You guys, I’m totally in love. With this yummy tomato-saucy braised BEEF ragu. As in beautifully browned and slow cooked meat. Like, what is even going on in the best possible way.
As evidenced by recipes like these overwhelmingly Veggie Lentil Curry Bowls with cashew sauce, I am a self-declared most-of-the-time-vegetarian. I don’t really LOVE love chicken (it’s okay, haters gon hate) and I definitely doesn’t do large cuts of meat unless they are going to become perfectly golden brown and crispy Crockpot Carnitas which will then ultimately serve as a vehicle for mass quantities of cilantro, beans, cheese, and guacamole. After 5 years worth of posts, I could count the Pinch of Yum beef recipes on one hand.
But tadahhh! Look at me, Mom! I’m becoming a grown up who likes recipes called Crockpot Braised Beef Ragu with Polenta.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
- It can be soft and sort of mushy-like (my favorite).
- It can be hard and sort of chewy-like (Bjork’s favorite).
- It’s just made with cornmeal – like literally if you have cornmeal in your house right now, you can make it. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR.
- It’s cheap (see #3).
- It only takes three seconds to make which means I can quickly get back to InstaStalking my friends.
- It goes with anything, like, for example, this here CROCKPOT BRAISED BEEF RAGU yummy.
- I feels ultra fancy when I tell people I’m making polenta. Pinkies up!
- It begs for a pat of melted butter, which is end of story for me. ♡
About a year ago, Giada and/or Giada’s ghost writers taught me how to make polenta from scratch. Right – from scratch, so I’m not talking about the premade tube of polenta from Trader Joe’s, which I most definitely have purchased and enjoyed in the past. Today I’m talking about a bubbling pot of homemade polenta on your stove. Bjork loved it so much and my wannabe-foodie-but-likes-easy-recipes soul loved it so much that I’ve never ever looked back. If you haven’t tried polenta, now is your time.
Chili on polenta, poached egg on polenta, braised beef on polenta, oh my.
Unrelated to polenta and all that is wonderful about braised beef ragu, I want to say one more thing that’s kind of a big deal to me:
As of today, like, this very day, I’m going to live and eat and do my thing for 60 days without refined sugar.
Whoaaaaa! Yep. Crazy food lady is back.
This summer Bjork and I participated in a 60-day course called Go Sugar Free where we learned about the effects sugar has on the body and ways to form lasting habits that allow us freedom from sugar (and that link is an affiliate link because we highly recommend the way Jacqueline supports, teaches, and inspires through this course). You can read the recap post about our previous experience with the course here. I had been toying around with the idea of rejoining the course for a while, thinking like hey! I sort of enjoyed that little experiment, and maybe I should do it again… but then yesterday I actually decided to get serious about it, and I looked up the details for the next course, and guess what? It starts TODAY. So I recommitted myself just in time for the start of this round, and Bjork, by some really awesome husbandly miracle, has decided to take the jump with me.
There are a lot of reasons that I’ve decided to do this again, but the top two reasons are that 1) I just genuinely like how I feel when I eat good, real, unprocessed food without all the sneaky added sugar, and 2) I am extremely inspired by the personal and professional (?) challenge of making really, really, really good recipes that taste good, period. No sugar required. It gives me a little happy zing to think that I can create veg-heavy healthier recipes without refined sugar that will resonate with a mainstream audience of busy home cooks. Like, lentil curry? Seriously? You guys, too? And here I thought I was the only one.
If the challenge of creating recipes without sugar can help us enjoy a superdelicious + healthy lifestyle, I am ALL OVER THAT.
Okay but just a quick leetle disclaimer: Friday’s post is going to sugar-bomb your world (no regrets! no regrets.), and then after that, we’ll be free and clean of sugar for the next 60 days, and if I do my job as a food blogger well, you’ll forget I’m even doing anything different. Aha! Trickery.
Now, back to the beauty of Crockpot Braised Beef Ragu and Polenta. This is warm, cozy, and saucy. It’s tomato-tangy with perfect San Marzano Italian canned tomatoes and richly flavored with red wine, bay leaves, and nice little pinches of basil and oregano. The beef is tender, the polenta is semi-firm and perfectly textured, and the specks of bright green parsley are pritty to look at.
Also, you guys, you must put a last minute hunk of goat cheese on top of this. Not negotiable. Creamy, tangy, and absolutely heavenly.
Hello Dinner I SEEEEE YOOOOU.
Crockpot Braised Beef Ragu with Polenta! Browned meat with canned tomatoes and flavored with red wine, bay leaves, and pinches of basil and oregano.
For the Braised Beef Ragu
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 lbs. beef rump roast or round roast
- half a yellow or white onion, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 28-ounce cans San Marzano whole tomatoes (see notes)
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons salt
- black pepper to taste
For the Polenta
- 6 cups water
- 1–2 teaspoons salt
- 1 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
- 3 tablespoons butter
- Optional, but for best tasting results: Heat the olive oil in a large, deep frying pan. Add the beef in one whole piece and fry on each side for about 5 minutes, turning until the whole exterior is golden brown. I had some splattering issues so I covered the pan with a lid.
- Place all remaining ingredients with the beef in a crockpot or slow cooker (5 quart size worked for me). Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours. When the beef falls apart easily when pulled at with two forks, it is ready. Shred the beef into pieces and give it a good stir.
- For the polenta, boil the water and add the salt. Slowly add the cornmeal, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. The polenta will start to thicken quickly. Continue whisking or stirring for 2-3 minutes before removing from heat. Stir in the butter until melted (you can also add cheese I’M JUST SAYING). For solid and chewy polenta, pour into a rectangular dish, let cool for 15-20 minutes, and cut into pieces. For softer polenta (my preference), serve scoops of polenta immediately before it has hardened.
I’ve done this a few ways in terms of the tomato sauce — I’ve used two cans, with one drained and one undrained. I’ve used two full cans, both undrained. And I’ve used just one can, undrained. So it can work a lot of different ways – it just depends on your desired meat-to-tomato ratio for the sauce.