Oh, let me count the ways with this Beef Cheek Ragu. It's the ultimate in luxury comfort food, but also ridiculously simple to make either in your Instant Pot/multicooker/pressure cooker or slow cooker/crockpot.
Impress your guests with this unique ragu that features a game-changing surprise ingredient thanks to Jamie Oliver. Beef cheeks are an incredible cut that really elevates many dishes - it's my favourite cut for a reason.
This ragu is suitable for many diets including gluten-free, Paleo, keto/low carb and - of course - normal eaters out there 😉
Cold, blustery winter evenings are no match for this special dish - Beef Cheek Ragu. I've had this recipe up my sleeve for probably a year now. I am probably the world's slowest food blogger. But, really, food blogging is incredibly time consuming if you want to do it well. There's the time to come up with ideas, keyword research, develop/test the recipes, take beautiful photos or video, edit the photos, write the post, then promote it across various platforms. It's a LOT. But I love it. It's an amazing creative outlet that also keeps my nutrition in check.
Anyway, back to the recipe. Ragu is a simple Italian meat sauce recipe, usually served with pasta. A rich tomato sauce pairs with wine or beef stock, garlic, onion, thyme and a special ingredient I learnt from Jamie Oliver - orange zest! While it is often associated with sweet dishes, it really sings in this ragu. It truly elevates this dish beyond anything else. So much so, that I like using orange zest in other savoury recipes such as my Crispy Carnitas with Cinnamon, Garlic and Orange Sauce and this Zesty Orange Stir Fry. I also include mushrooms and shredded red cabbage but those can be left out if you like, they certainly aren't traditional inclusions in ragu, but are certainly an easy way to get more veggies in!
Winter is almost over here in Sydney, with beautiful warm weather arriving earlier than usual which really buoyed my spirits. We've been in lockdown for a few months now, and many of us have found it additionally challenging for our own reasons. I've been taking a lot of enjoyment from the change of seasons, especially with beautiful magnolias and cherry blossoms blooming in my neighbourhood by the dozen.
New to beef cheeks?
If you've never cooked with beef cheeks before, don't be intimidated. They're quite easy to cook, they just need time! So that's where an appliance like an Instant Pot (multicooker) or a pressure cooker come in handy. This ragu is on the table in around 90 minutes or so, without any fuss. If you don't have one of those appliances, you can also make this dish in the slow cooker/crockpot. If you have an oven, they can also be done that way too, but I haven't tested that method myself for this recipe.
Beef Cheeks are truly a delicious cut - they are rich and full of flavour. For some reason, people think they're fatty, but actually they are quite gelatinous which is what gives them such a nice texture and so good for your health with their rich gelatin content! I have a few other beef cheek recipes you may want to check out too: Beef Cheek Rendang and Korean Beef Cheeks.
Ingredients - Beef Cheeks and Red Wine are a match made in heaven
For full ingredient details, see the recipe card below.
- Beef cheeks
- Red wine or beef stock
- Yellow/brown onion
- Dried thyme
- Crushed tomatoes
- Tomato paste concentrate
- Cooking salt
- Orange zest - the secret ingredient!
- Button mushrooms or swiss brown mushrooms (optional)
- Red cabbage (optional)
- To serve - your choice of pasta (GF if needed), mashed potato or mashed cauliflower; parmesan (optional), chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)
What to serve this Beef Cheek Ragu with
Ragu is traditionally served with a wide pasta such as pappardelle, which allows the sauce to stick to it really well. In the images for this post, I've used a gluten free lasagne sheet from Tinkyada which I love...best gluten-free pasta hands down! Use caution when tossing the ragu with the pasta to minimise breaking. And - obvi - it's a good idea to avoid overcooking the pasta, you definitely want an al dente feel.
If you can eat gluten, you might want to try some egg pasta such as San Remo pappardelle. The egg keeps the pasta strong so that you can stir the ragu in to the pasta without breaking.
You can also serve Beef Cheek Ragu with your favourite mashed potato or cauliflower puree recipe. I bet leftovers - if there are any - would be amazing on a sandwich or even nachos!
Well, these beef cheeks aren't going to cook themselves so - without further ado - here's the recipe for Beef Cheek Ragu. Please enjoy!
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Beef Cheek Ragu
- Instant Pot/MultiCooker/Pressure Cooker OR Slow Cooker/Crockpot and frypan
- chopping board and knives
- Large pot to cook pasta
- Measuring cup and spoons
- Box grater or microplane
- 1 ½ tbsp olive oil (more as needed)
- 1 brown/yellow onion (diced)
- 6 large garlic cloves (peeled and minced)
- ¾ tsp dried thyme
- ¾ tsp cooking salt
- 2 medium-large oranges (scrubbed and zested)
- ⅔ cup red wine or beef stock
- 1 can crushed tomatoes 410g/14 oz.
- 1 ½ tbsp tomato paste concentrate
- 700-750 grams beef cheeks
- 200 grams white button mushrooms (½ pound)
- 1 cup shredded red cabbage
- 200-220 grams wide pasta (eg. pappardelle, fettucine. Use GF pasta if needed)
- fresh parsley, leaves picked and chopped
- freshly grated parmesan (optional)
- fresh ground black pepper
- Prepare the ingredients as described, except garnishes and pasta.
Instant Pot/Multicooker/Pressure Cooker
- Heat the inner pot on the saute function of your Instant Pot/multicooker and add most of the oil after a couple of minutes. Add the onions and sweat for a few minutes while stirring. When golden brown add the remaining oil, garlic, thyme, salt and orange zest. Stir for a minute or two, then add the red wine and allow to cook off for a few minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and tomato paste to the inner pot and stir well. Lastly, add the beef cheeks and mushrooms and stir well.
- Close the lid and seal the vent. Set your Instant Pot/multicooker to cook at high pressure for 70 mins.
- Once done, allow to release the pressure for 10 minutes before removing the lid. While the pressure is releasing, cook the pasta according to packet instructions to al dente. Or if you're serving with mashed potato or cauliflower, prepare this a little earlier while the ragu is cooking. Use your favourite recipe if going with this option.
- Stir in the cabbage to the ragu. If using pasta, gently stir the ragu with the pasta.Serve the ragu with the pasta/mashed potato, sprinkle with parsley and parmesan (optional).
- Heat frypan over medium heat and add most of the oil. Add the onions and sweat for a few minutes while stirring. When golden brown add the remaining oil, garlic, thyme, salt and orange zest. Stir for a minute or two, then add the red wine and allow to cook off for a few minutes.
- Transfer to the slow cooker. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste to the inner pot and stir well. Lastly, add the beef cheeks and mushrooms and stir well.
- Slow cook on low for 8 hours or high for 5 hours. Check that the cheeks are soft but not too mushy. They should still hold their shape a little. Stir in the cabbage to the ragu.
- Prepare your pasta according to packet instructions to al dente, or prepare your favourite mashed potato or cauliflower puree recipe.If using pasta, gently stir the ragu with the pasta.
- Serve the ragu with the pasta/mashed potato, sprinkle with parsley and parmesan (optional).