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Slow Cooked Shredded Beef Brisket Ragu with Pasta

Finished slow cooked beef brisket ragu with pasta styled in white bowl on orange towel.
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Slow cooked Beef Brisket Ragu will fill your home with flavorful aromas like no other! Hearty beef brisket is simmered in red wine with lots of aromatics until it’s fork tender, then shredded into the sauce and tossed with pasta for the ultimate comfort food your family will love.

Finished slow cooked beef brisket ragu with pasta styled in white bowl on orange towel.

This Slow Cooked Shredded Beef Brisket Ragu with Pasta is the ultimate in Italian comfort food–robust, warming and full of big flavors and aromas. It’s one of my favorites along with my Italian Pulled Pork, Pork Country Rib Sauce and Wild Boar Bolognese recipes.

I’ve been making this recipe for years and it is one of my most requested dishes. I admit to having a special love for all things slow cooked and rustic, and this ragu tops the list! It’s the texture and intense flavor that seals the deal for me.

While brisket is not a typical meat used in Italian recipes, I chose it due to its amazing texture and affinity for braising (my favorite cooking technique). It creates perfect shreds that marry so well with all sorts of pasta shapes and takes on all the delicious flavors from slowly simmering in red wine for hours.

I include an optional Lemon Herb Ricotta recipe below as a creamy final touch to this beautiful and aromatic pasta. Either top the brisket pasta with it on the serving platter or serve it on the side to be dolloped onto plates individually. Mangia bene!

Is this beef ragu the same as Bolognese?

No. A ragù, in general, is a hearty, Italian meat sauce, typically served with pasta. Generally, tougher cuts of meat are browned, immersed in a braising liquid (wine and/or tomato-based) and then cooked on a low heat over a long period of time. Once cooked, the meat is removed from the sauce and classically served in a separate course, while the sauce is served with pasta for the first part of the meal. Here, I have alternatively combined the cooked shredded beef with the sauce for a chunky ragu.

Bolognese is actually a type of ragu that is typical of the Bologna area in central Italy. It’s traditionally made with ground beef and pork and/or veal, braised in wine and a bit of tomato, and finished with a bit of milk.

What Kind of Cut is Brisket?

Brisket is a cut of beef that comes from the lower breast/pectoral muscles of a cow. As this area is used a lot and well-exercised, it’s a very tough piece of meat that’s full of connective tissue. This is why it’s best suited towards a low and slow cooking process, like the braising technique used here. The meat becomes deeply flavorful once simmered for hours in all those wonderful sauce flavors and aromas!

Beef brisket ragu with pappardelle in pot with spoons.
Beef Brisket Ragu works well with so many different shapes of pasta!

Why This Recipe Works

  • Pasta or Sandwiches? Do I dare say it? Yes, the brisket in this recipe also makes amazing sandwiches. There, I said it.
  • Make it in Advance: This dish is easy to store, so you can make it ahead of time, keep it in the fridge, and heat it up and serve it when you’re ready to eat.
  • Foolproof recipe! Time is the most important ingredient here! As long as you have some patience and time, you will be able to execute this dish perfectly. No advanced cooking skills necessary! Plus, it can be made on the stove, in the oven or in a slow-cooker.
  • It has Built-In Leftovers! The ragu recipe makes enough sauce to dress 2 to 3 pounds of pasta. If you’re only making one pound pasta, freeze the remaining ragu in an airtight container for up to three months. This way, you can have a delicious brisket ragu when desired any night of the week!

I love the richness in this dish from the several hour-braised ragu with red wine and lots of aromatics, not to mention its fork-tender texture and hearty flavor complemented by the creamy, fresh taste of the lemon herb ricotta that I often top it off with! Great for Sunday Dinner or a large dinner party and a definite crowd-pleaser!

Side view of forkful of beef brisket ragu with pasta with herb ricotta.

