Slow-cooked beef ragu with potato gnocchi
This hearty, braised beef and red wine ragu with gnocchi is the ultimate winter warmer.
When it comes to winter wonders, Italian cuisine offers up some classic comfort food hits. And this deliciously hearty, braised beef ragu from RACV Cape Shanck's executive chef Steve Forrester is no exception. Pairing succulent slow-cooked beef and red wine ragu with pillowy soft potato gnocchi makes for a midweek match made in foodie heaven. And the best part? You can whip it up on your lunch break. Here are Steve's top tips for whipping up with this Mediterranean-inspired marvel, plus his secrets to making silky, melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi.
Meat and potatoes, but make it extra.
What is the best cut of meat for ragu?
Inexpensive cuts of meat, such as chuck, blade, oyster, flank or skirt steak, are ideal. Slow-cooking helps to break down the muscle, making the meat more flavoursome and tender.
How long should I cook it for?
When it comes to slow-braised beef ragus, you can't really overcook the sauce. Steve recommends cooking your ragu for at least two hours. If you plan on cooking for longer, he says to make sure there is enough liquid in the pot to keep the sauce properly hydrated so it doesn't burn.
Do I have to brown the meat first?
Browning the meat first helps to lock in the juices and will give your ragu extra depth of flavour. However, if you're pressed for time, you can just throw everything into a slow cooker at once and let it work it's magic.
Can I cook this in a slow cooker instead?
Yes. Cook on a low setting for up to eight hours.
Why do I need to roast the potatoes for the gnocchi?
Moisture is the enemy of fluffy gnocchi so roasting the potatoes first helps to dry them out.
Why are my gnocchi tough and rubbery?
Tough gnocchi is a sign you've probably over kneaded the dough, which develops too much gluten and results in tough, chewy dumplings rather than pillowy parcels. Work the dough until it comes together just enough for you to roll it out.
Do I need to press the gnocchi with a fork?
If you've always thought those cute little ridges on gnocchi are purely just decorative, prepare to have your mind blown. The reason gnocchi are rolled with a fork (or on a special gnocchi board) is that the little indents allow the sauce to soak in and bind to the delicious little dumplings. But don't worry if you don't have time to make groovy gnocchi. Plain, fluffy pillows are just as delicious.
How do you know when gnocchi is fully cooked?
Make sure you cook gnocchi in a large pot of boiling water with plenty of salt and be mindful not to add too many to the pot at once. Gnocchi are generally ready when they float to the surface. To avoid overcooking the gnocchi, scoop them out of the pot using a perforated ladle as they are ready, gently place them into a bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil or sauce, or dunk them straight into the ragu. Do not wait for them all to cook and then drain them using a colander. Overcooked gnocchi will become mushy or fuzzy on the outside.
Braised beef ragu
- In a large hot pan, add a splash of olive oil. Add garlic and saute over medium heat, stirring continuously. When the garlic just starts to gain colour, add onion and a pinch of salt and fry together until the onions become translucent (about five minutes). Add the carrot and celery and cook until soft and caramelised. Set aside.
- Crank the heat up to high and add another splash of olive oil into the pan then sear the beef.
- When nice and caramelised on both sides, pour the cooked garlic and onion mix over the top of the beef, and add the passata, peppercorns, bay leaves, basil, wine and water. Season to taste.
- Place the lid on the pan, turn down low and cook, stirring every half an hour or so, for at least two hours, or until meat is tender and falls apart easily with a fork.
- Once ready, remove the peppercorns and bay leaves,
- Using a fork, shred the beef until nice and stringy and separated, then add back into the sauce.
- If the sauce is too thick add another half a cup of water and continue to reduce.
- Pre-heat fan-forced oven to 180C.
- Roast potatoes with the skin on until soft throughout, roughly 25 minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly before peeling.
- Using a potato ricer, force the potatoes through.
- With a fork, feather in the flour, egg yolks and salt. Continue mixing with a fork until dough just comes together, being careful not to overwork.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll into logs and cut into small pillows.
- Blanch in boiling seasoned water until the gnocchi float, remove and chill immediately on a flat tray in the fridge.
- Drizzle with a little olive oil to avoid the pillows sticking together.
- Add the gnocchi to the ragu and mix until coated. Cook for five minutes or until gnocchi are heated through.
- Serve in a bowl, garnishing with parmesan, basil and rocket leaves if desired.