I think we all have that one food, or type of food, that we could live on if given the chance. My husband could live on Mexican food and chips and salsa, my son could survive on sugar. Our daughter loves cheese. My vice? Italian food. Give me a plate of pasta and I’m a happy girl, carbs be darned.
Growing up, we usually had jarred spaghetti sauce and ground beef over spaghetti for our Italian nights. In our family, “fancy” sauce was the jarred sauce with chunks of vegetables in it. My tastes have evolved as I’ve expanded my cooking repertoire and ragu now has a meaning far beyond the jarred sauce at the local grocery store.
A real Italian ragu is a meat and vegetable based sauce served over pasta. There are lots of versions using various kinds of meats, but for this version I chose to use our meaty soup bones. They are economical with lots of meat and the bone adds flavor to the sauce. I chose to use the slow cooker because I wanted a hands-off version that would be ready in time for dinner. I’m not a huge crock pot fan, but this dish was absolutely custom-made for this cooking method.
As I was researching recipes, I also came across the idea of putting all of the ingredients into a plastic baggie and keeping it in the freezer for an even quicker dinner! Next time I make this, I will double the recipe, putting half in the crock pot for a "now" meal, and the other half into a plastic freezer bag to pull out for another meal later. If you prefer boneless meat, two packages of our Angus Stew Meat would also work.
We served it the first time with creamy polenta (my 11 year old son's choice). When we had the leftovers for another meal, I cooked some penne pasta and mixed it all together. You could also freeze any leftovers for another meal later.
So, here goes! Set aside the jarred sauce and prepare for a whole new taste sensation!
Crock Pot Beef Ragu
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup beef stock or water (you could also use red wine if you prefer)
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning (our blend is preferred, but any will work)
2 bay leaves
Salt and Pepper
Season the beef with salt and pepper and add to crock pot. Add vegetables, garlic, stock or water, canned tomatoes and tomato paste, seasoning, bay leaves and 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Stir as best you can and cover with a lid. Cook on LOW for 7-8 hours until beef shreds easily. You can stir it once about mid-way through cooking if you like to mix things around. If using meaty soup bones, remove meat and bones from crock pot and shred meat, removing any extra fat and the bones. Stir meat back into sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with creamy polenta or your favorite pasta, and top with Parmesan cheese.