Ahot bath and a glass of wine do wonders for me, so it’s perfectly logical they’d also work magic on big cuts of meat. Of course, in the meat’s case, the wine is the hot bath, along with tomatoes, herbs, garlic, mirepoix—all those floating flavor makers. Bath and braising season go hand-in-hand, the twin antidotes to chilly weather, bad days, winter rain, grumpy moods, or long commutes. In short: braising makes it better.
All you need for braising is time, and during the ramp-up to the holidays, time can feel like the thing that’s always going out of stock. Typically, you’ll have to chop and sauté vegetables, sear the meat first to build flavor, and then let the whole shebang simmer for a few hours. Like the cost-per-wear strategy you use to justify a pricey clothing purchase this time of year, the only measure you should use for this red wine beef ragù is the bliss per bite—which far outpaces your effort on the front end.
Beef ragù is not beautiful, but it is one of the few dishes that feels equally suitable for serving to dinner guests, or to your sweatpants-wearing self for a comfort food sesh. It is so delicious no one cares if it’s ugly. The long simmer in flavorful liquid tenderizes and transforms the meat, which breaks down into a luscious sauce to serve over pasta or gnocchi. Don’t skip the fresh herbs at the beginning or the cream at the end: they are the tweaks that turn this rendition of an Italian classic into the ultimate treat.
RED WINE BEEF RAGÚ //
¼ cup olive oil
2 ribs of celery
1 yellow onion
1/3 cup green olives
6 cloves of garlic
1 cup red wine
2 lbs. stew meat
1 28-oz. can whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes
2 sprigs rosemary
1 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving
Kosher salt and pepper
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated plus more for serving
Pappardelle or other pasta for serving
1. Mince the carrot, onion, and celery. Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy stockpot over medium heat and add the olive oil. Cook the minced vegetables until they soften, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, mince the olives and garlic. Add to the vegetable mixture and sauté for another 2 minutes.
2. Lightly season the beef with salt and pepper. Add the meat and the red wine to the Dutch oven and simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes.
3. Blitz the can of tomatoes with the fresh herbs in a food processor or blender until combined, and then add the mixture to the meat and vegetables.
4. Season with salt and red pepper flakes, stir, and cover the pot with a lid. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 4+ hours until the meat is very tender and easily falls apart.
5. Using two forks, shred the meat into the sauce. Stir in the cream, Parmesan cheese, and additional fresh basil. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
6. If serving over pasta, cook pappardelle in salted boiling water until just shy of al dente. Transfer strained pappardelle to the ragù and toss to coat. Finish with fresh Parmesan.
Photograph by Jivan Davé