This short rib ragu recipe is made with short ribs that are slow cooked, shredded, and coated in a mouth-watering ragu. This hearty dish is delicious and makes wonderful leftovers—and it freezes well, too.
What is Short Rib Ragu?
Short rib ragu is a delicious Italian dish served over pasta. It is often made with braised short ribs that are cooked down in a tomato sauce and then served over pasta.
Our version of short rib ragu is made with seared short ribs that are slow cooked in a crock pot with other ingredients to create a rich and delicious tomato sauce. It’s seriously the best!
everything we love about this recipe
- We love that this recipe is easy to make but tastes (and looks) fancy. Perfect for any dinner gathering.
- The rich and deep flavors of the short rib ragu are just undeniably delicious.
- You can make this short rib ragu and eat half immediately and save half for later and freeze it.
What Short Ribs to Use
The star of this recipe are the short ribs. We highly suggest finding high quality short ribs. You can usually find them at a local butcher. We suggest finding short ribs that have less than 1/2 inch of fat on the rib.
If you do end up buying ribs with a bunch of fat go ahead and trim the majority of that fat off!
Most short ribs come with bones in them and we also prefer bone in short ribs because they offer so much flavor and complexity.
There are two different kinds of beef rib. There are beef short ribs and beef spare ribs. They difference between the two ribs are how they are cut. Both short ribs and spare ribs are from the same part of the cow.
Other Ingredients You Need
After you have found your quality short ribs, there are only a few other ingredients that you need before making this ragu recipe.
- Kosher salt- you will massage kosher salt into the short ribs. This will add flavor to the short ribs and also will tenderize the ribs.
- Spices (garlic powder, pepper, dried thyme, red pepper flakes)- along with the kosher salt, you will rub the garlic, pepper, dried thyme, and red pepper flakes into the short ribs. Rubbing the ribs with spices will add flavor to the meat and sauce.
- Dark brown sugar– we love to add brown sugar to many of our dry rubs. We balance out the red pepper flakes that are rubbed into the short ribs with a little brown sugar. The brown sugar also aids in caramelizing the outside of the short ribs.
- Olive oil– you can use olive oil or butter to sear the short ribs.
- Beef broth– the beef ribs will slowly cook in a bubbly sauce and the beef broth is a flavorful base for that sauce.
- White onion– you can’t beat adding onion to the ragu.
- Garlic cloves– the more garlic the better.
- Dry red wine– adding a bit of red wine to the ragu adds acidity and flavor that you can’t beat.
- Tomato paste– thicken the tomato ragu with tomato paste. Don’t skip this part.
- Anchovy paste– using a bit of anchovy paste adds delicious umami to this ragu.
- Worcestershire sauce– a little bit of vinegar adds so much flavor to the short rib ragu.
- Diced tomatoes– you cant have a ragu sauce without tomatoes. We used a simple can of tomatoes.
- Fresh thymes– adding fresh herbs to any ragu sauce is always a good idea. Be sure to tie the fresh thyme together so you don’t have to fish out sprigs later.
- Pappardelle pasta– we love serving this short rib ragu with pappardelle pasta, but feel free to serve the ragu with any pasta.
How to Make Slow Cooker Short Rib Ragu
Sear the ribs. Before you cook everything in the slow cooker to cook down into a ragu, you must sear the outside of the short ribs. Mix the kosher salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, and brown sugar together. Then, sprinkle the mixture over the short ribs. Be sure each rib is covered.
Heat a large dutch oven over high heat. Add olive oil or butter to the pan. When the olive oil is fragrant, sear the short ribs for 2-3 minutes on each side. Place the ribs into the slow cooker.
Sauté other ingredients. Deglaze the pan with beef broth. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula to break up any brown bits that were stuck to the bottom, there is a ton of flavor in those bits.
Add the garlic and onion to the pot and allow the onion and garlic to sauté until fragrant.
Finally, add the red wine, tomato paste, anchovy paste, Worcestershire sauce, and diced tomatoes to the dutch oven and whisk until combined.
Cook everything in the slow cooker. Pour the tomato sauce over the short ribs and add the fresh thyme to the slow cooker as well. Heat the slow cooker on low and cook the ribs for 8 hours.
