This brilliant Italian-inspired dish has just become a new favourite of mine. Beef cheek ragu is full of flavour, easy to prepare, and can be combined with a number of sides. If you’re tired of always cooking with the same cuts of meat, you need to try beef cheeks. When treated right this unsung hero among beef cuts will deliver you one of the tastiest meals you have ever cooked. It might sound like a heavy winter dish, but in fact it isn’t that heavy at all. It will fill you up no doubt, but with the refined touch of Italian cuisine it will do so without overpowering you.
I strongly recommend that you dedicate a bit of time this weekend and try my version of beef cheek ragu. The prepping is easy but you need to be patient and allow the beef cheek ragu the necessary cooking time. Trust me though, it is worth the wait. Although, what you need to make this a sensational beef cheek ragu is a delicious bottle of wine. You can easily source a premium quality of wine online – a quality which you can’t compare to the usual stuff you find in the supermarkets. Plus, it really couldn’t be any easier to order! Keep reading to find out more!
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best Italian beef cheek ragu
I am always an ambassador for good quality wine, even for cooking. All the top chefs agree, that a good wine can ultimately make a sauce or stew. Well, this beef cheek ragu is no different when it comes to this rule. That’s why this time, I purposely didn’t get my wine from a supermarket, but from Millesima.
You can find all kinds of incredible wines in Millesima from Italy, Greece, France, South America – you name it. The website allows you to set a price filter which makes the wine selection process all the more easier. So, you can find affordable options as well as the super-luxurious options for that special dinner!
Ultimately, I really enjoyed my Millesima experience. The wine came intact, well packed, and delivered straight to my door! It really was way simpler that carrying this stuff from a supermarket. With Millesima, I know exactly what wine I am getting and the quality is outstanding.
I definitely plan to use Millesima more in the future!
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Jamie Oliver’s beef cheek ragu
After my recent trip to Sicily I have been very keen on cooking Italian food. One chef who knows his way around Italy is Jamie Oliver, and therefore I looked to him for inspiration for my beef cheek ragu. You can find his version here.
First of all, Jamie makes his using Barolo wine, however I don’t find this obligatory. Equally delicious is a Tuscan wine Pian di Nova. An excellent combination with the traditional Italian ingredients. You can purchase the same wine at Millesima’s website!
Ragu is an Italian word for a meaty sauce. Believe it or not, if you go to Italy a Spaghetti Bolognese is actually not called Bolognese at all. It’s called ragu! As you know, that version is made from minced meat. My beef cheek ragu is made with whole beef cheeks that have been cooked for a long time, making them extremely tender.
The long cooking process breaks down the tissue of the beef cheeks, which if fried in a pan like a steak would be tough and inedible. The prize for the waiting time is amazing flavour!
where to buy beef cheek
Beef cheek is not the most sought after cut of meat. But as a matter of fact that works to your advantage. What it means is that you can often get this very tasty cut of meat at a very reasonable price. When you look at the basic ingredients, this beef cheek ragu is really great value for money. Maximum flavour for a minimum price tag.
I have seen beef cheeks in some broadly-stocked supermarkets although admittedly that is the exception rather than the rule. The best way is to go to the meat counter or to your local butcher and ask for them. Preferably a couple of days in advance in case they have to order them especially for you.
The good thing is that you can buy a bunch of them and freeze the ones you don’t need. This way you will have enough for another beef cheek ragu whenever you feel like it.
alternatives to beef cheeks
Beef cheeks have the most intense flavour. You can replace them with pork cheeks. Again this is a cut of meat that you will need to search for. If you can’t find any sort of cheeks, you can make the ragu using normal beef or any other meat you would include in a stew. Look to my game casserole for more inspiration on delicious simmering stews.
beef cheek ragu with pasta
In order to keep my beef cheek ragu as authentic as possible I have served it with pappardelle. In essence, pappardelle is a broad type of fresh pasta, which is perfect for scooping up that fantastic ragu. I think that it is the ideal pasta to serve with beef cheek ragu. Despite that you can use any kind of pasta you prefer. However, I recommend that you still stick to fresh pasta.
other sides to serve with beef ragu
Another good Italian alternative is to serve the beef cheek ragu with polenta. Polenta is a sort of porridge made from boiled cornmeal. It is a very typical side dish in Northern Italy, and quite ideal for serving with full-flavoured stews like our beef cheek ragu. You will find it in most supermarkets and it is quite easy to make. You only need to boil the cornmeal for a few minutes whilst stirring.
If you prefer to give your beef cheek ragu a more British twist you can make a good homemade mash to go with it. In essence, my carrot and parsnip mash for example would be an ideal alternative to pasta.
Alternatively, you can also serve beef cheek ragu with boiled rice or couscous, depending on your preference.
how to season beef ragu
Lastly, Italian cuisine is renowned for its ability to produce tasty food with only a handful of select ingredients. Apart from the garlic and vegetables, I have only used rosemary to bring extra flavour to my beef cheek ragu. If you find rosemary to be too powerful you can use thyme instead. Alternatively use Marjoram. On that note have a look at my 10 marjoram substitutes to learn more about changing up the spices.
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Make this Italian beef cheek ragu recipe in just a few simple steps. Find out which wine to pair it with and how you can get your hands on a great bottle!
- 2kg (4lbs) beef cheeks
- 30ml (2 tbsp) vegetable oil
- 2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 2 celery ribs, washed and finely chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- 15ml (1 tbsp) fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 4 beef stock cubes
- 5ml (1 tsp) dried oregano
- 500ml (2 cups) red wine
- 800g (2lbs) passata
- 30ml (2 tbsp) brown sugar
- Preheat oven to 160°C/320°F/gas mark 3.
- Heat the oil in a large ovenproof casserole.
- Brown the cheeks all over on a high heat, remove from the casserole and set aside.
- Lower the heat, then add the onion, garlic, celery and carrot to the casserole and fry for 3 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened.
- Return the meat to the casserole.
- Sprinkle the herbs over the vegetables.
- Crumbled the stock cubes over the meat.
- Turn up the heat and pour in the wine, letting it sizzle for a few minutes.
- Pour in the passata and add the sugar.
- Give everything a good stir and wait for the stew to reach a slow simmering point.
- Place the lid on the casserole and transfer it to the oven.
- After 1 hour, remove the lid and cook for another 3 hours. Check on the meat once in a while, turning over the top pieces so that their surfaces don’t harden and burn.
- Place the lid back on, lower the heat to 140°C/275°F/gas mark 1.
- The meat should now fall apart with the touch of a fork. Remove the casserole from the oven and shred the meat to desired consistency.
- Serve on a bed of buttered pappardelle and a glass of red wine.
- The amount of stock cubes used should equate to 1 litre’s (4 cups) worth.
- You don’t have to faff about with the lid during cooking time so much. Cooking without the lid simply means the liquid will evaporate and you’re left with a thick, luscious sauce. You can cook it for 6 hours straight in the oven with the lid on if you prefer. It’s always good to check up on the meat every once in a while though.
- Category: Main Course
- Cuisine: Italian
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 183
- Sugar: 4.8g
- Sodium: 24mg
- Fat: 4.9g
- Saturated Fat: 0.7g
- Carbohydrates: 15.7g
- Fiber: 2.5g
- Protein: 7g
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