Tender, rich beef short ribs simmered low and slow in robust red wine tomato sauce with pancetta, vegetables and fresh herbs. Short rib bolognese is the ultimate pasta comfort food.
What is it about pasta that just soothes the soul? It’s versatile. You can change the sauce to fit the seasons. It comes in all different shapes. You only need two ingredients to make your own pasta. Like, come on, pasta is like the coolest of the cool kids in the food world.
A bowl full of Short Rib Bolognese is not going to disappoint you when you need to tuck into a bowl of comfort food warm, rich, and soul healing pasta.
My favorite time of year for rich red pasta is here! Fall is the perfect time for bold red sauces and slurpy long noodles. And you know…dark colored shirts to hide sauce stains for slurping long noodles.
I feel like part of the allure of soul soothing bolognese is the long simmer. It’s done low and slow for flavors to get intricate, meat and vegetables to get tender. And while it takes a little bit of time for all those flavors to cook and blend together, the process is pretty simple.
What is Short Rib Bolognese
Short rib bolognese is a rich, hearty red sauce simmered for a few hours in order to tenderize and cook beef short ribs until the meat is falling off the bone. Also, like a traditional bolognese we’re going to add a touch of dairy at the end whereas a ragu usually does not include this step (though I usually add it to both because it’s delicious.)
Cut from the chuck or plate area of the cow, beef short ribs are meaty and flavorful but take time during cooking to achieve a tender texture. Which is why a slow braise in tomato sauce is the perfect preparation.
Traditional Italian bolognese sauce is a combination of minced beef, sometimes veal, carrots, onions and celery and tomatoes or tomato sauce. So we’re going to take those basics, but just zhush it up a smidge.
So for this short rib bolognese we’re starting with pancetta, celery, carrots, onion and garlic, adding tomatoes and bold red wine and simmering beef short ribs instead of minced beef.
How to make it
If you haven’t added a dutch oven to your arsenal of kitchen gear, you can most definitely use this as an excuse to do just that. You can make slow braised meats like braciole, risottto, or even bread.
The dutch oven or a cast iron braiser is the perfect pan for this cooking process because it has a heavy bottom so while it cooks low and slow, you don’t have to worry about burning or uneven cooking.
Also, the lids for cast iron are 99.99% of the time oven safe. You’ll want to cover the short ribs during the cooking process to keep the heat in.
Start by searing seasoned short ribs on high heat. This starts a reaction in the beef that caramelizes fat and develops flavor. Removing the seared short and draining fat, you’ll start working on the rest of the sauce!
Following that it’s just a matter or simmering on low heat for a long while, a little bit of patience and a glass of wine for the cook.
TIPS FOR PERFECT SAUCE
The rest of the bolognese sauce is very traditional in process. Cook the meat, then the veggies to soak up all the flavor of the meat. Deglaze the pan with wine to lift all the drippings from the meat from the bottom of the pan…and so on. But there are a few tips if you really want your sauce to shine.
- Brown the pancetta to cook off the fat. You don’t want it rock hard, but a nice caramelization.
- Drain the most fat and oil left from braising the short ribs before starting the sauce. While you do want some fat in the sauce, this will keep it from becoming greasy.
- After adding the wine, scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula or wooden spoon to lift the meat drippings so they cook into the sauce.
- Add fresh herbs last to make their flavor pop.
CAN I MAKE THIS BOLOGNESE IN A CROCKPOT?
This recipe can also be made in the crockpot for an easy set it and forget it meal. It will just require braising the short ribs and starting the sauce in a different pan before adding everything to the crockpot.
While it is one extra pan, it’s a nice option to have a decadent meal ready after a long day.
WHAT’S THE BEST PASTA TO USE
In my honest opinion, choose the shape you like best. For me, when it comes to meatier sauces I loooooove pappardelle pasta. It has the perfect bite to it and the wide ribbon noodles are so much fun to twirl.
Also, because the noodle is flat and wide it can catch more of those tender pieces of short rib.
Another great option is a pasta shape like penne or rigatoni, where the rich short rib bolognese can get caught in the middle of the tube and the ridges along the outside of the tube are like a million tiny hands grabbing onto your beautiful sauce.
