I love me a good ragu.
Whenever we go out for Italian in the North End, I always look for a ragu on the menu. There’s just something about that slow braised meat sauce that makes me so very happy. I will pick a ragu over a cream based sauce any day. For me, there’s absolutely no contest.
So when I found a lonely pack of beef shanks at the bottom of our chest freezer, two thoughts crossed my mind. 1. I have got to create some sort of reminder system for myself when I buy meat on sale at the Asian supermarket and 2. What the heck do you do with beef shanks?
I know it’s a tough cut, and after some initial puzzling, I couldn’t believe it took me so long to realize I could cook those shanks low and slow and turn them into a lovely ragu. And with temperatures on the East Coast ready to plummet back down below freezing, it seems like warming comfort food needs to get back on the menu in a hurry.
I added mushrooms because they’re one of our favorite vegetables (they’re pretty much the only ones Luke actually enjoys eating), but you can feel free to omit them, or play around with different veggie combos.
Let’s make Monday delicious.
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- 1 14-oz. can whole tomatoes
- 2 lb. beef shanks, trimmed of excess fat
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, mined
- 1 bay leaf
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- 8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup red wine
- ¾ cup beef stock (or chicken/veggie stock)
- Preheat the oven to 300°F.
- Process the tomatoes in a food processor until pureed. Pass through a mesh strainer to remove seeds if desired. Set puree aside.
- Pat the shanks dry and season generously with salt and pepper.
- Heat half of the oil in a medium, oven safe Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the shanks and cook, turning a few times, until they are golden brown on all sides, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer the shanks to a large plate and discard any excess fat from the Dutch oven.
- Heat the remaining oil in the pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until it turns translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaf, and pepper flakes, stir for 1 minute, then add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms soften, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Return the shanks to the pan and stir them around to coat with the vegetable mixture. Increase the heat to high then add the wine. Cook, stirring frequently, until the wine is reduced approximately by half, about 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stock, salt to taste. Stir until the liquid begins to simmer.
- Turn off the heat, cover the pan and put it in the oven. Cook, turning the shanks every half hour or so, until the meat is fork tender, about 2 to 2 ½ hours.
- Remove the pan from the oven and shred the shanks with two forks. Stir the meat into the sauce and bring it back to a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring a few times, until the sauce reaches a desired consistency and a rich, reddish color, 5-10 minutes. If the sauce seems too dry, you can add in a little extra stock. Discard the bay leaf, season to taste with salt and pepper, and turn off the heat. Serve the ragu over pasta, or your desired starch/grain and enjoy! Store leftovers in the fridge for up to a week. This ragu also can be frozen for up to a month.
Adapted from Inspired 2 Cook