Ingredients for Beef Brisket Ragu

Here are the main ingredients we’ll need for this shredded beef ragu:

  • Beef Brisket: Brisket is considered a tough cut of meat as it comes from a highly utilized muscle of the cow. So, it’s perfect for slow cooking over a low heat, a technique that will break down all that connective tissue. I start with a flat-cut (leaner), boneless brisket as it is a bit easier to manage than bone-in. Trim the brisket of large pieces of fat and silverskin membrane), but definitely leave some fat on it.
  • Onions, Carrots, Celery, Garlic, Fresh and Dried Herbs: These aromatics are all important flavor builders that complement and enhance the flavors of the other ingredients. Fresh herbs are also mixed with the ricotta topping for a bright, herby finish.
  • Red Wine: Choose a dry red wine for this recipe, such as a cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, chianti or merlot. The wine adds depth and complexity, brings a layer of acidity to the dish, rounds out the overall flavor of the sauce and creates a beautiful aroma to boot! If you prefer to not use alcohol, though, you can use beef (preferred) or chicken broth or stock.
  • Tomato Paste: Adds umami, tomato-ness and acid to the sauce. Caramelize it for a few minutes in the hot pan before adding other ingredients
  • Broth: Use a low- or no-sodium beef or chicken broth as the base for this hearty sauce. Even better, use homemade if possible!
  • Pasta: As you can see from the various photos, I’ve paired this fragrant brisket ragu with a few different shapes of pasta: elicoidali (which is like a curved, narrower rigatoni), pappardelle and a large version of fusilli. This sauce works well with all sorts of strong pasta shapes that can hold up to it, such as rigatoni, fettuccine, ziti, penne rigate and paccheri.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Adds some final richness to the finished pasta. Use a high quality oil for this finishing step.
  • Butter (optional): Add a small amount to the finished pasta for increased richness and silkiness, restaurant-style.
  • Pecorino Romano Cheese: The incredible sharpness and savoriness of Pecorino Romano cheese is just what the sauce needs to round out its flavors. But, Parmigiano-Reggiano would be just as delicious here!
  • Ricotta and Lemon: While optional, topping off this pasta with Lemon Herb Ricotta is, quite honestly, the icing on the cake. Creamy ricotta cheese is simply combined with extra virgin or garlic oil, fresh herbs and lemon zest is. This is a more recent addition that I made to this brisket pasta recipe after years of serving it without it. Give it a try!
Prepped Ingredients for beef brisket ragu.

Beef Brisket Ragu, Step-by-Step (Pro-Tips Included!)

Here are the main steps for making this Beef Brisket Ragu recipe:

  • Gather and prep all ingredients. Pat the brisket pieces dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle all sides of the beef with salt and black pepper.

  • Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, such as a Dutch oven, over medium heat. Carefully add as many brisket pieces as will fit on the surface of the pot and sear them on multiple sides until brown, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the brisket to a plate once seared and set aside.
    • PRO-TIP: Do this in batches and do not overcrowd the pot.
Prepped and seasoned brisket pieces.
Brisket pieces searing in hot pan with oil.
  • Add the onions, celery, carrot, chopped garlic cloves and crushed red pepper to the pot and stir to coat with the fat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the vegetables have mostly softened, about 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  • Move the veggies over to one side of the pot and add the tomato paste. Caramelize it for 1 to 2 minutes. Then, Pour the wine in and deglaze the pan, scraping up all the browned bits. Add the chicken or beef stock, rosemary sprigs, dried oregano and basil, salt and black pepper and stir until all ingredients are well-combined.
Prepped ingredients for beef brisket ragu with seared brisket.
Carrots, onions, celery and garlic cooking in pan with wooden spoon.
Pouring wine into pan with vegetables to deglaze.
  • Carefully return the reserved brisket to the pot, along with any accumulated juices, nestling the pieces in the broth and vegetables. Increase the heat to medium, cover and bring the mixture to a rolling simmer. Then, immediately turn the heat down to medium-low to achieve a low simmer and cover the pot, leaving it slightly ajar. Let the mixture simmer about 3½ to 4 hours or until the beef is fork tender and able to be shredded very easily.
    • PRO-TIP: Stir the mixture every 30 minutes, turning the brisket pieces over. If necessary, add additional broth.
    • PRO-TIP: Alternatively, cook the brisket in a 325°F preheated oven, covered with foil.
Pouring meat juices into pan.
Brisket pieces nestled in broth/vegetable mixture ready to braise.
  • While the brisket is cooking, make the Lemon Herb Ricotta, if including. Simply whisk the ricotta with the chopped parsley and basil, lemon zest and olive oil until well combined.
    • PRO-TIP: You can make this one day in advance and hold it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature before serving.
Ingredients for herbed ricotta topping.
Finished herb ricotta with lemons and herbs in background.
  • Once the brisket has reached the desired consistency, turn off the heat and transfer the meat to a dish. Let it cool briefly. Remove and discard the rosemary sprigs.