If your ribs are stacked in the slow cooker, be sure to move the ribs from the bottom of the pile to the top of the pile halfway through the cooking process.
Boil the Pasta. When there is about an hour of cook time left for the short ribs, boil the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta. Cook the pasta until al dente. Strain the pasta and set aside.
Shred the beef. When the short ribs are cooked and fall off the bone, remove the ribs and place them on a large plate or baking sheet. Remove bones from the short ribs and discard them. Shred the beef with two forks and return the beef back into the slow cooker.
Toss everything together. Toss the meat with the sauce.
Serve over pasta. To serve this meal, you can add the pasta to the slow cooker and toss or you can plate servings individually and top the pasta with spoonfuls of ragu.
Questions About Short Rib Ragu
If you do not want to serve this short rib ragu with pasta you can also serve it over mashed potatoes or polenta.
If you would liek a thicker ragu sauce you can create a slurry. Remove 1 cup of the tomato sauce from the slow cooker. Try not to get any chunks.
The sauce should be hot. Add 2-3 teaspoons of cornstarch to the 1 cup of sauce and whisk the ingredients together. The mixture should thicken quickly. Add that back into the slow cooker and whisk it into the rest of the ragu.
You can top this ragu with shredded parmesan, romano, or any other salty hard cheese.
Store this short rib ragu separate from the cooked pasta in an airtight container. You can store the sauce in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Let the short rib ragu cool completely before placing it in an air tight and freezer safe container. Freeze the sauce for later for up to 3 months. Do not freeze the cooked pasta!
Short Rib Ragu
- 4 lbs. bone-in short ribs
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1 large white onion minced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- ⅓ cup dry red wine
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
- 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
- 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
- 7-8 sprigs fresh thyme
- 16 oz. pappardelle pasta
- Trim the short ribs. Depending on where the short ribs come from, they may have a thick layer of fat on them. Use a sharp knife to cut off that fat layer leaving only ¼ of an inch of fat. Set aside.
- Place the kosher salt, garlic powder, pepper, thyme, red pepper flakes, and dark brown sugar into a bowl and mix.
- Sprinkle the dry rub over the short ribs. Massage the spice rub into both sides of the short ribs and let them sit in the spice rub for 15 minutes.
- Sear the short ribs. Heat a large dutch oven over high heat. Add olive oil.
- When the olive oil is fragrant, add the short ribs to the dutch oven without crowding the pot. Sear the short ribs for 2-3 minutes on each side. You may have to do this in batches depending on the size of the ribs and dutch oven.
- Place the short ribs into the slow cooker and turn heat to low.
- Continue heating the dutch oven on the stove top but turn the heat to medium.
- Deglaze the pan with beef broth and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Add the diced onion and garlic to the pot and let the onion cook in the broth for 1-2 minutes.
- Next, add the red wine, tomato paste, anchovy paste, Worcestershire sauce, and diced tomatoes to the dutch oven and whisk until combined. Bring to a gentle simmer.
- Pour all of the ingredients over the short ribs in the slow cooker.
- Add the fresh thyme to the slow cooker and cook the short ribs on low for 8 hours.
- Halfway through the slow cooking of the slow cooker, swap the short ribs on the bottom of the pile to the top of the pile.
- When you are about 30 minutes out from the short ribs being done, bring a big pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta to the pot.
- Cook the pasta until it is cooked to al dente.
- Strain the noodles and set aside.
- Prepare the short ribs for the pasta. Remove the thyme sprigs from the slow cooker and discard.
- Remove the short ribs from the slow cooker and place them on a baking sheet with edges.
- The meat should fall off the bones if it hasn’t already. Discard the bones and any large pieces of gristle.
- Shred the short ribs into chunks and place them back into the slow cooker and toss the meat into the sauce.
- Serve the short ribs and sauce over the pappardelle.
- Top with shredded parmesan cheese and fresh thyme.
Photography: photos taken in this post are by Erin from The Wooden Skillet.
My husband made this for us this week and the flavor was amazing! It was a labor of love with trimming and seasoning the meat but once it was in the crockpot, it was smooth sailing. We’ll be making it again!
I’m making this for x-mas eve, too!