Traditional ragu with beef brisket

This is one of my favourite recipes of all time, even with its whopping four hour cooking time. Not one for the mid-week dinner but I have passed many a lazy Sunday afternoon occasionally stirring a pot full of this gorgeous ragu and perhaps “tasting for seasoning” just a little too often. This is a rich, intensely savoury and indulgent dish that warms the soul. Enjoy.

Serves 4

1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
100g pancetta, cubed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
800g beef brisket, chopped into large cubes
250ml red wine
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
250ml strong chicken stock
350ml milk
Salt and black pepper

400g dried pappardelle or tagliatelle
4 knobs of butter, to finish
Finely grated parmesan, to finish

Take the brisket out of the fridge around 30 minutes before you start cooking so it can come to room temperature. Cut it up into roughly 3cm x 3cm cubes.

Put the oil in a large saucepan and melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the carrots and onions along with the pancetta and saute for about 10 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two before turning up the heat and adding the beef.

Brown the meat in the pan for and then add the red wine. Scrape the bottom of the saucepan with a wooden spatula to deglaze it. Cook for around 10 minutes until the alcohol in the wine has been cooked off.

Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, chicken stock and milk. Season well with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture up to the boil and then simmer gently for three hours.

Use a slotted spoon lift the pieces of brisket out of the sauce and into a large bowl. Use two forks to pull apart the brisket pieces and then add them back into the saucepan. Stir the beef into the sauce thoroughly and then continue to simmer for a further hour.

15 minutes before serving, cook the pasta according to the instructions until al dente. For each portion combine a serving of pasta with a serving of ragu in a small pan and mix them together with a knob of butter on a low heat. Add some pasta water if the dish looks too dry. Once the butter has melted and the sauce is clinging to the pasta serve immediately with plenty of parmesan.


You can use any kind of slow cooking beef but my preference for this dish is for brisket.

Photo via Flickr