A beautiful and effortless Northern Italian recipe, this Slow Cooker Beef Ragù with Pappardelle is warm and welcoming after a long day at work. Slow-braised beef, tomato, carrots, onions, and a hint of red wine cooked until it practically melts over the noodles--there's no better way to eat.
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.