Credit where credit is due.
This is an amazing dish; an amazing braise. And I didn’t even cook it.
Nat did. For my 36th birthday.
A good ragu is about the length of the cooking time and this is where Nat nailed it. Six hours in, there was a ripple of fear that the beef cheeks hadn’t broken down, still solid and in one piece each; two hours later and a light tap, and they collapsed into moorish, unbelievably tender meat.
And why not keep cooking on a low heat, right up until dinner? Which is what we did. Time is your friend and beef cheeks love to sit and braise away.
During my childhood and teen years, my mother cooked Pork in Milk for my every birthday; it was my annual request and 20 or more years on, I can still taste it.
This ragu has now replaced my annual pork offering and I can’t wait to cook it – or have it cooked for me – again and again and again.
Olive oil, for frying
1kg of beef cheeks (in this instance, don’t substitute another cut of beef; or try lamb shanks if that is all you can get)
1 onion, peeled and roughly cut
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly crushed
1 bay leaf (or two dried if you can’t get fresh)
400ml red wine (you can safely use a bit more here)
1x 400gm tin chopped tomatoes
500ml beef stock
500gm dried pappardelle
Handful of parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
- Heat the oil in a heavy pan; season the meat and brown on all sides. Set aside.
- In the same pan, brown the onions, garlic and bay leaf until just softened and starting to brown a little.
- Return the meat to the pan and add the wine to deglaze.
- Allow it to reduce a little and add the stock and tomatoes; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and then turn the heat down.
- Stir occasionally for the next four hours, ensuring the meat is not drying out and adding water as need be. The meat is ready when it falls apart; keep cooking as long as you want. Time is your friend!
- Cook the pasta in salted water.
- Gently stir through the sauce with the pasta and garnish with parsley.
- Happy birthday.