Slow Cooker Beef Ragu

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Flavorful Italian comfort food that only takes 5 minutes to prep? Count me in! This popular Slow Cooker Beef Ragu recipe is easy to make & so scrumptious!

Simply toss everything in a Crock Pot, then let it do the work for you. Serve the ragu over creamy cheesy polenta or pappardelle pasta for a delicious dinner!

This Beef Ragu recipe has been pinned over 44,000 times and was featured at #3 on Huffington Post’s list of “The Best Recipes That Came From Food Bloggers in 2014“. Needless to say, it’s popular for a reason!

With a quick prep time, simple instructions and delicious results, you simply can’t go wrong with this recipe! If you’re in a hurry, you can also try my Instant Pot Beef Ragu, same deliciousness, made in just one hour.

Slow cooker shredded beef ragu in bowl with creamy polenta

This recipe has been a hit since it first appeared on the blog in 2014. While the original recipe remains the same, I’ve updated this post to include answers to frequently asked questions, new serving options and easy additions that can be made to the recipe.

This dish was originally inspired by one of my favorite menu items at the restaurant, Davanti in Little Italy, San Diego. They serve their slow cooked ragu over mascarpone polenta, so I do the same!

While sometimes I do serve the beef ragu with pappardelle pasta, serving it over creamy, cheesy polenta is definitely my favorite way to serve the dish. The rich, flavorful tomato sauce seeps into the polenta and the entire dish simply melts in your mouth. It’s basically the Italian version of pot roast and mashed potatoes!

The ragu itself literally only takes 5 minutes to prep. The most difficult thing about this beef ragu recipe is opening the can of tomatoes! (Seriously, why have I not upgraded to an electrical can opener at this point in my life?) And if you have an electrical can opener, then there is truly nothing difficult about this recipe whatsoever!

The slow cooker legitimately does all of the work in this recipe. Thank you to my crock pot, you’re my favorite kitchen appliance. Just don’t tell the food processor or toaster! 😉

Shredded beef ragu in bowl served over polenta with fresh rosemary

How to make Beef Ragu

  • Add sliced onion, minced garlic cloves and fresh chopped rosemary to the bottom of a slow cooker.
  • Season a beef chuck roast with salt and pepper, then add to the slow cooker.
  • In a medium bowl, combine beef broth, red wine and tomato paste, pour the mixture over the beef in the slow cooker.
  • Add diced tomatoes to the crock pot.
    • Note: This can be a can of diced tomatoes or fresh diced tomatoes.
  • Cook on high for 5-6 hours or on low for 10-12 hours.
  • After the cooking time is complete, use two forks or meat claws to shred the beef apart in the slow cooker.
  • Serve the beef ragu on top of creamy cheesy polenta or tossed with pappardelle pasta.
  • Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Beef ragu recipe in crock pot

Beef Ragu FAQ’s

  • How do you thicken the sauce?

    • The sauce can easily be thickened on the stovetop. Simply transfer the ragu from the slow cooker to a dutch oven or large pot on the stove over medium high heat. Allow the ragu to simmer and reduce, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes.
  • Is ragu gluten free?

    • This beef ragu recipe is gluten free. Always double check that the beef broth used is gluten free.
    • The creamy cheesy polenta recipe that I recommend pairing the ragu with is also gluten free.
    • If you’d like to serve the recipe with pasta, Gluten Free Pappardelle Pasta can be found online. You can also find gluten free spaghetti in most major grocery stores.
  • What is ragu?

    • Ragu is an Italian meat-based sauce, where the focus is on the meat, not the tomato sauce. Tomato sauce is simply an addition to the sauce, not the focus.
  • Can I add (fill in the blank) to this ragu?

    • Extra veggies: Yes, diced carrots and celery can be added at the same time as the onion. I recommend 1/2 cup of each vegetable.
    • Red Pepper Flakes: Yes, for a little extra spice, add 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes with the salt and pepper.
    • Italian Seasoning: Sure thing! I would recommend 1 tsp added with the salt and pepper.
    • Thyme instead of rosemary: Yes, if you’re not a fan of rosemary, I recommend using thyme in it’s place.
  • What kind of red wine should I use in this recipe?

