{Recipe} spare rib ragu~gourmet meal for frugal budgets

Ragu is not just the brand name of a spaghetti sauce. The original definition is:

A sauce of meat, poultry, or a combination of the two and finely diced vegetables simmered for a long time in one or more liquids, such as water, cream, wine, broth, or stock and seasonings

And the New York Times wrote about it over 10 years ago. So it’s easy to see where Unilever got the name from, but just like not all tissues are Kleenexes and not all bandages are Band-Aids, not all sauces are Ragu and not all Ragus are sauces found in a jar for $0.99. Impress your friends with the definition.

Here is the recipe that I made on Sunday. It’s a pork recipe, and it’s our traditional New Year’s Day recipe, since eating pork on that day is supposed to be good luck. But, I was really in the mood for it, I found some ribs on clearance at Acme, and it was the perfect weather for an all-day-cooking meal. So we made it this past Sunday. It’s not a very visually appealing meal, not very colorful. However, it’s a very frugal meal, your total cost is probably $8-$10 which works out to be about $1 per serving. And my husband eats big portions! Plus, it is super yummy, makes your house smell good…….and it will probably be the only time in your life you use the term “bouquet garni.”

It’s another recipe that we found from Bobby Flay, but have made minor modifications over the years.

Shopping list

3 tablespoons olive oil


3 1/2 to 4 pounds short ribs, each about 2-inches long, cut flanken style, across the ribs (I use boneless)


Salt and freshly ground pepper


1 dried bay leaf


2 sprigs fresh rosemary (I use dried)


5 sprigs fresh thyme (I use fresh)


2 sprigs fresh parsley (fresh if I have it, or dried)


4 small carrots, diced


2 stalks celery, diced


1 medium onion, diced


2 medium shallots, diced


1 tablespoon all-purpose flour


2 tablespoons tomato paste


1/2 cup ruby port (optional, we never have this on hand and it’s fine without it)


2 cups red wine


1/2 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled


3 1/2 cups homemade beef stock


1 pound bow ties, original recipes calls for long, flat pasta like a linguine. We always use bow ties.


Grated Pecorino Romano, for garnish, we use Parmesan


My ingredients to start, and my ribs had a $3 off coupon attached!



Heat oven to 325 degrees F.

Place a 5-quart casserole or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil, and heat until it is almost smoking. Season short ribs generously with salt and pepper. Working in batches if necessary, add short ribs to the hot oil. Cook ribs until browned on both sides. Remove ribs from casserole, and transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare bouquet garni: Place bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, and parsley in the center of a square of cheesecloth. Bring edges together, and tie with kitchen string. Set bouquet garni aside. I suppose if you don’t have cheesecloth or string around, you could use one of those things used to steep loose tea leaves. I will say, we’ve had the same package of cheesecloth for probably over 10 years, because this is the only thing we use it for.

I did all the slicing and chopping, hubby did all the cooking.

Add carrots, celery, onion, and shallots to oil in the casserole, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and golden, about 10 minutes.

Add flour and tomato paste to the casserole, and stir to combine. Add ruby port; stir with wooden spoon until all browned bits have been scraped from the pan and the bottom of the casserole is clean. Add red wine, and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Add garlic, beef stock, and the reserved bouquet garni.

My bouquet garni!

Return browned ribs to the casserole. Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover the casserole, and place it in the oven. Cook until ribs are very tender, about 3 hours.

Remove the cooked ribs from the casserole. Set the casserole on the stove top over medium heat, and simmer to thicken sauce just slightly. As soon as the short ribs are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones, and shred into small pieces. Degrease the sauce and discard the bouquet garni. Return shredded meat to casserole, and simmer to reduce sauce by about half.

Fill a large pot with water and add a few tablespoons of salt. Set over high heat, and bring to a boil. Salt well, and stir in pasta. Cook until pasta is al dente. Drain pasta, and serve with short-rib ragu, sprinkle with the parsley. Serve with freshly grated Percorino Romano.

Not a very beautiful or colorful dish, but it is soooo yummy!

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