. Start by patting the short ribs dry with paper towels so that there is no moisture on the outside of the ribs. Moisture will keep the meat from getting a deep brown sear so don’t skip this step. Season them with salt and pepper so you start to build the seasoning in layers as you cook. Then heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or a heavy bottomed pan set over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the short ribs and let them cook for several minutes on each side until they are nicely browned. The ribs will release from the pan pretty easily when they are ready to be turned. Make sure not to over crowd the meat in the pan or it will steam rather then sear. Working with a few pieces at a time is best. Remove the ribs from the pan and set them aside
  2. Sauté the vegetables. Add the carrots, celery and onion to the same pan set over medium-high heat. Season with salt and pepper and using a wooden spoon, scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Allow the vegetables to soften and get tender. This may take a few minutes. Then add the finely diced garlic cloves and cook for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the braising liquid and remaining ingredients. Pour the wine in to the vegetables and give a good stir. Cook until the liquid has reduced by half. This may take about 10 minutes. Now you can add in the hand crushed tomatoes, thyme and bay leaves, and return the short ribs and any drippings back into the pan.
  4. Braise in the oven. Bring the ragu to a boil, cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and place the pan in a 325 degree oven for 3-4 hours. The long slow cooking time is necessary to break down the connective tissue and tenderize the ribs. The meat is done when it is fall-apart tender and can be easily shredded with a fork.
  5. Finish the ragu. When the meat is tender, remove it from the sauce and place it on a plate or cutting board. Shred the meat using two forks. Meanwhile place the sauce back on the stove and let it simmer uncovered until the sauce thickens slightly. Return the shredded meat back into the sauce and mix well.
A thick meat sauce in a Dutch oven.

How to serve short rib ragu

Serve the ragu over pasta.

Over pasta is my favorite way to eat short rib ragu. Allow the ragu to simmer over medium-low heat while you cook the pasta to al dente or until it is still just a bit toothy. Reserve about a cup of pasta water and drain the pasta. Add the cooked pasta to the ragu and toss to coat it completely with the sauce. If the sauce seems too thick, add a little pasta water to loosen it to your liking. Use tongs to transfer the pasta to serving plates, top it with additional ragu and sprinkle with grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese.

Other serving suggestions

Short rib ragu is such a delicious and hearty sauce that it can be served over a variety of dishes. If you want to try something different consider serving it over polenta, with gnocchi or even over mashed potatoes!

A late of ribbony pasta with a thick meat ragu and a glass of red wine.

More about short ribs

Just as their name implies these ribs are short. Short ribs come from the “chuck” section of the cow. This is located right behind the rib section and short ribs are the first ribs in the “chuck” . The chuck section is a very hard working part of the animal so the muscle meat from this section is not very tender, but thanks to it’s marbling it is very flavorful. Braising or cooking in liquid over low heat for a long period of time is the best way cook this cut of meat.

There are two styles of short ribs, English cut and flanken cut. In English style the ribs will be cut into short chunks about 5 inches long with one bone and in flanken style they are cut in long strips of three bones with the connecting meat between the bones.

FAQ’s

How do you remove the excess fat from the sauce?

There are several ways that you can remove the excess fat from the top of the sauce.
1. Use a spoon to skim the fat off of the top of the sauce.
2. Use a slice of bread to absorb the fat by laying the bread gently on the top of the sauce.
3. Let the sauce come to room temperature and spoon the coagulated fat off the top.
4. Place the sauce in the refrigerator and allow the fat to harden making it easy to remove.

Can you make short rib ragu ahead of time and refrigerated?

This is a perfect recipe to make in advance. Cooking the ragu a day or two ahead is a great way to have this beautifully thick sauce ready for a weeknight meal. Allowing the sauce to sit for a day before serving will only increase the depth of flavor as the ingredients meld for a longer period of time. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for several days as long as it has been placed in an airtight container.

Can you freeze the sauce?

Yes you can freeze the ragu. Stored in a freezer safe container the sauce can be frozen for 2-3 months.

A plate of pasta with ragu surrounded by a bottle of wine and a bowl of grated cheese.

Other Italian pasta recipes to try

How to Make Nonna’s Meatballs and Tomato Sauce

Tomato Cauliflower Pasta Sauce

Rigatoni Bolognese

Pasta Rustica with Sausage

Radiatori Pasta with Spinach and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Paccheri Pasta Amatriciana

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A late of ribbony pasta with a thick meat ragu and a glass of red wine.

Short Rib Ragu with Mafaldine

This is the perfect Italian comfort food! The ragu is a thick hearty sauce that has been slow cooked for hours so that the meat is fall apart tender. Serve it over Mafaldine, a long ribbony pasta that holds the sauce perfectly and is fun to eat!
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs 30 mins
Total Time 4 hrs
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8 servings
Calories 769 kcal

Equipment

  • Dutch Oven or a heavy bottomed pan with a lid

Ingredients
  

  • 4 lbs Short ribs boneless, about 8
  • 3 tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 cups Carrots small diced
  • 2 cups Celery small diced
  • 2 cups Onions small diced
  • tsp Kosher Salt plus more for seasoning the meat
  • ½ tsp Black Pepper ground, plus more for seasoning the meat
  • 3 cloves Garlic minced
  • 2 cups Red wine such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot or chianti
  • 4 cups Beef stock
  • 28 oz Whole tomatoes in puree, crushed my hand
  • 4-5 sprigs Thyme fresh
  • 2 Bay leaves dried
  • 1 lb. Mafaldine pasta

Instructions
 

  • Pre-heat the oven to 325°.
    Pat the short ribs completely dry and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in the Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add several short ribs at a time to the oil and brown them on all sides. Don't over crowd the meat in the pan. Remove the meat from the pan and repeat with the remaining short ribs. Transfer the short ribs to a plate.
  • In the same pan, add the carrots, celery, onion, salt and pepper. Sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes.
  • Add the wine to the vegetables and cook over medium heat until the liquid has been reduced by half.
  • Add the tomatoes, beef stock, thyme, and bay leaves to the pan and stir well. Then return the short ribs and their drippings back into the sauce. Bring to a boil, cover and transfer the pan to the preheated oven. Cook for 3 hours or until the meat is easily shredded with a fork.
  • Remove the pan from the oven and place it back on the stove. Using tongs, place the short ribs on a cutting board or a plate. Shred the meat using two forks, or it allow it to cool so that you can shred it using your hands.
    Meanwhile, allow the sauce to simmer uncovered over medium low heat so that it thickens slightly. Return the shredded meat to the sauce.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta until it is al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain the pasta. Transfer the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Serve the pasta with additional ragu and parmesan or pecorino romano cheese.

Nutrition

Serving: 8servingsCalories: 769kcalCarbohydrates: 57gProtein: 55gFat: 30gSaturated Fat: 11gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 134mgSodium: 876mgPotassium: 1705mgFiber: 5gSugar: 9gVitamin A: 6314IUVitamin C: 20mgCalcium: 89mgIron: 7mg
Keyword Meat sauce, Short ribs, red wine, tomatoes, pasta, comfort food
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