Beef Ragu with Tagliatelle

Rich tomato sauce, brimming with shredded beef, clinging to strands of tender pasta ribbons. What else can I say? I say, Let's EAT!

So why Tagliatelle? Tagliatelle are long, flat ribbons of pasta that are similar in shape to fettuccine; the thicker pasta is ideal for this recipe because the shreds of beef cling to the pasta strands. If you want, you can substitute fettuccine. 

A note about the beef: Why cut the beef into 4 pieces? Because browning 4 sides of 4 pieces adds more caramelization (versus one big roast), and it decreases the cooking time. Yes, you can use cubed beef/beef for stew, just note that it will take you longer to shred the beef (since you'll be working with lots of little pieces). And, if you use cubes, reduce the cooking time by about 30 minutes. 

A note about the veggies: I used onion, carrots and garlic in this dish, it's a pretty traditional base for many Italian dishes. Adding celery is traditional too, so feel free to add that. When you cook the vegetables slowly over low heat, their flavor is released into the sauce, adding depth to the dish. Note that carrots add sweetness, which offsets the tangy tomatoes. If you leave the carrots out, consider adding a little sugar to the sauce (to taste). 

Want to prep ahead? No problem. You can make the sauce and refrigerate it for up to 3 days before reheating and cooking with the pasta. You can also freeze the sauce for 3 months. 

Beef Ragu with Tagliatelle

2-pound beef chuck or other slow-cooking beef cut
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil , divided 
1/2 cup diced white onion 
1/2 cup diced carrots
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme 
1/2 cup red wine (something full bodied, like merlot or cabernet sauvignon), or substitute beef broth
28 ounces tomato sauce
1 cup beef broth
2 dried bay leaves
8 ounces dried tagliatelle pasta, or other pasta of choice 
Freshly grated parmesan cheese or parmigiano reggiano
Fresh parsley or basil leaves, finely chopped or torn, optional

Cut the beef into 4 equal pieces. 
Pat the pieces of beef dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. 
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a Dutch oven or large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the beef and sear each piece on all sides, until browned. 
Remove the beef from the pot and transfer to a plate. 
Return the pot to the stovetop and reduce the temperature to medium. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, onion, carrots, and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring frequently and incorporating the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the oregano and thyme and cook for 30 seconds, until the herbs are fragrant, stirring frequently. Add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato sauce, broth and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. 
Add the beef and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan and simmer for 2-2 1/2 hours, or until the beef is tender enough to shred.
Remove the beef from the pot and shred it with 2 forks. Remove the bay leaves and return the beef to the pot. Partially cover and simmer for 30 more minutes, until the sauce is reduced and thickened (the beef will soften a little more too). 
Note: At this point, you can stop the dish and refrigerate or freeze the sauce (once it cools down)! It will last for 3 days in the refrigerator and 3 months in the freezer. 
While the sauce is simmering for the last 30 minutes, cook the tagliatelle - BUT cook it 2 minutes shorter than the package directions. 
Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Add the tagliatelle and reserved water to the beef mixture and gently toss the pasta in the sauce. 
Cook for 1 to 2 minutes to finish cooking the pasta (the pasta water will cook off and you'll have a thick ragu that sticks to the pasta). 
Serve immediately with grated cheese and parsley or basil (if using). 

Serves 4-6