Set your crock pot and come home to an authentic Italian dinner of slow cooker beef ragu. This easy, healthy recipe is braised, cooked on low and falls apart to make a rich, protein-filled sauce you can serve with pappardelle, veggie noodles or even polenta. Your family will love it and it's an easy one to throw in the freezer.
Spend more time around the table with your family and less time cooking with this simple crock pot beef ragu recipe. It's such a great one for busy weeknights and especially delicious during the fall and winter months.
Slow cooker tips:
- Set the temperature to low as often as you can to bring out the most flavor.
- If you have time, preheat the slow cooker by turning it on 20 minutes before adding your food.
- Resist the urge to peek in by opening the lid. Once it's opened, you let the air and steam out which could slow down the cooking process.
What beef is good for slow cooking?
The best cuts of beef for slow cooking are large, tough cuts of beef like chuck roast. The low-temperature, slow-cooking process allows the fat to break down resulting in a rich, tender flavor. Other great cuts are round steak, blade steak, topside and skirt steak.
Do you need to cook beef before putting it in the crockpot?
You don't need to cook your beef before putting in the crock pot. As long as you allow it to cook fully and reach a safe temperature (140°F), you can put it right in the crockpot when it's raw.
However, browning your meat before adding it to the slow cooker really adds flavor. If you have time, brown your chuck roast in a saute pan to create a crust on the outside then add it to the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients.
What is ragu?
A ragu is a meat-based sauce that's typically served with some form of pasta. A lot of times ragu is made with red wine, but we left it out here to make a healthier version that fits into a paleo or whole30 diet if you want it to!
What is the difference between ragu and bolognese?
Ragu is much thicker than a bolognese and usually includes more minced elements, specifically carrots and celery. Bolognese is technically a variation of a ragu, but it uses less tomatoes and usually some white wine.
How to freeze this beef ragu:
How to freeze before cooking: Add all of the ragu ingredients to a large freezer bag. Seal it and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. To cook, thaw overnight and place everything in the slow cooker on low for 10 hours. Serve with desired pasta. This option is great for prepping for a baby, taking to a friend or just getting ahead of dinner!
How to freeze after cooking: Follow the directions for the recipe until the ragu is full cooked and shredded. Allow to cool then place in a large freezer bag. Seal and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight and reheat over the stove or in the microwave with desired pasta.
What to serve with beef ragu:
Your options are kinda endless when it comes with what you want to serve your beef ragu on top of. Here are some of my favorites:
- Pappardelle: this is the most famous and is a thick cut pasta
- Gluten free pasta (any shape really!)
- Zucchini, butternut squash or sweet potato noodles
If you love this recipe as much as I do, don't forget to follow me on Instagram and tag me with @what_mollymade so I can see it and feature you.
More healthy pastas:
This post is sponsored by The Ohio Beef Council. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to brands like them who believe in what I do and help me continue to share free recipes with you!
Slow cooker beef ragu
For the beef ragu:
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 1/2 pounds beef chuck cut into 4 large chunks
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 carrot chopped
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 1 stalk celery diced
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ cup reduced sodium beef broth
- 1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
For the pasta:
- 16 ounces pappardelle pasta
- Gluten free option: 16 ounces desired gluten free pasta or polenta
- Whole30 option: serve with zucchini carrot or sweet potato noodles
- Parmesan ricotta, and parsley for topping (optional)
- Turn slow cooker on high heat to warm.
- While it’s warming, add 1 teaspoon of olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season both sides of the beef with salt and pepper. Add beef to hot skillet and brown on both sides, about 3 minutes on each side. This step is optional, but helps give the outsides of the beef a nice crust and boost in flavor.
- Once browned, remove the beef from the pan and place in the bottom of the slow cooker.
- Add the carrot, garlic, onion, celery, tomato paste, beef broth and crushed tomatoes to the crock pot with the beef. Mix gently to combine and cover the beef with the sauce. Add the bay leaves and fresh thyme on top then close the lid and cook on low heat for 8-10 hours. Discard the herbs and shred the beef in the pot using 2 forks.
- Cook the pasta or other desired side according to package directions. Drain and toss pasta with sauce before serving. Serve with desired toppings.