Braised Beef Ragu with Pappardelle (or any kind of braised short ribs) might just be my favorite recipe ever. Like, ever ever. We're talking last meal kind of dish. I love it for the hearty braising liquid and the tender, succulent meat. As a wine lover, some of my favorite red wines (and probably yours) just happen to go with this dish — too bad it's not health food because I'd eat this every day if I could.
I made a batch of braised beef short ribs for Mrs. B on our anniversary, then saved the remaining braising liquid that went into a spaghetti with meat sauce dish a few days later. That was basically a jar of tomato sauce mixed 1:1 with braising liquid mixed with fresh pasta. So simple, yet so deliciously decadent.
The beautiful thing about braised beef is it's so decadent and so complex. And it's really quite easy to do—the secret is just simmering the beef in the liquid for a few hours so it gets tender.
Nebbiolo from Barolo or Barbaresco might be the best option because those wines are surprisingly complex yet delicate in their palate weight. On the nose, Barolo or Barbaresco (both made with Nebbiolo) is chock full of ripe fruits, cooked fruits as well as all sorts of earthiness like forest floor, cooked mushroom, moss and damp soil. Basically, both the dish and wine are lighter in weight, yet very complex. A few vintages to look for are 2001, 2005 and 2007.
From Washington's Walla Walla valley comes L'Ecole No. 41. Most people probably don't realize how well wine from Walla Walla age, but you can read my write up here. L'Ecole hit one out of the park with their 2001 Merlot. By now, it has mellowed a bit with age yet preserved its earthy characters, which are inherent in Merlot. The wine is so pretty and complex, with similar palate weight as the dish. You will look like a frickin' champ if you serve for guests. Visit the winery website here.
- beef short ribs - 4 lbs. with bone
- carrots - 4, coarsely chopped
- celery stalks - 3, coarsely chopped
- yellow onion - 1, coarsely chopped
- shallots - 2, diced
- garlic - 1/2 head, peeled and chopped
- vegetable oil - 3 TBSP
- bay leaf - 1, dried
- fresh rosemary - 4-5 sprigs
- fresh thyme - 4-5 sprigs
- fresh parsley - 1/2 cup, coarsely chopped
- all-purpose flour - 1 TBSP
- tomato paste - 2 TBSP
- red pepper flakes - 1 TBSP
- red wine - 3 cups
- beef stock - 3 cups
- fresh pappardelle pasta - 1 pound (fresh, soft long flat pasta is desired)
- shaved Romano - to garnish
1, Preheat oven to 325°F degrees. 2) Generously season ribs with salt and pepper, making sure to let the salt 'melt' into the beef. In a 5-quart Dutch oven over medium high heat sear ribs on all sides working in batches if necessary. Make sure to heat the oil to the point it's almost smoking. Set seared beef ribs to the side on a plate. The idea is not to cook the meat all the way through, it's just to brown the outside for texture—the ribs will cook internally while braising for hours in the oven.
2, Reduce heat to medium. Add onions and shallots and cook over medium heat until onions start to turn golden (around 3-5 minutes) stirring occasionally. Using a wooden spoon, stir in carrots and celery and cook until vegetables start to soften, about 7-10 minutes. Make sure to scrape up brown bits from the beef that cooked in the pan previously and stir in with the vegetables.
3, Add flour and tomato paste to the mix and stir to combine. Pour in red wine and simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half. Add in garlic, red pepper flakes, herbs and beef stock.
4. Add seared beef ribs to the liquid, cover and put into the oven. Cook until the beef ribs are tender—about 3 hours. 6) After beef ribs have cooked for a few hours remove from the oven and set on the stove. Remove the beef ribs and set aside in a large bowl to let them cool. Once cool, use a fork and/or your hand to remove as much fat from the ribs as possible. Also, tear apart the beef and keep the shredded beef to add later.
5. Using a fat separator and a sieve or filter, pour the liquid so the fat floats to the top and can be separated out. Your heart will thank you later. See all that fat on the top? You don't want that.
6. At this point the sauce is almost ready and so is the beef. Add the sauce back to the Dutch oven or another pan and cook over medium until it reduces and concentrates with flavor. Stir in the beef if you haven't already. You can add a jar of tomato sauce if you'd like and simmer for a while or serve like this. Heat your fresh pasta in boiling water with 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup salt before tossing with the sauce. Serve in a bowl garnished with fresh shaved Romano cheese and minced parsley.