Short Rib Ragu
Short ribs are a deceptively expensive cut carved from the back rib area of a cow (think, brisket). It’s a relatively limited section–and a valuable one at that. Pair scarcity with demand and you’ve got a price tag that suggests special occasion material.
So what’s with these short ribs? By comparison, there’s not a lot of meat, they can be on the sinewy side, and in most cases, you’ll need to buy about one pound per person… which isn’t cheap.
The secret? Beef short ribs are special.
As a Chinese-Italian, the only thing that creates more culinary conflict for me than short ribs is…. the noodle. But unless we’re sitting down to Korean BBQ for some table-side grilled kalbi, there’s no contest: this Short Rib Ragu gets my vote.
My Asian side is 100% on board with thinly sliced short ribs (or “flanken style”), marinated in a proper sweet-salty sauce, and fired on the grill. But with Italian food, it’s all about braising. That’s the magic. Braising short ribs gives the meat time to slowly relax those hard-worked muscle fibers. And all that fat renders right into the sauce, or braising liquid, which alone is worth its weight in gold.
Braising starts by liberally seasoning the meat with quality salt and pepper. I’m having a real love affair with Maldon salt these days (and thanks to this steal of a deal, I’m saving lots of $$ on it!). The flavor is richer, more umami-forward, than other sea salts. And the natural shape of Maldon salt is this crazy crystalized pyramid, which my husband and I actually waged a bet over… and I lost… but that’s another story.
Pour a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil into a Dutch oven or heavy-duty pot suitable for braising, warm to medium-high, and sear the ribs on at least two sides. This only takes a few minutes on each side; it’s meant to create a crust as opposed to cooking the meat through.
Set the seared ribs aside and in the same pot, start the mirepoix. This is a mixture of diced carrots, celery, and onion. In this case, we’re cooking it with chopped garlic and fresh herbs as well.
I like how the fresh herbs warm and release their oils in advance, better infusing the olive oil for a more robust flavor throughout the sauce… It melds into the overall flavor versus “spotting” each bite with sharp bursts of rosemary or oregano (though it’s really the rosemary that has the power to stand out).
Melt the tomato paste into the simmering veggies, allowing it to cook off a bit of that hard-hitting tang.
Then once the vegetables have softened, it’s time to bring the short ribs back to the mixture and finish with a large can of crushed tomatoes. A word of caution if alterations are on your mind: swapping crushed tomatoes for pureed could work, but anything in the realm of whole, diced, or just straight sauce will not yield the same results.
Crushed tomatoes are the right note for the texture and taste.
The liquid should come to about halfway up the sides of the ribs in order to braise. Covering it entirely would actually be boiling the meat, which is a different ballgame.
Braise for three savory delicious hours on low (I keep my Dutch Oven on the stovetop for this step) and get ready to serve an incredible meal. Once the meat is falling off the bone and fork-tender, remove the large bones and any undesirable pieces. (I’m a little pickier than others in my home–chunks of fat or chewy bits are not for me, so I set them aside for the real carnivores in my family).
Shred remaining sections of beef and fold it into the luscious tomato sauce.
Prepare pasta while the sauce rests covered off the burner. Transfer the cooked pasta directly into the sauce and toss to combine. Finish with fresh basil or parsley and serve with shaved parmesan.
Circle back after you’ve made my Short Rib Ragu!
I’d love to hear how it went! We absolutely loved this recipe and made it with traditional dried spaghetti pasta. However, the ragu is 100% Paleo-friendly and would be dynamite over any grain-free pasta.
Though in lieu of pasta alternatives like spaghetti squash or zoodles, my favorite Paleo adaption has always been roasted green beans. I loved a rich tomato sauce with roasted veggies. Oh!, on that note, try it with my Pan-Roasted Cauliflower & Zucchini if you get the chance!
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- 3 lbs beef short ribs
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion diced, yields about 1 ½ cups
- 2 ribs celery diced
- 2 medium carrots diced
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary minced
- 12 sprigs fresh oregano minced
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 – 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- fresh basil and flat-leaf parsley
- 1 lb dried spaghetti prepared according to package instructions
- Heat the olive oil to medium-high in a large Dutch oven.
- Season the short ribs liberally with salt and pepper; sear on all sides. Remove from oil and set aside.
- Add vegetables to the oil next and cook for about 3 minutes to soften, then add the fresh herbs. Continue cooking another 3 minutes.
- Add tomato paste, kosher salt, and stir frequently while cooking for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Stir in crushed tomatoes, reduce the heat to low and nestle the seared short ribs into the sauce.
- Braise short ribs for 3 hours on stove top.
- Once beef is fork tender, Turn the burner off, remove the bones and shred the meat. Stir meat into the tomato sauce, continue to hold in the Dutch oven.
- Prepare spaghetti according to package instructions, drain, and add the cooked pasta directly to the Short Rib Ragu and combine.
- Top with chopped fresh basil and parsley, and serve.
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