WHAT CHEESE DO YOU USE TO TOP YOUR PASTA
Of course, the best answer here is ‘whatever cheese you like the most!’
For this particular short rib beauty, I went with fresh mozzarella to add a little cheesy gooey glory. Because the sauce is already very rich and full of robust flavor, a mild cheese with isn’t very salty was my go-to.
If you’re in the mood for a more grateable cheesy, block parmesan or romano is a great option. And don’t forget your spoon to twirl!
DID YOU LOVE THIS WARM AND COMFORTING PASTA? TRY THESE!
- Bolognese Sauce with Tagliatelle
- Fresh Herb Lasagna Bolognese
- Cheesy Mozzarella Meatballs with Linguine
- Instant Pot Lamb Ragu
short rib bolognese update
- 2 pounds beef chuck short ribs
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 stalks celery finely diced
- 1 medium carrot finely diced
- 1 medium yellow onion finely diced
- 4 ounces pancetta diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 cups dry red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon
- 1 28-ounce can tomato sauce see notes
- 3 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 springs rosemary
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 spring fresh oregano
- ¼ cup heavy cream optional
- salt and pepper for seasoning
- 1 package pappardelle pasta
- Season and Sear. Pat the short ribs dry and season all sides liberally with salt and pepper, set aside. In a dutch oven or heavy cast iron pan, heat the oil over hight heat until it shimmers. Sear the short ribs on the front and back for 2 to 3 minutes each side until well browned. Sear on each of the 'short' sides for 1 minute. Transfer the short ribs to a separate plate and carefully drain all but about 1 tablespoon of oil from the pan.
- Build the sauce. With the remaining oil hot, add the pancetta and cook over medium-high heat. Once the pancetta starts to brown add the celery, carrots and onion. Cook for 2 minutes, add the garlic, and cook for 1 additional minute while frequently stirring the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and pour in the red wine - it will steam - and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan. Simmer for 1 minute to reduce the wine then add the tomato paste and sauce. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer.
- Low and slow. Return the short ribs to the pan and place meaty side down into the sauce. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 3 to 3 and 1/2 hours or until the meat of the short rib easily breaks apart with a fork. Once the short ribs are 'fork tender' remove them from the sauce and pull from the ribs. Remove any gristle from the short ribs and discard with the bones (or save the bones for stock!) Return the pulled meat to the sauce. At this point, remove the sprigs of fresh herbs. If opting to add richness and a velvety texture, stir in the heavy cream and simmer for about 30 seconds.
- Cook the pasta. Once the short ribs are cooked, start a pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta to the package instructions, reserve a 1/2 cup of pasta water before draining.
- Toss. Toss the hot pasta with the short rib bolognese. For a thinner sauce, stir in a little pasta water. Top with cheese and fresh parsley or a pinch of red pepper flakes for a little spice!
Slow Cooker Instructions
- Follow steps 1 and 2 then transfer the sauce to the slow cooker, add the short ribs and cook on low heat for 6 to 8 hours.
- Once the short ribs are 'fork tender' remove them from the sauce and pull from the ribs. Remove any gristle from the short ribs and discard with the bones (or save the bones for stock!) Return the pulled meat to the sauce. At this point, remove the sprigs of fresh herbs. If opting to add richness and a velvety texture, stir in the heavy cream and simmer for about 30 seconds.
- Once the short ribs are cooked, start a pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta to the package instructions, reserve a 1/2 cup of pasta water before draining.
- Toss the hot pasta with the short rib bolognese. For a thinner sauce, stir in a little pasta water. Top with cheese and fresh parsley or a pinch of red pepper flakes for a little spice!
- For tomato sauce, you'll want to purchase the tomato sauce in cans that is simply just tomatoes without seasoning, skins or seeds, not a prepared sauce that is ready to go on pasta. The already prepared sauce will be too thick and reduced already.
- You can substitute a 28-ounce can of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes and hand crush the tomatoes for a more rustic sauce.
- If you do not have fresh herbs available, substitute 2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning.
- Rather than buying the herbs individually, just purchase the 'poultry blend' and leave out the sage.