This sauce is so simple and so delicious. It has all the unctuous richness of short ribs, but you don’t need to fuss with extracting them—dripping from the pan—to remove bones or shred them. It’s the kind of recipe that, after a little time devoted to browning, is quick to put together and perfumes the house while it braises in the oven for a couple of hours. It also keeps well and reheats beautifully, so it’s a perfect do-ahead dish. This is winter fall-in-love food, and, if you live in a cold climate like I do, it is, to my mind, a very romantic gesture. Of course, my kids think it’s just the best dinner of the week.
Short Rib Ragu Tips
The truth is that I wing most of my cooking. This is a riff on a basic ragu. I’m sure I’ve made this with one carrot and with four, with and without mushrooms or bacon, with some broth instead of wine. Feel free to play and to cook to suit your taste. Only a few things are really important. The meat should be well browned. You want a nice crust and a deep color, so resist them temptation to tinker with it and peek at it while it’s browning. And it needs enough time to braise in the oven until it is fork tender, so don’t try to rush the cooking time.
To crush the tomatoes, take each tomato from the tin and make a few inroads into it with your thumb and forefinger to reduce squirting. Holding them low in the pan, give them a good, crushing squeeze. Transfer the remaining tomato pulp to your cutting board and mince it finely. Add the tomato pulp to the pan. I don’t remember when my devious brain decided that this might be a good idea, but it’s really perfect. No more chasing whole tomatoes around a pan trying to crush them. No more unwieldy chunks of tomato in your sauce. And the consistency is much better than tomato puree.
Serve with fresh pasta, with polenta (recipe below), or with pan-fried gnocci. I usually serve it with something quick like polenta the first night I make it and then make something like fresh gnocci or fresh pasta a couple of nights later to eat with the leftover sauce.
An assertive vegetable such as Brussels sprouts or a salad with kale is nice with this. It’s also lovely with a simple baked yam or roasted butternut squash or mashed potatoes.
This sauce keeps well covered in the refrigerator for about five days. It reheats beautifully. If it is a bit dry, add a bit of broth or wine and bring it to a simmer over the lowest possible heat.
Boneless Short Rib Ragu
Yield: 10 to 12 servings
4 to 5 pounds beef chuck boneless short ribs
3 to 4 turns around the pan of olive oil
4 slices bacon, diced
1 large onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
5 cloves garlic
12 ounces crimini or other mushrooms, quartered or sliced
2 to 3 T. tomato paste
a generous glass of wine, either white or red, about 1 c.
28 ounces plum tomatoes and their juice (I prefer Bionaturae organic from Italy or Muir Glen organic)
salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- Heat a large pot over medium high heat.
- Pat the short ribs dry and season them generously with salt and pepper.
- Make three to four turns around the pan with olive oil and add the short ribs in one layer. Do not crowd the pan. You will likely need to brown them in batches.
- Do not disturb the short ribs. Let them sear uninterrupted for about five minutes. When they have a nice crust and deep color, turn them over and brown the other side.
- Remove the short ribs from the pan and place them on a large plate.
- When all of the short ribs have been browned and removed from the pan, add the bacon and cook until it is beginning to crisp.
- Add the onion, carrot and celery and a bit of salt and pepper and sauté until the vegetables are tender, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan as the vegetables soften.
- Add the mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms take on a bit of color.
- Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for a minute.
- Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for a minute.
- Drain the juice from the tomatoes into the pan and, with immaculately clean hands, crush the tomatoes over the pan.
- Add the wine and stir.
- Place the short ribs into the sauce, pour in any juice from the plate, tuck a piece of parchment paper on top, and cover the pot with its lid.
- Heave the pot into the oven and braise for about 2 ½ hours. It will be fork tender when it is ready.
- Pull the meat into shreds and chunks with a tongs and a fork and stir it into the sauce.
- Taste and adjust seasoning.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Resist the urge to make extra polenta. It doesn’t reheat well, and it’s quick to make another batch.
2 c. chicken stock (homemade or Swanson’s organic)
½ c. quick cooking polenta
a good knob of butter, about 3 T.
a good amount of Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated, about 1 c.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer over high heat.
- Reduce the heat to medium, whisk in the polenta, and stir for five minutes.
- Add the butter and the cheese and stir to incorporate.
- Serve immediately.
Fresh Pasta and Fresh Gnocci posts coming soon!