Beef Ragu is a classic Italian sauce, with beef cubes and vegetables simmered together with tomatoes, wine and herbs. Serve over pasta or polenta for a classic, hearty and delicious meal.
Every home cook needs a classic beef ragu recipe!
A classic beef ragu recipe will serve any home cook well for many, many years, whether cooking for family or a crowd. Universally loved, hearty and filling, beef ragu is classic comfort food and always a family or crowd pleaser.
Cooked low and slow until the beef basically falls apart, this is 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.
That said, I think most people would agree that beef ragu is even better after it has been refrigerated, so don’t hesitate to make it ahead.
And yes! You can easily make this beef ragu in the oven or in a slow-cooker, as well.
Beef – 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. Alternately, if beef roasts are on sale, you can buy a small roast and cut it up into cubes. Blade roast (or chuck roast) or any roast that you would use for a pot roast works well.
Canned Tomatoes – Use the best canned tomatoes you can. I love San Marzano canned whole tomatoes, for the best flavour.
Wine – you can use either red or white wine, though I tend to prefer red myself. A nice full-bodied red wine, such as chianti is especially nice. If you don’t have wine or prefer not to use, simply omit and replace with an equal amount of additional beef broth.
Herbs – Fresh herbs are great if you have them, though dried herbs work well. The one place where you might want to spring for fresh it on some fresh basil. I love torn fresh basil as a garnish on this dish. The fresh note of the basil is really nice!
How to Make Beef Ragu: Step-by-Step
How to make beef ragu in the oven or a slow cooker
The base recipe for this beef ragu cooks on the stove-top in a Dutch oven, but I have included details on how to cook it either in the oven or in a slow cooker in the Recipe Card below, if you prefer.
How to serve or use your beef ragu
With pasta – I love to serve ragu with pappardelle pasta. I just love the pairing of hearty noodles with the hearty sauce. Tagliatelle or fettuccine would also be a good noodle to try.
Over polenta – spoon the flavourful ragu over polenta.
In lasagna – replace your usual ground beef meat sauce with this beef ragu for a hearty twist.
Make an Italian-style Shepherd’s Pie – again, replace the typical ground beef filling of Shepherd’s pie with beef ragù. Top with Parmesan-flavoured mashed potatoes and bake!
How to store or freeze beef ragu
Left-over beef ragu will keep well for 2-3 days in the refrigerator. In fact, many people think beef ragu tastes even better when made ahead and refrigerated for 12-24 hours.
Beef ragu freezes beautifully in an airtight container up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge.
Salt brings all the great flavours together! I like to salt a little along the way, but you’ll almost certainly need to add additional salt at the end of cooking. Taste your sauce. Is it smooth and flavourful or a bit acidic and flat? If the latter, add salt, a bit at a time and stirring in between, tasting and adding salt until you get to that smooth spot!
Get the Recipe: Classic Beef Ragu Sauce
- 1 lb stewing beef
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/3 cup onions, diced
- 1/3 cup carrots, diced, about 1/4-inch dice
- 1/4 tsp crushed red chili pepper flakes
- 4 cloves garlic , roughly chopped
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 28 oz whole canned tomatoes, San Marzano recommended
- 1 cup beef broth
- 2 Tbsp salted butter
- 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried basil, or about 6 torn fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar , or balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper, as needed
- pappardelle, tagliatelle or fettucine pasta, or polenta
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Torn fresh basil leaves, for garnish
- In a large, heavy bottomed pot (such as a Dutch oven), heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Pat the beef cubes dry and season with some salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the meat to the hot pan in small batches. **You don want to crowd the pan, to avoid too much liquid in the pan, which will prevent the beef from browning. And browning = flavour. So do the beef in about 1/2 lb. batches (so 2 batches for the 1X recipe). Once beef is nicely browned, remove to a plate and set aside. Repeat until all the beef is browned.
- In the same pot, adding a bit more oil, if necessary, cook the onion and carrots, stirring, until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and garlic and cook for about a minute more. Add tomato paste and stir in, cooking for about 30 seconds. Add the wine and stirring, cook until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with juices (breaking up the whole tomatoes a bit with a spoon or your hands), beef broth, butter, herbs and salt. Stir until the butter is melted, then add the bay leaf. Return the reserved meat and any juices to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 2 1/2 hours, stirring a couple of times during cooking.
- **At this point, you can transfer the mixture to a slow cooker, to cook (covered), for 3 1/2 - 4 hours on high or 7-8 hours on low, followed by 30 minutes uncovered to thicken. You could also pop the Dutch oven into at 325F oven for about the same time as simmering on the stove-top, so about 2 1/2 hours, stirring a couple of times during cooking, then simmer on the stove-top over medium-low heat uncovered at the end, to thicken.
- When beef is fork-tender, remove and discard the bay leaf. Using a potato masher, mash the ragu to break up the beef into shreds. Add the vinegar and increase the heat to medium-low. Simmer the sauce, uncovered, for an additional 30 minutes, or until thickened to your liking.
- Taste the ragu and adjust seasoning to your taste, adding salt especially, as needed. The sauce should be smooth and flavourful. If it tastes flat and acidic, it needs salt. Add a bit at a time and stir in, taste and repeat as needed.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente. Drain and place pasta into a large bowl. Spoon ragu over pasta, as needed, tossing well to coat the pasta. Allow the pasta to stand several minutes undisturbed in the bowl, to allow the sauce and pasta to "meld together", before serving with Parmesan and some torn basil leaves.
