The Classics: Beef Ragu Pasta Sauce

Classic Beef Ragu

Following up on my classic Caesar Salad recipe I shared last week, I thought I’d share another classic that I think deserves a spot in anyone’s kitchen rotation, especially during the winter months. The classic beef ragu is not glamorous, but it’s hearty and flavourful and a nice change from the traditional ground beef pasta sauce.

A classic beef ragu sauce recipe, cooked low and slow and can be served over any type of pasta.

Ragu is cooked low and slow, until the beef basically falls apart. It’s one of those dishes where you can do the bulk of the prep mid-day, enjoy the smell all afternoon and just have the few minutes work to cook the pasta to do at dinner time. And in case you’re wondering, yes, you could easily do this in a slow-cooker, as well.

I love to serve ragu with lasagna noodles. I generally buy the ones that are a flat half-sheet (they are about 7 or 8 inches long, without the ripply edges). De Cecco makes a great one. I just love the bulk of them with the hearty sauce and it’s easy to get a fork full of meat with a nice chunk of pasta to go with it. The half sheets are also easier to get into the pot and don’t stick together as much when boiling. Pappardelle or tagliatelle would also be good noodles to try.

You don’t need to use expensive beef cuts to make a great ragu. Watch for sales on stewing or cubed beef and stock up.

Classic Beef Ragu

The Classics: Beef Ragu Pasta Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
I suggest making lots. Beef Ragu freezes well or try the left-overs next day on a hearty ciabatta bun! Made with economical stewing beef. Can also be made in a slow-cooker.
Recipe type: Main Course
Serves: 4

  • 1 lb. stewing (cubed) beef
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 28 oz (796 ml) can good quality Italian plum tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup (50g) diced onions
  • 1/3 cup (93g) diced carrots, about 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) red or white wine
  • 1 cup (250ml) beef broth
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • Fresh basil leaves, about 6 or 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red chili peppers
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Small sheets of lasagna noodles, pappardelle or tagliatelle pasta
  1. In a large, heavy bottomed pot (Dutch oven), heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown meat in small batches (don't crowd the pan) and remove to a bowl and set aside.
  2. In the same pot, adding a bit more oil, if necessary, cook onion and carrots, stirring, until softened. Add garlic and cook for about a minute more. Add tomato paste and stir in. Add the wine and stirring, cook until wine has reduced by half. Add tomatoes with juices (breaking up a bit), beef broth, butter, spices, a bit of salt and pepper and the bay leaf. Return the reserved meat and any juices. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 2 1/2 hours, stirring once or twice.
  3. Using a potato masher, mash the ragu to break up the beef into shreds. Add the vinegar (or lemon juice) and simmer uncovered for additional 30 min. to thicken. (You can spoon off some of the fat, if you like or just serve with a slotted spoon to leave it behind when you serve).
  4. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente. Drain and using tongs, place pasta in a loose pile (ie: not flat - scrunch it up) in a flat bowl.
  5. Taste ragu and adjust seasoning to your taste. Spoon sauce over noodles and serve with Parmesan cheese.


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