No. 260: Crock Pot Rustic Italian Beef Ragu

We have more visitors coming over the next month. Always a great excuse for some fun cooking!

To kick off a great weekend with my fabulous mother-in-law I chose this easy Italian beef ragu. It seemed very simple and no fuss, which would leave more time for chatting and catch-up.

Ingredients

3-4 pounds beef chuck roast
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 handful each fresh rosemary and fresh thyme, stems discarded and leaves finely chopped
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1/2 bottle dry red wine
28 ounces canned whole tomatoes, peeled
2 tablespoons pearl barley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)
2 handfuls grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

To make

Chop onion, carrot and celery, mince garlic and chop rosemary and thyme and put everything on the bottom of a crock pot.

Cut roast into 2-inch cubes and brown them in olive oil in a pan over high heat in stages, don’t overcrowd the meat so it browns nicely. Add it to the vegetables.

Off the heat pour wine into the frying pan and use wooden spoon to loosen all the delicious bits from the bottom of the pan, that’s where much of the flavour is concentrated. Pour the wine into the crock pot along with canned tomatoes. Sprinkle the barley over the top (this adds texture). Add a teaspoon of salt and freshly ground pepper.

Ready to cook

Cook on low for 10-12 hours. In the last hour take the lid off and shred the beef with two forks, add more a tablespoon more of fresh rosemary and thyme and a splash of water or wine if the meat is too dry.

After the last hour of cooking, stir in butter (optional). Serve over hot pasta or polenta and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Freeze the rest of ragu for later use.

The results

This ragu is wonderfully rich. The fresh herbs bring such depth. And of course, we served it over creamy Parmesan polenta.

Final dish

The sauce is on the watery side, so I would either cut a bit of the wine volume or add tomatoes without the juice from the can. I used a slotted spoon to strain the ragu well before adding it to the polenta.

The best part is that it only took about 30 minutes of morning prep to get this all going, and then 10 minutes in the evening to make the polenta and serve. Yes, this all meant a slightly earlier morning, but it was all worth it at 6pm when we were hungry and ready to eat.

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