This ragu is so deliciously rich and warming, with tender meat that falls apart. I use beef chuck here but any tough cut that is suitable for slow cooking will do. This is delicious served with pasta or creamy polenta and some beautiful bread warm from the oven. My recipe for fresh tagliatelle and focaccia is here if you want to give it a go!
100g unsmoked pancetta, diced
1 onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery stick, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 sprigs of parsley
2 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
800g boneless beef chuck
500ml good quality Italian red wine (Chianti, Barolo)
2 can whole plum tomatoes
500g dried or fresh pappardelle
Parmesan, grated to serve
Handful of fresh basil, finely chiffonade to serve
1. In a large saucepan, a good size to build your ragu, add a good drizzle of olive oil, the celery, onion and carrot and cook over a medium heat to sweat down and soften. Add the garlic and tomato puree and fry for 2 minutes.
2. While the veg are cooking, cut the beef into equal sized 5cm chunks. Pat dry and season with salt. Heat some olive oil in a separate frying pan over a high heat and brown the beef, turning to evenly caramelise each side. You may have to brown the beef in batches to ensure an even caramelisation. Remove the beef and add to the deep pan with the veg.
3. Pour the wine into the frying pan over a high heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes to evaporate the alcohol and reduce by half. Pour the wine with remaining beef juices straight into the ragu pan.
4. Add the herbs to the ragu base, along with the canned tomatoes, using a potato masher to break up the whole tomatoes. Top up the pan with water to make sure the beef is well covered.
5. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer so only just bubbling. Cover with a lid and cook for 4-5 hours, stirring occasionally to make sure it’s not sticking. Add a little more water if it seems too thick. The meat should be tender and falling apart and the sauce thickened. Take off the lid and reduce the sauce to achieve a thicker consistency. When the sauce is cooked, taste and season generously with salt and black pepper.
6. Before serving, heat a small frying pan with a drizzle of oil. Fry the pancetta over a medium-high heat until golden and crispy all over. Set aside to keep warm.
7. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and toss in a little olive oil. Serve with a ladle of the beef ragu, the chopped basil and grated parmesan.