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Beef cheek and mushroom Ragù (with pappardelle)

This is a very easy dish even if it takes quite a bit of cooking time. The end result is a dish that is so tasty and tender….. and you will know all the ingredients, so nothing weird at all!

Beef Cheeks are the cheek muscle of cows and they are a very tough cut of meat that needs to be cooked long and slow to make it tender. It absorbs the flavours of braising liquid well and when you cut into it, it is stringy, almost like pulled pork

If you haven’t cooked beef cheeks, yes they will take you away from your comfort zone but fret not, they’re melt-in-your-mouth and perfectly proportioned – slow cooked beef cheeks are your perfect winter dish. You should be able to get them from your butcher – I get mine from Farro Fresh – they are vacuum packed and you don’t really need to trim them, so no wastage at all

My recipe uses two kg of beef cheek, so easily enough for two dinners for four or one large dinner party which is how I like cooking and serving this meal – it is that simple and good!!

If you are serving it over two nights, what I do is on night one to serve it with our favourite mash, such as potatoes or kumara and a green vegetable or two, eg broccolini or beans and then on night two, as the heading suggests, simply with pasta and some baby spinach and freshly grated parmesan thrown in

I have written the recipe as a dinner for 8. You can cook this in a slow cooker – it will take around 8 hours on low heat

Wee bonus - The sauce freezes perfectly well, so for no extra effort you can have an easy meal on hand in the freezer.

Strong tip – cook the ragu one or even two days before you serve it – the taste will be enhanced and so good!

 

Ingredients

 Approx. 2-2.5 kgs beef cheeks

2 tbs olive oil

100 gms pancetta, diced – you can use diced bacon instead, about 200 gms

1 onion, finely diced

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

1-2 carrots, diced

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tbs finely chopped rosemary

2 tbs finely chopped fresh thyme

2 tbs tomato paste

3/4 to 1 bottle red wine - I generally get a cheap bottle of merlot from the supermarket

Approx. 400 gms passata

500 mls beef stock

500-750 gms assorted mushrooms – whatever you like and can get

Butter

Sea salt and cracked pepper

If serving with pappardelle (halve if just second night)

500 gm packet of pappardelle

Packet of baby spinach

Half cup of freshly grated parmesan and more if you like

 

Cooking instructions

  1. Trim any sinew from the beef cheeks and cut them into good size chunks, around 5-6 cms long and lightly season
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan and sear the beef cheeks for a few minutes, on all sides, in batches. Transfer to your large casserole dish
  3. Add the pancetta to the pan and cook over a medium high heat for 3-4 minutes, then reduce the heat and add the onions, celery, garlic, rosemary and thyme. Cook for 10 minutes until the onion is softened but not coloured.
  4. Add the tomato paste, wine, passata and stock and stir to combine. Bring to a boil.
  5. Add to the beef in the casserole dish. Cook on low for 2.5-3 hours until meltingly tender
  6. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, drain and place in large serving dish- this will be towards the end of the cooking time
  7. When the beef is very tender, in a large pan, with 1 tbs butter, quickly brown the mushrooms – this should only take a few minutes
  8. Add mushrooms to the ragù gently mixing with the cheek and other ingredients
  9. Transfer to the serving dish and mix the ragù with the pappardelle. What I like to do is to quickly remove half the cheek pieces and shred them and then add back into the sauce. You then end up with some shredded cheek but still have some larger bits
  10. Add the baby spinach and top with the parmesan

 

Serves 8