  • Then, shred the beef with tongs or two forks and return the meat to the pot, combining it with the sauce.
    • PRO-TIP: You can also do this right in the pot if you want.
Testing the doneness of the braised brisket with tongs.
Shredded brisket meat.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and transfer the ragu to a large skillet over medium-low heat.

  • Add salt, then the pasta, to the boiling water, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the package directions, or about 2 minutes before you think it is al dente.
    • PRO-TIP: Be sure to reserve at least 1 cup of the starchy pasta water.

  • Transfer the cooked pasta to the pan and allow the pasta to finish cooking in the wonderful flavors of the sauce. Add pasta water for additional moisture, about ½ cup at a time.
    • PRO-TIP: You can also add some pasta water to the sauce before the pasta is added, if moisture is needed.

  • Once the pasta is al dente, remove the pan from the heat. Then gently stir in the pecorino cheese (or grated parmesan) and butter and drizzle with a good glug of extra virgin olive oil. Either top the pasta with the Lemon Herb Ricotta, if including, on the serving platter or serve it on the side to be dolloped onto plates individually.
    • PRO-TIP: The butter is “mounted” on the finished pasta at the end for additional richness and silkiness. This is optional and can be left out.
Adding cooked pasta to brisket ragu.
Finished brisket pasta in pan topped with grated cheese and butter.
Finished beef brisket ragu with pasta styled in white bowl with glass of red wine, bread, cheese and grater in background.

Frequently Asked Questions for this Beef Brisket Ragu

Can I use a different cut of meat in this recipe?

Yes. This recipe represents a basic ragu braising technique that can be used with any tough cut of meat, such as pork shoulder, beef short ribs, pork country ribs or wild boar.

Can I make this beef brisket pasta in a slow-cooker?

This beef ragu/sauce can definitely be made in a slow cooker (without the pasta). Before adding the ingredients to the slow cooker, I suggest searing the brisket pieces in a hot skillet. Searing locks in a ton of delicious flavor and creates the most delicious crust on the outside. Then, mix the brisket and other ingredients together and add them to the slow cooker with the wine and broth, cover and set on low for 6 to 7 hours or high for 3 to 4 hours or until the beef is fall-apart tender.
 
The pasta itself should be cooked separately in a pot of salted boiling water.

How far in advance can I make this sauce?

The ragu can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days or freezer for up to three months.

I generally make this sauce 2 to 3 days in advance of when I’m serving it. The flavors develop well and any excess fat rises to the top and can be skimmed off before reheating.

When ready to serve, defrost the ragu in the refrigerator. Then, reheat it in a covered skillet, thinned with a little bit of water as needed to reach desired consistency.

Can I make this recipe without wine?

Yes. Just sub in the same amount of beef broth for the wine.

Can I use leftover brisket in this recipe?

While it is a great idea to toss leftover brisket from your weekend bbq with pasta, it will definitely take on a very different flavor profile than this recipe. Here, the instructions are for slow cooking raw brisket over several hours. Leftover brisket is already cooked, so it just needs to be heated up, not braised for several hours.
 
Having said this, if you have leftover, cooked brisket, you can incorporate it into the spirit of this recipe. I would suggest sautéing some carrots/onions/celery/garlic as indicated, deglazing the pan with red wine, let the alcohol taste cook off, then add the brisket and let it simmer in the mixture for about 20 minutes. Add some broth for additional moisture and to create more of a sauce. Then, fold in some cooked pasta, top with grated cheese and olive oil and enjoy!

