This recipe post is a bit belated (because we actually made it over the holidays), but after having so much delicious Italian food in Napa it only feels appropriate to share it now. Plus, it's a delicious cozy slow cooker dinner and winter is still not over so it's doubly appropriate right now.
Alex and I spent an extended holiday up at my parents' cabin in northern Michigan where we pretty much relaxed, played in the snow, cooked, ate, and drank for almost 2 weeks. While we were up there, we made homemade enchiladas, tortilla soup, roasted chicken, a glazed ham, and this delicious slow cooker beef ragu with homemade gnocchi. We used this recipe to make the amazingly soft homemade gnocchi, but I had a little more fun coming up with a sauce for it. I love the combination of these little potato dumplings with a hearty meaty sauce. Especially up a the cabin, it felt like the perfect winter dinner-- like an Italian-inspired meat and potatoes dinner.
Aside from a little prep work at the beginning, this slow cooked sauce is pretty easy to make. Fresh veggies, canned tomatoes, and chuck roast are combined with some Italian seasonings and red wine to create a thick and flavorful sauce. After browning the beef and sauteing the vegetables, the ingredients are all combined in the slow cooker for several hours to get that great depth of flavor that you can only get from slow cooking. Browning beforehand is important-- it's what lends to that slow cooked quality of the sauce. Shredding the beef at the end of the process helps to thicken and bring this sauce together and prevent it from feeling more like a stew and less like a sauce. Serve this over gnocchi (fresh or prepared), polenta, or a hearty cut of pasta like penne or papardelle.
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 lb. beef chuck roast, trimmed and cubed
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 3 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbs. tomato paste
- 3/4 cup dry red wine
- 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1-1/4 cups low sodium beef broth
- 2 Tbs. butter
- 1 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 tsp. dry oregano
- 1/2 tsp. dried basil
- 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 dry bay leaf
- 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Cooked gnocchi or pasta, for serving
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef, season with salt and pepper, and cook until evenly browned on all sides. Use a slotted spoon the transfer the beef to the base of a slow cooker.
In the same pan, add onions and carrots and cook for 4 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and saute for another 2 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the tomato paste and wine and cook for 5 minutes, using a spoon or spatula to pull up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and pour mixture into the slow cooker with the beef.
To the slow cooker mixture, add tomatoes, beef broth, butter, spices (rosemary through red pepper flakes), the bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine and cook on Low for 7 hours, stirring once or twice, if possible.
Use two forks to roughly shred the beef into smaller chunks. Add the vinegar, increase the temperature of the slow cooker to High, and cook uncovered for additional 30 min. to thicken.
Gently fold cooked gnocchi or pasta into the ragu and ladle into serving bowls. Serve with Parmesan cheese.
Editor's Note: Inspired by an original recipe by Seasons & Suppers.