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Total comfort food — with just 10 minutes of prep! Prepare this Beef Ragu recipe in the slow cooker or on the stovetop for an Italian-inspired easy dinner that your family will adore! The affordable meal serves a crowd and freezes beautifully.

Close overhead shot of slow cooker beef ragu recipe served over pasta in a blue and white bowl

There’s something so cozy about a big pot of sauce simmering in your kitchen. The smell of garlic and onion wafts through the house as you anticipate time with your family around the table. There’s no last-minute stress or effort! You can leave the ragu recipe in your Crock Pot all day while you work, and come home to an amazing, restaurant-quality meal!

Best of all, this dish takes advantage of inexpensive ingredients (such as a beef chuck roast), yet transforms them into something truly special.

What is Beef Ragù?

An Italian ragù recipe is typically defined as a hearty, seasoned Italian sauce made with meat and tomatoes. It is most often served with pasta, and includes ground beef (or shredded chuck roast, in this case), tomatoes, and finely chopped carrots, celery and onion (source).

Front shot of beef ragu in a white pot with wooden spoon

How to make Beef Ragu:

My mom originally gave me this recipe, which she created for the stovetop. While simmering the beef and vegetables in a Dutch oven results in a beautiful sauce, I don’t always have that kind of time! As a result, I’ve tested Mom’s recipe numerous times in my own home to create a slow cooker version that’s just as good! By using a lot less liquid in the Crock Pot, you can still accomplish a thick, rich, flavorful braised beef ragu — that’s not watered down by the slow cooker.

First, whisk together red wine and tomato paste. This helps to create a smooth mixture so that you don’t have large chunks of tomato paste in your slow cooker.

Red wine and tomato paste for beef ragu recipe

Add the red wine mixture to your Crock Pot, and stir in salt, onion, garlic, celery, carrot, Parmesan cheese, and crushed tomatoes.

Onions in crock pot for beef ragu

Season a beef chuck roast with salt and nestle the meat in the slow cooker among the vegetables.

Raw chuck roast in slow cooker for beef ragu recipe

Cover the pot and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours or on HIGH for 5-6 hours. You know it’s done when the beef is fall-apart tender!

You can shred the meat right in the slow cooker, or you can remove it to a cutting board or rimmed baking sheet to shred with two forks. I like to take it out of the pot in order to make sure that every bit of beef is shredded and to remove any fatty pieces.

Shredding beef for ragu on a sheet pan

Return the meat to the pot and stir to combine.

Close up shot of beef ragu on a ladle in the crock pot

It’s thick, rich and perfect with a bowl of pasta!

Close up front shot of beef ragu mixed with pappardelle pasta in a bowl

How to serve Beef Ragu:

Beef ragu is often served with pappardelle — a large, very broad flat pasta noodle. If you’re like me and you have trouble finding pappardelle in your local grocery store, you can toss the ragu sauce with another sturdy pasta. Good alternatives include:

  • Rigatoni
  • Ravioli
  • Fettuccini
  • Tagliatelle
  • Or use the sauce in your favorite lasagna recipe!

On the side, you can pair the braised beef ragu with any of these easy options:

Close overhead shot of beef ragu recipe in a dutch oven

Cook’s Tips and Recipe Variations:

  • Note the different amounts of liquid called for in the different cooking methods. The stovetop version requires water and more red wine, because you simmer with the lid ajar — which releases steam and allows the sauce to thicken. The slow cooker, by contrast, needs the lid closed — which means that condensation falls back into the sauce. As a result, you will omit the water and drastically reduce the amount of red wine when preparing the Crock Pot ragu.
  • This recipe calls for kosher salt. If you’re using regular table salt, you will likely need to decrease the amount of salt that you add to the dish. Just taste and adjust to your liking!
  • Don’t want to use red wine? You can substitute with an equal amount of beef stock.
  • If you can find San Marzano crushed tomatoes, they’re the best!
  • Is Beef Ragu spicy? No, not at all! This mild sauce is incredibly kid-friendly. That said, you can easily add heat to the dish by stirring in crushed red pepper, to taste.
  • How to thicken Beef Ragu: if you find that your sauce looks too thin — even after you have added back in the shredded beef — you can continue to simmer the sauce without a lid until the ragu reaches the desired consistency.
  • How to freeze Beef Ragu: This sauce will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. To preserve the ragu even longer, package in an airtight container (or in a Ziploc freezer bag) and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • To reheat Beef Ragu: Thaw frozen ragu in the refrigerator overnight. Place in a saucepan, cover and cook over low heat, stirring regularly, until warmed through.
Long overhead shot of a bowl of beef ragu with pappardelle pasta and fresh basil

More easy sauce recipes that you might enjoy:

Close overhead shot of slow cooker beef ragu recipe served over pasta in a blue and white bowl

Beef Ragu Recipe {Slow Cooker or Stovetop}

5 from 7 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 8 hours
0 minutes
Total: 8 hours 10 minutes
Servings 8 people
Calories 375 kcal
Total comfort food — with just 10 minutes of prep! Prepare this Beef Ragu recipe in the slow cooker or on the stovetop for an Italian-inspired easy dinner!

Ingredients
  

  • 2 ½ – 3 lb. chuck roast
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt divided
  • 3 Vidalia onions thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic smashed and peeled
  • 1 stalk celery finely diced
  • 1 carrot peeled and finely diced
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 1 ½ cups red wine (such as pinot noir) for stovetop method OR ½ cup red wine for slow cooker method
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • For serving: pappardelle or other sturdy pasta

Instructions

SLOW COOKER METHOD:

  • Spray a slow cooker with cooking spray. Whisk together tomato paste and ½ cup red wine; transfer to slow cooker. Add onions, garlic, celery, carrot, Parmesan cheese, crushed tomatoes and ¾ teaspoon salt. Stir.
  • Season beef with ¾ teaspoon salt and place in the slow cooker.
  • Cover and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours or on HIGH for 5-6 hours. You know it’s done when the beef is fall-apart tender. Discard garlic cloves and use two forks to shred the beef. Add remaining 1 ½ teaspoons salt, stir, and serve over pasta.

