A twist on the classic bolognese, this delicious pulled beef ragu is an incredibly versatile dish. Serve it with pasta, creamy mash or crispy roast potatoes or with polenta along with a side salad or steamed veggies; this will be a hit as a comforting midweek meal with family or a simple yet impressive meal if you’re entertaining friends. This beef ragu is slow-cooked, until the beef is so tender that it is easily shredded in the delicious thick sauce. It’s the perfect meal to cook ahead so you’ve got a delicious meal prepped and ready to serve. It’s also a great one to make double and freeze a batch.
This recipe uses a combination of fresh mixed herbs; don’t be alarmed at how many the ingredients ask for. It makes all the difference! If you don’t have fresh, simply replace with 1 tsp dried for each variety.
I don’t often use wine in my recipes, but here it also makes a difference! By cooking it on a high heat and allowing it to reduce, the alcohol will burn off, so you can’t taste it, but it adds a depth of flavour to the whole dish.
Here’s what you’ll need to make this healthy Beef Ragu sauce
- 750g-1kg stewing beef, cut into small chunks
- 4-5 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced
- 250ml red wine
- 500ml beef stock (from stock cubes)
- 400 g tin cherry tomatoes (or good quality chopped)
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs fresh sage
- 2 sprigs fresh oregano (if available)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- Salt & pepper
Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium/high heat, but do not allow the oil to smoke. Add the beef chunks and fry for 2–3 minutes until browned. Do this in batches if necessary. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Reduce heat and add a little more oil. Sauté the onion and garlic and cook for 2 mins until softened. Add the celery and carrots and continue to cook for a further 5 mins over a moderate heat. Towards the end add the tomato purée and cook it for a minute or so.
Increase heat and add the wine. Cook on a high heat, stirring all the time for around 2 mins, until all the liquid has reduced by half. Then add the stock, tin tomatoes, fresh herbs, bay leaves and chilli flakes and stir until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.
Next add the beef to the pan, cover with a tight-fitting lid and continue to cook over a very low heat for around 1hr. If you have a slow cooker, this is ideal for this stage. Alternatively, it can also be cooked in the oven. (160 degrees for 1hr)
Remove from the over, stir and return for a further 30mins. At the end of this time, check the beef to make sure it is very tender and soft. If necessary, cook for a further 20-30mins. You can’t overcook this dish!
Allow to cool a little before discarding the herb stems and if preferred, roughly shred the beef using a fork. Check seasoning. Serve warm immediately or ideally this dish benefits from sitting for a few days before serving; it tastes even better! A great one to prep ahead!
If you’re serving with pasta, penne or pappardelle work well with this thick beef ragu sauce. Once you’ve cooked the pasta al dente, drain it and return it to the hot saucepan. Add the warmed beef ragu to the pasta, season with salt and toss to combine. Allow it to infuse for a minute or so before serving in bowls topped with parmesan, with a side green salad with a creamy lemon vinaigrette.
Why not try this Very Veggie Fennel Bolognese; a more traditional bolognese recipe, with a veggie boost!