Slow Cooker Beef Ragu packed with tender shredded beef and tomatoes for perfect sauce that tastes like you stood at the stove for hours.
Crockpot Beef Ragu is the classic Italian meat sauce dish you will want to serve with everything from pasta to polenta to mashed cauliflower and even rice. We usually serve it with this delicious Kale Caesar as well.
As a kid, the most amazing thing happened at my house every Friday. My Dad would get home from work and inevitably be carrying a large, overflowing cardboard box. He would drop it on the kitchen table and we would all run to the kitchen to see what was inside.
Most of the time we were looking for dough-doughs a magical fried dough creation I think my grandmother invented that we would toast and cover in cinnamon and sugar but there were always other delicious treats as well homemade macaroni and cheese (the best you’ve ever had), homemade pizza, the occasional chop suey, and always delicious, unbelievable spaghetti sauce.
Thinking back she must have made sauce every week because we were always stacked three high in the freezer and more always came. Neighbors and friends would ask for it and relatives would almost always take some home. Her sauce was famous. I really wish I would have learned to make that sauce.
And today as I start to build my own repertoire of sauces, including today’s beef ragu a slow cooked tomato sauce with shredded beef I think a lot about my grandmother and make a mental note that someday, in the very far off future, I want to be just like her and her magical Friday boxes.
What is beef ragu? How is it different than bolognese?
Beef ragu is a classic Italian recipe that is essentially a slow cooked meat sauce with the focus on the meat. Usually, you will also find things like minced carrots, onions, celery, and sometimes pancetta in a ragu. Ragu can be made with virtually any kind of beef, but is commonly made with slow cooked shredded beef or ground beef. It normally has tomatoes but also has either red wine or beef broth.
Similarly, bolognese is also an Italian meat sauce but it is almost exclusively made with ground beef. It can have any number of other ingredients and according to most sources, is actually a type of ragu.
One other note, a ragu is also different than a ragout. A ragout is actually a French stew that can be made with vegetables, seafood, beef, lamb, chicken. Almost anything really. It normally contains some kind of wine and cooks low and slow to create a thick stew.
What is the best cut of beef for ragu?
You can make a pretty delicious beef ragu with pretty much any cut of beef since it cooks for so long. Usually, I reach for lean beef stewing meat, top round, or brisket. You can also make a ragu with ground beef if you are short on time.
What to serve with Slow Cooker Beef Ragu?
There are so many options for what to serve with crockpot beef ragu, but no matter what you choose, you want something that will soak up the sauce.
- For a classic Italian option, always reach for a nice bowl of creamy polenta. We love this healthier Spinach Polenta and super creamy Basil Parmesan Polenta.
- Another classic Italian choice would be pasta. You can use traditional pasta, high fiber or whole wheat pasta, or go with some zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash.
- For a low carb option, we like to use mashed cauliflower or mashed butternut squash.
- To add some veggies, I almost always pair it with a big green salad or some roasted vegetables like this Baked Broccoli.
Tips for Making Crockpot Beef Ragu
- For a more traditional ragu, you can saute some pancetta and add it to the slow cooker as well. You can also swap in some red wine for the beef broth.
- You can use lots of different cuts of meat for this dish - brisket, beef stewing meat, top round, even chuck would work. To keep things lean, always trim off the fat before cooking.
- For a more intense tomato flavor, add some tomato paste.
- For a spicy beef ragu, add some red pepper flakes to the slow cooker as well.
- If you don't have fresh herbs dried herbs will work as well. You could also use Italian seasoning instead of buying separate herbs.
- This recipe makes a huge amount of sauce but it freezes well so don't worry about it being a big batch. You cna either freeze it in individual servings or larger family size servings.
Slow Cooker Beef Ragu
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- 2 1/2 lbs lean beef top round, trimmed of fat
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 14.5 oz canned diced tomatoes
- 14.5 oz canned crushed tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups beef broth
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
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* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
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