Overhead view of beef brisket ragu with pasta topped with lemon herb ricotta, with cheese and grater in background.
This Herbed Ricotta topping makes brisket ragu pasta ten times better!

Serving Suggestions and Storage

I’ve paired this rich, aromatic beef brisket ragu with pasta. But, if you’re a polenta fan, consider serving this recipe over a big puddle of buttery, creamy polenta.

For sides, a simple green salad is perfect accompaniment and my go-to. It provides the perfect crispness and freshness to complement the rich ragu and pasta.

Don’t forget to serve this juice brisket pasta sauce with a little homemade Italian chili oil for a final kick of heat–so worth it!

The ragu itself can be held in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days or in the freezer for up to three months. (It freezes beautifully!)

Leftover braised beef ragu with pasta can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat it, covered, in a small skillet over medium low heat with a little bit of water until heated through.

Beef brisket ragu with pasta in pot with wooden spoon and stainless steel spoon.
Beef Brisket Ragu works well with so many different shapes of pasta!

More Italian Recipes to Try

I hope that you are enjoying my Italian food blog Mangia With Michele and all of my Italian recipes!

If you’ve tried this Beef Brisket Ragu, let me know how it went in the comments below. I love hearing from you!

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Finished slow cooked beef brisket ragu with pasta styled in white bowl on orange towel.

Slow Cooked Shredded Beef Brisket Ragu Pasta

Michele
Slow cooked Beef Brisket Ragu will fill your home with flavorful aromas like no other! Hearty beef brisket is simmered in red wine with lots of aromatics until it’s fork tender, then shredded into the sauce and tossed with pasta for the ultimate comfort food your family will love.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 4 hours
Course Pasta, Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients
  

For the Ragu:

  • 4-5 pounds boneless, flat-cut beef brisket, trimmed of big pieces of fat and silver skin (some fat ok); 3” chunks
  • Pinch salt and black pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil or other neutral oil for searing
  • 4 cups sliced yellow onions
  • 2 cups small diced celery
  • 2 cups small diced carrots
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped or thinly sliced (about ¼ cup)
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups dry red wine such as cabernet sauvignon
  • 2 cups beef or chicken broth (preferably low- or no-sodium)
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

For the Lemon Herb Ricotta(optional):

  • 8 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil or Garlic Oil
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tap black pepper

For the Pasta:

