This easy Slow Cooker Beef Ragù with Pappardelle is the epitome of comfort food. Beef roast, tomato, carrots, onions, and a splash of red wine simmer into a hearty Italian pasta sauce practically melts over the noodles.
In a Dutch oven or large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Sprinkle beef generously with salt on all sides. Add to pot in a single layer and sear without moving until a dark brown crust forms on one side, about 5 to 6 minutes.
Flip meat over and continue browning on the second side until a dark crust forms. Remove from pot and transfer to slow cooker.
Swirl the pot to make sure there are at least 2 tablespoons oil and/or rendered fat. If not, add 1-2 tablespoons more. Add onion, carrots, celery, and a pinch of salt, and scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pot (aka delicious flavor).
Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Stir in crushed tomatoes, broth, wine, tomato paste, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes (if using), and thyme. Bring to boil and transfer to slow cooker.
Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 to 6 hours or LOW for 8 to 10 hours. Remove bay leaves and thyme stems (if you used fresh sprigs). Shred meat with two forks. Season to taste with salt and pepper and keep warm while preparing pasta.
Bring 4 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions, about 3 to 4 minutes for fresh pappardelle or 6 to 8 minutes for dried. Stir occasionally to separate the noodles.
Remove 2 cups of pasta cooking water from pot, then drain well. Add drained pasta back to pot. Add sauce and toss to coat, adding pasta cooking water as needed to make the sauce the consistency that you want (start with 1/4 cup if desired and see what you think).
Serve with parmesan cheese and fresh basil or thyme if desired.
Beef chuck roast: Chuck roast, also called shoulder steak or boneless chuck roast, is my preferred cut for ragù. Your butcher may also recommend bottom roast (also known as round roast or rump roast). Every one of them excels after extended braise times. Any of the aforementioned beef roast options, on the other hand, are easy to shred (and savor).
Dry red wine: A medium-bodied red from Italy is my preferred red wine for this recipe. Consider Montelpulciano, Sangiovese, Chianti, or Pinot Noir, or whatever dry red wine you prefer. You only need 1 cup (8 ounces), so you'll have about 3 generous glasses to enjoy with dinner.
Pappardelle: Look for dried varieties of this long, wide, and flat cut of noodle in the supermarket aisle that features the rest of the pasta. You may find it in nests or as long strands. Some markets also sell fresh pappardelle; if you opt for those, be sure to keep a close eye on when they're done. Fresh pasta requires about twice as much cook time compared to dried. If you can’t find pappardelle, fettuccine works just fine.
Yield: This Slow Cooker Beef Ragù makes 6 hearty servings of pasta and meat sauce. Add a salad, a side of warm bread, and resurface that wine you used in the ragù and dinner is done.
Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.