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Slow Cooked Beef Short Ribs Sauce

Slow Cooked Beef Short Ribs Sauce features ribs slowly braised with carrots, onions, celery, fresh herbs, red wine and tomato sauce. The beef short ribs are cooked until they melt in your mouth. You may know this Italian sauce as a Sunday gravy, a ragù napoletano, or as I call it, mom’s Sunday sauce. Toss it with some tagliatelle, paccheri, or serve it with polenta.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time4 hrs
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: beef ribs, pasta, Sauce, tomato sauce
Servings: 8
Author: Lora


  • 4 pounds English cut beef short ribs
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 large carrots peeled
  • 3 stalks celery cleaned, ends cut off
  • 1 large onion finely diced
  • 1 cup dry red wine optional
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 sprigs fresh sage leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Two 24-oz. jars Italian strained tomatoes or two 28-oz. cans of Italian San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 1-2 cups water
  • sea salt & ground black pepper to season
  • pasta: 1 lb tagliatelle pappardelle, paccheri, or pasta of choice


  • Brown the short ribs: Season short ribs liberally with salt and pepper. You'll need about two teaspoons,
  • Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot to a medium-high heat. Add olive oil. As soon as the oil is shimmering hot, add in the ribs.
  • Cook the ribs in batches so they’re not crowded. Should take about 4 minutes per side to get the nice and brown color. If there is a lot of drippings, remove some and leave about 2 tablespoons in the pot.
  • Cook the veggies: Add in the onions, carrots, and celery. Season with a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper (if you like). Cook until the onion is translucent.
  • Herbs: Add in the herbs and bay leaves (I usually have some fresh rosemary and sage on hand or even dried rosemary and sage. You could use just rosemary if that’s all you have on hand).
  • Deglaze: Add in the red wine (if you’re using). If you don’t have any wine on hand, you could add a cup of beef broth. Turn the heat to medium-high. Use your wooden spoon to stir and scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Let it cook until most of the wine has cooked down with the brown bits and the onion mixture.
  • Sauce: Now is the time to add in the tomato sauce. Use your wooden spoon to carefully stir it around the ribs. Lower the heat to medium-low to let it slowly simmer. I usually make this with strained tomatoes in a glass jar. I pour in the sauce and then add water to fill about 1/2-3/4 full in bottle and shake it to get the sauce that’s on the bottom of the jar. I add that watery tomato sauce to the pot and stir together.
  • Simmer: In a large pot (or Dutch oven), the rib sauce will cook for 3-4 hours (or longer) until the ribs pulls away from the bones and are very tender. Check the sauce, stirring occasionally, and add a little bit more water if it’s thickening too much. Every oven is different. If the temperature is too low and it’s not simmering, raise the temperature a little. Keep checking on the sauce and stirring, raising the heat a little, until it gets to a nice simmer.
  • Finish the rib sauce: Remove the pot from the burner and place the pot on top of the counter on top of something to protect your counter from the hot bottom of the pan. Remove herbs and the bay leaves. Use tongs or a large metal spoon to remove the ribs. Depending on long you cooked the sauce, the meat may have already removed from the bone. In any case, remove all the bones and the meat.
  • Place the meat on a cutting board and use a fork and knife or two forks to shred it into bite-sized pieces.
  • Place the rib bites back into the pot with the sauce.
  • Cook the pasta: If you’re serving with pasta, cook the pasta according to directions on the box. Drain the pasta a little bit before al dente, and place the pasta in a large skillet with the sauce. Stir it to combine and add a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with grated Parmigiano Reggiano or pecorino.


Storage & Freezing:
Storage Instructions: Beef short rib ragu sauce stores incredibly well – it’s the type of thing that gets even better as it sits & its flavors have the chance to meld together. To store: As soon as sauce has completely cooled, transfer to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
Freezing Instructions: Let the sauce completely cool down. Transfer to airtight freezer containers (use multiple smaller containers or 1 large container). Store in freezer for up to 3 months.

Thaw: Leave the frozen sauce overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, heat up the sauce in a skillet. There may be some water from thawing out. If sauce seems too thick while it’s heating up, add a bit of water to loosen it up. Serve heated sauce with pasta or polenta.