STOVETOP METHOD:

  • Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season beef with ¾ teaspoon salt; brown in hot oil (about 4 minutes per side).
  • Remove meat to a platter.
  • Reduce heat to low; add onions and additional ¾ teaspoon salt. Stir frequently, scraping bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon as the onions cook and caramelize for 25-30 minutes. NOTE: If you don't have the time or patience to cook the onions for this long, that's fine — just sauté them for about 7 minutes (until tender). The caramelizing adds extra rich flavor, but it will still be delicious with a shorter time too!
  • Add garlic, carrot and celery; cook for 2 more minutes.
  • Clear space in the bottom of the pot; add tomato paste, and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes.
  • Add wine and deglaze the pot by scraping up bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.
  • Simmer for 3 minutes. Return meat to the pot; add 2 ½ cups of water, Parmesan cheese and crushed tomatoes. Reduce heat to very low; cover halfway (leaving the lid ajar to let the steam escape). Simmer for about 3 hours, or until meat is fall-apart tender.
  • Discard the garlic cloves. Remove meat to a rimmed baking sheet (or cutting board) and shred with two forks. Return shredded beef to the pot, and stir in remaining 1 ½ teaspoons salt. Serve over pasta.

Notes

  • Note the different amounts of liquid called for in the different cooking methods. The stovetop version requires water and more red wine, because you simmer with the lid ajar — which releases steam and allows the sauce to thicken. The slow cooker, by contrast, needs the lid closed — which means that condensation falls back into the sauce. As a result, you will omit the water and drastically reduce the amount of red wine when preparing the Crock Pot ragu.
  • This recipe calls for kosher salt. If you’re using regular table salt, you will likely need to decrease the amount of salt that you add to the dish. Just taste and adjust to your liking!
  • Don’t want to use red wine? You can substitute with an equal amount of beef stock.
  • If you can find San Marzano crushed tomatoes, they’re the best!
  • Is Beef Ragu spicy? No, not at all! This mild sauce is incredibly kid-friendly. That said, you can easily add heat to the dish by stirring in crushed red pepper, to taste.
  • How to thicken Beef Ragu: if you find that your sauce looks too thin — even after you have added back in the shredded beef — you can continue to simmer the sauce without a lid until the ragu reaches the desired consistency.
  • How to freeze Beef Ragu: This sauce will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. To preserve the ragu even longer, package in an airtight container (or in a Ziploc freezer bag) and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • To reheat Beef Ragu: Thaw frozen ragu in the refrigerator overnight. Place in a saucepan, cover and cook over low heat, stirring regularly, until warmed through.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/8 of the recipe based on a 2.5 lb. roast in the slow cookerCalories: 375kcalCarbohydrates: 22gProtein: 32gFat: 18gSaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 101mgSodium: 1350mgPotassium: 1173mgFiber: 4gSugar: 14gVitamin A: 1857IUVitamin C: 21mgCalcium: 130mgIron: 5mg
Keyword: beef ragu recipe, ragu recipe, slow cooker beef ragu
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

    1. That’s right, Lola. You’re slowly caramelizing the onions to draw out their sweetness and add layers of flavor. They get to be a dark brown color and super-sweet. If you don’t have the patience or time to mess with caramelizing the onions, that’s fine — you can just saute them until tender (about 5-7 minutes). The flavor won’t be as rich, but it will still be delicious! 🙂

  1. 5 stars
    All I can say is it was fantastic, I did add a bit more onions, but other than that I stuck to the recipe as written. Next time for me I will add a bit more broth or crushed tomato, because the leftovers were on the dry side, but still delicious.
    The 2 of us ate this for 2 nights and I took it for lunch. Next up Stuffed cabbage rolls in bowl.

  2. 5 stars
    Needed a meal ready as I was having a procedure done and didn’t want to come home and cook. I had this in the crockpot ready to go in 15 mins. Was able to come home and relax and 9 hrs later dinner. The pasta was perfect size for this rich yummy sauce. I sat back and realized there were no spices, none and it was so good!! The flavor was rich and my husband said it was the best goulash he had a in a long time. Thank you again for another wonderful dinner.

    1. Hi, Jean! In the stovetop instructions in the recipe box at the bottom of the post, Step #6 tells you to add the wine and deglaze the pot. Hope that helps, and enjoy!

  3. 5 stars
    This is a delicious recipe! My only adjustment was slicing my garlic cloves and leaving them to break down into the sauce, I LOVE garlic. Otherwise I followed the recipe for stovetop and it was amazing!

  4. 5 stars
    Made this last night. It was fantastic Blair. This will be on my rotation menu. Never made. this. Thanks for sharing. Merry Christmas to your family.

    1. Wonderful, Cindy! I’m so glad that you enjoyed it. Thanks for taking the time to let me know. Merry Christmas to you, too!

  5. 5 stars
    Blair-I made half the recipe in the slow cooker. (There are only two of us.) I froze enough for another meal. It was delicious and I will definitely prepare it again. It’s so easy to get going and requires no attention in the crockpot. Your recipes are great!

    1. That’s awesome, Judith! Thanks for letting me know. I’m so glad that you enjoyed it, and that you can enjoy it again at a later date. 🙂