    • I’ve used several different kinds of wine to make this recipe over the years, including cabernet, chianti, pinot noir and syrah. I would recommend any of these wines for making this recipe and pairing with the final dish.
  • What can I substitute for the red wine in this recipe?

    • The red wine can simply be omitted in this recipe or replaced with white grape juice. I’ve made this ragu before without the wine and it was still totally delicious!
  • Can you make this recipe in an Instant Pot?

    • Yes! I actually have an Instant Pot Beef Ragu recipe on the blog. This pressure cooker version of the recipe is just as delicious as the slow cooker version, but made in only an hour!
  • Can you freeze this beef ragu?

    • Yes, this beef ragu will stay at it’s best in the freezer for up to 3 months. To defrost, I recommend placing the ragu back in the refrigerator overnight.
    • To reheat, you can place the ragu in a dutch oven on the stove, covered, set to low for one hour. You can also reheat the ragu in a slow cooker set to low for 1-2 hours.
  • What cuts of beef can you use to make beef ragu?

    • In addition to the chuck roast used in this recipe, several other cuts of beef will work in this recipe, including:
      • Bottom Round Roast
      • Tri Tip
      • Brisket

How to serve Beef Ragu

  • Over Creamy Cheesy Polenta – my favorite way to serve the dish!
  • With Pasta – preferably pappardelle or another wide, flat pasta noodle, like fettuccine.
  • In Lasagna – seriously, the best lasagna you’ll ever make in your life is with this beef ragu as the sauce!
  • Over Raviolis – to keep things simple, pick up a container of pre-made fresh cheese raviolis in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. They cook up in 2-3 minutes and pair perfectly with the beef ragu sauce, cooked down to a slightly thicker consistency.
  • Over Spaghetti Squash – for a low carb, healthier option, serve the ragu over roasted spaghetti squash.

What to serve with Beef Ragu

After deciding how to serve the ragu, it’s time to decide what to serve on the side. I usually keep it simple with a salad and bread (to soak up any extra ragu sauce left behind!).

An easy caesar salad and warm baguette are perfect, but if you want to step it up a notch, here are a few of my favorite salad, bread and veggie sides to serve with beef ragu.

Shredded beef ragu sauce served over creamy polenta in bowl

For more ragu recipes, check out these delicious variations on this popular dish!

Shredded beef ragu tomato sauce in bowl with creamy polenta and rosemary sprig
3.98 from 38 votes
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Slow Cooker Beef Ragu

Flavorful Italian comfort food that only takes 5 minutes to prep? Count me in! This popular Slow Cooker Beef Ragu recipe is easy to make & so scrumptious!

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 5 minutes
Servings 8 people
Calories 250 kcal
Author Whitney Bond

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh rosemary chopped
  • 2 lb beef chuck roast
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes or 2 cups diced fresh tomatoes

For Serving

Instructions

  1. Add the onion, garlic and rosemary to the bottom of a slow cooker.

  2. Season the beef with the salt and pepper, then add to the slow cooker.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the beef broth, red wine and tomato paste.
  4. Pour the mixture over the beef.
  5. Add the can of diced tomatoes to the crock pot.
  6. Cook on high for 5-6 hours or on low for 10-12 hours.

  7. Use two forks or meat claws to shred the beef in the slow cooker.

  8. Serve the beef on top of creamy polenta or tossed with papparadelle pasta.

  9. Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

  1. Nutritional Information: The nutrition information provided does not include the serving options.
  2. Gluten Free Option: This recipe is gluten free when served over polenta or with gluten free pasta. Always make sure the beef broth used is gluten free.
  3. Pressure Cooker Option: Click here for an Instant Pot version of this recipe.
  4. Thickening the sauce: to thicken the sauce, transfer it from the slow cooker to a large pot on the stove over medium high heat. Allow it to reduce and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  5. Wine Substitute: omitting the wine in this recipe is totally fine. You can also substitute white grape juice in it's place.
  6. Storage: this ragu will stay good in the refrigerator for 5-7 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  7. Cuts of beef: Instead of a chuck roast, a bottom round roast, tri tip or brisket can be used in it's place.