Short rib ragu might just be one of my all time favourite things to eat and cook! I know, I know! I say that about everything. But this time I really mean it! It’s easy, insanely delicious and tastes even better the next day!
I’ve written a bit about Ragu in general before, specifically when I shared my Instant Pot Lamb Ragu recipe. But I’ll save you the hassle of jumping pages and repeat some of the fundamentals here. Unless, of course, you want to make Lamb Ragu with your Instant Pot.
Speaking of, this can definitely be made in the Instant Pot. I’ve gone ahead and included both the stovetop and Instant Pot versions below!
Ragu, a primer…
Ragu, in case you were uncertain, isn’t just the stuff you buy in a bottle at the grocery store. If we’re talking the real-deal here, ragù is a rustic, Italian meat-based sauce that is slowly cooked and typically made with wine and/or tomatoes. The ratios will differ, as will the types of meat used. Ragù can be made with beef, veal, pork, venison, boar, ox tail, short rib, sausage, lamb, rabbit, and the list goes on.
It can be made with ground meat, or larger cuts like shoulder, leg, ribs, etc. Variations will inevitably differ depending on region, family and tradition. Some people will include milk in the sauce, others cream, and others will curse you for six lifetimes if you add either. Sometimes you will find the sauce being flavoured with oregano and thyme, or it can include rosemary and sage. But you never, ever add cilantro!
‘Bolognese’ is perhaps the most popular ragù. It’s North America and Europe’s darling ‘pasta sauce’. Of course, you’ll never catch an Italian calling anything Bolognese without using the word ragù in front of it. The absolute best ragù Bolognese I ever had was in a small town called Biassa, a few kilometres from Riomaggiore in the Liguria region of Italy. I can still taste it! You can read a little bit more about that experience and watch my video for Simple and Delicious Paleo Bolognese here.
As mentioned, most ragù recipes call for using wine to braise the meat. Though wine will yield a very delicious sauce and help to break down tougher cuts of meat like lamb leg or shoulder, it is not entirely necessary. I have made more ragù than I care to admit – with and without wine – and I am so confident in my alcohol-free, entirely paleo and Whole30 compliant versions that I will put them up against any nonna’s recipe. The only thing this recipe can’t compete with is the childhood threat of getting nonna’s wooden spoon to the back of the head if you don’t finish it all and lick the plate! In that respect, nonna wins – no contest.
If you like ‘Bolognese’ you’ll LOVE this Short Rib Ragu
Today, I’m sharing a slightly different version of the classic Italian dish. This Short Rib Ragu is very similar to my ‘Bolognese’ but uses large chunks of lamb leg instead of ground meat. The result is a beautiful, rich, hearty sauce full of shredded, melt-in-your-mouth goodness.
In the fall and winter months, try serving this Short Rib Ragu with this Cauliflower polenta. It’s every bit as flavourful as corn polenta but won’t leave you feeling weighed down. The flavours go so well together too! The sweetness from the cauliflower plays very nicely with the richness of the lamb and earthy flavours from the rosemary. The dish is best when rounded off with some beautiful, Garlicky sautéed greens. You can use kale, chard or even collards.
Instant Pot vs. Traditional Braising
However, as mentioned above, this Short Rib Ragu can also be made in the Instant Pot (see recipe below).
Speaking of, the ragu can also be made in a slow cooker, if so desired. For the latter, it will take approximately 6-8 hours on low heat and 3-4 hours on high. I still recommend browning the meat and sautéing the vegetables before adding to the cooker. The choice is yours!
If you read my Instant Pot Review then you know that my Lamb Ragu is one of the recipes that convinced me of the benefits of having an electric multicooker. By using the Instant Pot, you can reduce the cooking time by more than half and the flavours are still remarkable.
Nevertheless, I am also an advocate for the time-honoured tradition of making good food slowly, even though we don’t always have that luxury. If you want to cook this Short Rib Ragu in your Instant Pot, feel free to follow the exact same steps outline in my Lamb Ragu recipe here.
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I hope you like this recipe and be sure to let me know what you think in the comments below!
Short Rib Ragu - Whole30, Paleo
- 2-3 lbs beef short rib boneless or bone-in
- 1 medium-sized onion diced
- 3 celery stalks diced
- 2 carrots diced
- 1 head garlic cloves smashed, left whole
- 2 24-oz jars tomato passata
- 2 bay leaves
- 6-7 sprigs fresh thyme
- kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 handful fresh basil leaves roughly torn
- 1 tbsp avocado oil
- Preheat Dutch oven over med-high heat for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, pat short ribs very dry with paper towel. Season all sides with kosher salt.
- Add avocado oil to preheated Dutch oven, raise heat to high and brown all sides of the short rib. Transfer browned meat to bowl and set aside.
- Add onion, celery and carrot - season with a pinch of kosher salt. Sautée vegetables until softened (approximately 10-12 minutes). Be sure to scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pot.
- Add garlic, cook an additional 60 seconds.
- Return browned meat to pot, add tomato passata, thyme, and bay leaves. Season with freshly-cracked black pepper, stir to combine, bring sauce to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover with a lid and cook 2.5-3 hours or until meat is fall-apart tender.
- Transfer meat to a bowl and shred with two forks. Discard thyme stems and bay leaves.
- Return shredded meat to pot, add torn basil leaves and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper as required. Note: If ragu has reduced too much, simply add a little bit of stock to reconstitute.
- Serve overtop of cauliflower purée, mashed potatoes, or zucchini noodles.