Hi! I’m Jennifer, a home cook schooled by trial and error and almost 40 years of getting dinner on the table! I love to share my favourite recipes, both old and new, together with lots of tips and tricks to hopefully help make your home cooking enjoyable, stress free, rewarding and of course, delicious!
Hi I was just wondering how much pasta per the recipe please thanks in advance
Hi Nicole, the amount of pasta you use is totally up to you. As a general rule of thumb, about 2 oz. dried pasta per person. That said, when I make this ragu, I like the finished dish to be ragu heavy, so I tend to use less pasta than I normally would. About the only thing you don’t want to do is use too much pasta. You don’t want the ragu to get lost in a lot of pasta.
If one wanted to double the recipe would you double all the ingredients ( that seems to be a lot of garlic and whole canned tomatoes)
Hi Susan and yes, you’d want to double everything to keep the same ratios for the recipe. It may sound like a lot, but you’ll be making a big pot of ragu :)
Love it, it become my home Ravi recipe
So glad to hear, Jen :) Thanks so much!
My goodness, this is good! I’ve made other ragu recipes and they were very nice, but this one is seriously over the top. I made it according to the recipe — made a batch and a half since I had more meat. I bought San Marzanos, and used a 14 oz can of Muir Glen diced tomatoes to stretch the sauce to a 1.5 batch. Flavor was outstanding, and I liked using beef cubes rather than a chuck roast. I just think it tasted better after using the potato masher to finish the sauce. Balsamic at the finish was also brilliant. Thank you!
So glad you enjoyed it, Mary :) Thanks so much!
Another great recipe! It was delicious!! Thank you!!!
So glad you enjoyed it, Ryan :) Thanks so much!
Made this today for New Years Day, served it with some homemade gnocchi and it was DELICIOUS! Excellent recipe, easy to follow and great flavor!! Everyone was raving about the sauce, my daughter said I should get a Michelin star lol!! Thanks so much!!
I’m so glad to hear, Nancy! Thanks so much :)
Thank you! THIS RECIPE IS GREAT.
So much flavor!!!!
Made it with pappardelle a salad and a good crusty bread.
Was tired of “summer food” and was craving a hearty beef dish.
So glad you enjoyed it, Darlene :) I think I’m in the same place, as I’ve been craving hearty dishes lately, too! Thanks so much.
Made this tonight with leftover stewing beef I had! It was awesome and will definitely make one night for my friends! Thank you!
So glad to hear, Grace! Thanks :)
Hi :) just wondering how long I would need to cook it in a slow cooker? :)
Hi Andria, I think you’d be good with the classic 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.
Great recipe!! I have made it a couple of times!!! I used mezzani tagliati shaped pasta….
Thanks Scott :)
Oh my gosh, once again Jennifer you do not disappoint! Thanks for the Ragu recipe, it’s out of this world!! My only complaint (and I own this one) is that I didn’t double the recipe. shame on me & anyone else that does not do so!! So easy and super delish, eat what you like and freeze the rest for a cold winter’s night!!! So, so good!!
So glad to hear, Deb and yes, a double batch is always a good idea :) Thanks!
Gorgeous dish, thank you! I look forward to trying lots more of your delicious looking recipes.
Also, as you say, makes a change from the ragu I generally make with minced beef. I love the way you can scale the recipe quantities up or down to suit – there are only two of us at home now but I scaled up to freeze some.
Thanks so much, Helen! We are just two at home mostly now, too, but like you, I like to cook once and enjoy more than once :)
This is my family’s favorite ragu! We make it frequently and it never disappoints. Thanks for sharing all your great recipes.
p.s. Also love that you cook from a Canadian perspective
Thanks so much, Joanne and thanks so much for coming back to let me know. I love that you are all enjoying it :) There’s nothing nicer than a comforting ragu! And yes … always proudly Canadian.
It’s sounds amazing, but is it possible to make this ragu the day before?
Absolutely, Larissa. It will be as good (if not better!) the next day.
How would I adjust the cook time and directions in a crock pot? I would love to try this but would love to make it in a crock pot. Thank you :)
Hi Kelly. If you set your crock pot to a heat level that maintains a gentle simmer, the timing should be the same as the recipe (2 1/2 hours covered, 30 minutes uncovered). If you’d like to cook it longer, I think low-ish setting for 5-6 hours or so.
I made this for dinner tonight, it tastes amazing! Full of flavour! So glad I found your site :)
Thanks Zoe and so glad you enjoyed it!
Thanks Sophie. It’s one of the few times I look forward to leftovers!
I love your use of the super-wide lasagna noodles! So smart. And the leftover sauce stuffed between a sandwich bun? Even smarter :)
This looks so hearty and comforting! And I love the idea of serving them with lasagna noodles!
Thanks so much. We’ve been enjoying the left-overs on buns all week, too!
This is beyond gorgeous. I love a great ragu! Nothing beats it in my opinion. I’ve always served mine with pappardelle, but lasagna is a great idea for an alternative.
Thanks Laura. I think I started using lasagna noodles as a way to use up the part boxes of lasagna noodles that always seem to be kicking around my cupboard :) Just sort of stuck.
Your ragu looks so flavorful, I love the herbs and red wine!
Thanks so much, Laura. We always enjoy this dish (especially beef-loving husband!)