Braised beef shank, seems like a lot of work for a Tuesday. And maybe it is, it is definitely not a 30-minute meal. But don't freak out, it is not as bad as it seems. And the effort you put in will be so very worth it. Braised beef shank largely sits untouched in a low oven for hours, and the result is a gorgeous, richly flavored, thick ragu. We always eat this tossed with big, fat pappardelle pasta. So before I start...and before you roll your eyes...
You absolutely do not need to make your own pasta.
I do SOMETIMES, like when I am trying to be romantic with my husband. When I am feeding my family it is store bought pappardelle all the way. I don't have time for that shit, and I am well aware most of you don't either. Though I am working on a 'how to make' entire section on this blog and pasta will be the first one, I am not there yet. So buy the pappardelle or whatever your favorite long noodle is for this dish.
So, what the hell is a braised beef shank ragu anyway?
Beef shank comes from the leg and is super fatty, and tough, but the magic of braising turns this tender and absolutely delicious. And the best and my favorite part is the big round marrow bone you get with a shank.
Ragu is what Italians call their meat-based sauces. Ragu is primarily used for tossing with pasta - especially in Italy. Basically ragu is meat and vegetables in a thick sauce, with a lot of wine. I mean, I don't think it needs much more of an explanation to sound exactly like something you want to eat.
Oh hell yes, marrow. Marrow is the soft, super rich and fatty center of the animal bone. It is actually super good for you (when properly sourced). Packed full of collagen, the marrow of the beef shank bones acts as a natural thickener to this ragu, and adds an incomparable richness to the whole dish. The marrow is probably my #1 reason for using shanks instead of say, chuck or short rib for this ragu. Read all about bone marrow here, if you are curious and want other great ideas.
Back to the ragu...
Braising the beef shank in red wine, a little tomato paste, demiglace, some vegetables and aromatics gives you the ultimate ragu.
The demiglace...I talk about this a lot. It is my secret ingredient in so many savory dishes. If you have seen it before in one of my recipes, you know it is kind of expensive. And it is always optional, but I do think it is worth the investment. Here's why:
- A little goes a long way
- It lasts a really long time in the fridge
- You can add a tiny bit to pretty much every sauce, braise and soup and will never be sorry you did
- Your dishes will be elevated - I promise you - YOU WILL NOTICE A DIFFERENCE
Now that I have tried my hardest to sell you on demiglace, here are two options, one is more expensive than the other, but also a bit better (less salty), but I have bought both and use both interchangeably. Buy what works best for your budget. And one last note on this - they also make chicken and veal, which are both great in lighter chicken and fish dishes, in case you were wondering.
To thicken the sauce, I have a genius method that doesn't require flour or cornstarch. When the shank is finished cooking, I strain it, and pull of most of the fat. Pour all that liquid gold back into the pot, add roughly half the vegetables and the marrow from the shank and puree with an immersion blender (or you can put into a blender). This naturally thickens the sauce! Shred you shank and stir back into the sauce. Toss with your pasta and you're ready to dig in.
Braised beef shank ragu
- ¼ cup chopped onion
- 4 carrots diced
- 4 celery stalks diced
- 3 garlic cloves left whole
- 3 tablespoons of tomato paste
- an entire bottle of your favorite red wine I used a cabernet
- 1 tablespoon beef demiglace optional
- few sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2-3 beef shanks
- olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- pappardelle pasta cooked according to instructions on box
- Preheat the oven to 325 and place a rack in the center of the oven. Season your shanks with salt and pepper. Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat and add a little olive oil. Brown the shanks on both sides in the dutch oven. About four minutes on each side. Remove from pan, and drain off all but about two tablespoons of oil.
- To the dutch oven, add the onion, carrots and celery. Lightly season with salt and pepper and cook about four minutes. Add your tomato paste, demi glace (if using), garlic cloves and thyme, and cook for an additional three minutes. Add the wine and the shanks back to the dutch oven and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, cover and put in the oven. Braise for about 3 hours.
- When the the shank is finished, strain the sauce from the vegetables and shank. Pull the shanks out and set on a cutting board. When they have cooled slightly, shred the beef, it will be so tender that this will take almost no effort. Gently rewarm on low heat on the stove top, and finally toss with the pappardelle and serve.