My pasta situation is getting a little out of control. My pantry is starting to overflow with half-full packages of pasta and a girl can only eat Bowties and Broccoli so many times per week. So I decided to make some pasta sauce to keep in the freezer for fast weeknight dinners and give me other options for using up leftover pasta. I was also craving some slow-cooked meat, so this Sunday Slow Cooker Beef Ragù was an obvious solution.
This sauce is ridiculously simple to make, with all the magic happening in the slow, gentle cooking action rather than a long list of complex ingredients. Cheaper cuts of beef, like shoulder roast, are usually on the tough side, but cooking low and slow breaks down the tough connective tissue in meat and creates a melt-in-your-mouth ragù. I added a carrot to my ragù for a little sweetness, but if you don’t have one, I doubt you’d be disappointed with the results. It’s just really hard to mess up slow cooked meat. ;)
This recipe makes about 12 cups, which is a TON of sauce. After cooling it completely in the refrigerator (for about a day), I transferred mine to quart-sized freezer bags for long term storage. Reheating is simple, just cut away the bag and heat gently in a sauce pan over medium-low flame, or place it in a microwave safe dish and use the defrost option on the microwave.
So, the next time you have a lazy Sunday (or any day off), get a batch of this sauce cookin’ so you can have this beautiful home-cooked sauce waiting in your freezer.
Sunday Slow Cooker Beef Ragù
- 1 yellow onion $0.16
- 4 cloves garlic $0.32
- 1 carrot $0.14
- 3 lbs. boneless beef shoulder roast $7.53
- 1 Tbsp cooking oil $0.04
- ½ tsp dried oregano $0.05
- ½ tsp dried thyme $0.05
- ½ tsp dried rosemary $0.05
- Freshly cracked pepper $0.05
- 3 Tbsp tomato paste $0.24
- 1 cup beef broth $0.13
- 2 (28oz.) cans crushed tomatoes $3.38
- ½ tsp salt, or to taste $0.05
- Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Peel the carrot, then shred it using a cheese or box grater. Add the onion, garlic, and carrot to the bottom of a 5 quart or larger slow cooker.
- Use a sharp knife to remove any large pieces of fat from the beef. Cut the trimmed beef into large 2-3 inch chunks.
- Heat the cooking oil in a large skillet over a medium flame. When the oil is very hot, add the beef pieces and cook for a few minutes on each side or until well browned. Cook the pieces in batches to avoid over crowding the skillet.
- Place the browned beef in the slow cooker. Add the beef broth to the still warm skillet and whisk to dissolve any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Pour the beef broth from the skillet into the slow cooker. Sprinkle the oregano, thyme, and rosemary over the beef. Top with some freshly cracked pepper (10-15 cranks of a pepper mill).
- Finally, add the tomato paste to the slow cooker along with the crushed tomatoes. Place a lid on the slow cooker and turn on the heat to high. Cook for 6-8 hours on high, or until the meat is extremely tender and shreds easily.
- Use tongs to shred the meat in the sauce, removing any remaining large pieces of fat or connective tissue that did not break down. Stir the sauce well, taste, and add salt as needed (1/2 to 1 teaspoon). Serve immediately with pasta or divide the sauce into smaller containers (for faster cooling) and refrigerate. Once completely cooled, the sauce can be frozen for longer storage.
Step by Step Photos
Dice one yellow onion and mince four cloves of garlic. Peel one carrot and shred it using a box or cheese grater. Place the onion, garlic, and carrot in the bottom of a 5 quart or larger slow cooker.
Trim any large pieces of fat off of a 3 lb. boneless beef shoulder roast. Cut the roast into large 2-3 inch chunks.
Heat a tablespoon of cooking oil in a large skillet over a medium flame. Once the oil is very hot, add a few pieces of the beef (do not over crowd the skillet) and cook until browned on both sides. Repeat the process with the second batch of meat (there should be enough oil and fat in the skillet for the rest of the meat). This browning action adds a lot of depth to the meat flavor in the sauce. After removing the beef from the skillet, add one cup of beef broth and whisk it to dissolve any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. The brown stuff is where all the flavor is, so you don’t want it to get left behind!
Add the cooked beef chunks to the slow cooker and pour the beef broth over top. Add 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp dried thyme, 1/2 tsp dried rosemary, and some freshly cracked pepper to the slow cooker.
Finally, add 3 Tbsp tomato paste and two 28oz. cans of crushed tomatoes. Place the lid on the slow cooker, turn the heat on to high, and cook for 6-8 hours, or until the meat is so tender that it shreds easily.
Start checking the meat around 6 hours. It should be so tender that it almost falls apart when you stir the sauce. If it’s still a bit tough, replace the lid and check again after an hour. Once the meat is tender, use tongs or forks to shred the beef in the sauce. Stir to make sure everything is evenly mixed, taste, and add salt as needed. Salt is necessary to really make the flavors pop. I added about 1/2 teaspoon (my beef broth and tomatoes contained some salt).
Serve your Sunday Slow Cooker Beef Ragù over pasta, or refrigerate until cool and then transfer to the freezer for longer storage.