  • 1 pound pasta + salt for pasta water
  • 3-4 cups Beef Brisket Ragu (above)
  • cup grated Pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp butter at room temperature (optional)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 recipe Lemon Herb Ricotta (above) at room temperature (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Gather and prep all ingredients as noted above. Pat the brisket pieces dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle all sides of the beef with salt and black pepper.
    (Please see the section above in the blog post for Step-By-Step instructions with photos.)
    4-5 pounds boneless, flat-cut beef brisket,, Pinch salt and black pepper
  • Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, such as a Dutch oven, over medium heat. Carefully add as many brisket pieces as will fit on the surface of the pot and sear them on multiple sides until brown, about 3 minutes per side. Do this in batches and do not overcrowd the pot. Remove the brisket to a plate once seared and set aside.
    ¼ cup olive oil
  • Add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic and crushed red pepper to the pot and stir to coat with the fat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the vegetables have mostly softened, about 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    4 cups sliced yellow onions, 2 cups small diced celery, 2 cups small diced carrots, 6 cloves garlic,, ½ tsp crushed red pepper
  • Move the veggies over to one side of the pot and add the tomato paste. Caramelize it for 1 to 2 minutes.
    2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • Pour the wine in and deglaze the pan, scraping up all the browned bits.
    2 cups dry red wine
  • Add the broth, rosemary sprigs, dried oregano and basil, salt and black pepper and stir until all ingredients are well-combined.
    2 cups beef or chicken broth, 2 sprigs rosemary, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • Carefully return the reserved brisket to the pot, along with any accumulated juices, nestling the pieces in the broth and vegetables. Increase the heat to medium, cover and bring the mixture to a rolling simmer. Then, immediately turn the heat down to medium-low to achieve a low simmer and cover the pot, leaving it slightly ajar. Let the mixture simmer about 3½ to 4 hours or until the beef is fork tender and able to be shredded very easily. Stir the mixture every 30 minutes, turning the brisket pieces over. If necessary, add additional broth.
  • (Alternatively, cook the brisket in a 325°F preheated oven, covered with foil.)
  • While the brisket is cooking, make the Lemon Herb Ricotta, if including. Simply whisk all of the ingredients until well combined. You can make this one day in advance and hold it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature before serving.
    8 ounces ricotta cheese, 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil, 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, Zest from 1 lemon, ½ tsp salt, ¼ tap black pepper
  • Once the brisket has reached the desired consistency, turn off the heat and transfer the meat to a dish. Let it cool briefly. Remove and discard the rosemary sprigs.
  • Then, shred the beef with tongs or two forks and return the meat to the pot, combining it with the sauce. (You can also do this right in the pot if you want.)
  • At this point, you can either use the ragu immediately store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days or freezer for up to three months. (I generally make this sauce 2 to 3 days in advance of when I am serving it. The flavors develop well and any excess fat rises to the top and can be skimmed off before reheating.)
  • When ready to serve, bring a large pot of water to a boil and reheat the ragu in a large skillet over medium-low heat.
    3-4 cups Beef Brisket Ragu (above)
  • Add salt, then the pasta, to the boiling water, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the package directions, or about 2 minutes before you think it is al dente. Be sure to reserve at least 1 cup of the starchy pasta water.
    1 pound pasta
  • Transfer the cooked pasta to the pan with the ragu, increase the heat to medium and toss well. Allow the pasta to finish cooking in the wonderful flavors of the sauce. Add pasta water for additional moisture, about ½ cup at a time. (You can also add some pasta water to the sauce before the pasta is added, if moisture is needed.)
  • Once the pasta is al dente, remove the pan from the heat. Then gently stir in the pecorino cheese and butter and drizzle with a good glug of extra virgin olive oil.
    ⅓ cup grated Pecorino Romano, 2 Tbsp butter, Extra virgin olive oil
  • Transfer to a serving platter. Either top the pasta with the Lemon Herb Ricotta, if including, on the serving platter or serve it on the side to be dolloped onto plates individually. Serve immediately. Buon Appetito!
    1 recipe Lemon Herb Ricotta (above)

Notes

  • The above recipe makes approximately 9 to 10 cups shredded brisket ragu, which is enough to dress about 2 to 3 pounds pasta.
  • Silverskin is a thin membrane of connective tissue on the brisket that gets tough and chewy when cooked, and it should be removed.
  • If you are only making one pound pasta, I suggest freezing the remaining ragu in an airtight container for up to three months. This way, you can have a delicious brisket ragu when desired any night of the week! Defrost the ragu in the refrigerator when ready to enjoy. Then, reheat it in a covered skillet, thinned with a little bit of water as needed to reach desired consistency.
  • You can halve the above recipe for a smaller yield.
  • This brisket ragu works well with all sorts of short and long shapes of pasta. Some of my favorites to use in this recipe are pappardelle, fettuccine, rigatoni, gnocchi, ziti, penne rigate and paccheri.
  • The butter is “mounted” on the finished pasta at the end for additional richness and silkiness. This is optional and can be left out.
 
Recipe by Mangia With Michele. Please visit my site for more great cooking inspiration!
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Keyword brisket ragu, beef brisket, meat sauce, pasta sauce, pasta recipe, Italian food, Italian American food, italian recipes, Italian American recipes
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2 thoughts on “Slow Cooked Shredded Beef Brisket Ragu with Pasta

  1. 5 stars
    So yummy and worth the time. If you aren’t a lemon person, leave it out of the ricotta. My family devoured this meal!

  2. 5 stars
    Love Love Love this recipe! I made it years ago when you posted it on Instagram. So glad you added it to your website!

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