A Winning Slow-Cooker Brisket Ragu

brisket raguI mentioned in my last post that I’ve been doing a lot of whining lately. On the road towards positivity, I thought I’d spin that into a win-win, wine-themed post: a fall-apart tender, red wine-enhanced brisket ragu with cellentani (corkscrew) pasta, and a chance to win tickets to the NYC Wine and Food Festival! I’m feeling more upbeat already.

Click here for details on the Barilla® “Wine & Food Festival” Sweepstakes. The grand prize includes one night hotel accommodations for two in NYC and two tickets to attend the Grand Tasting event presented by ShopRite® on 10/18/14. Hurry – entry deadline is 9/27/14.

Now back to the brisket ragu – which can be made in a slow cooker or in a Dutch oven. It’s just as good, if not better, the next day or the next. A sprinkle of Italian parsley gives the dish a fresh taste and makes it more food-festival fancy, but if your kids fear the green stuff just top it with a bit more grated parmesan.

Good luck, and buon appetito!

Slow-cooker Brisket Ragu with Red Wine and Corkscrew Pasta

Makes 8 servings; good for leftovers

  • Approx. 2.5 lbs brisket (1/2 of a whole brisket)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • freshly groud black pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf (fresh, ideally)
  • 1 stick of cinnamon (or 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup red wine
  • ½ cup grated parmesan or romano cheese, plus more for garnish
  • ½ cup chopped Italian parsley for garnish (optional)
  • 16 oz. cellentani, rotini or rigatoni pasta, cooked according to package directions for al dente 

Trim most of fat cap from brisket and cut into 2” (approx. ) cubes.

trimming brisket

Trimming all this extra fat makes for a much leaner dish.

Season with 2 teaspoons kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.


In a large Dutch oven or stovetop-safe slow-cooker pot over medium-high heat, heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and add brisket cubes in two batches (to ensure proper browning). Brown 2 sides of the meat before setting aside and repeating with the second batch.

browning brisket cubes

No need to brown all 6 sides — 2 is enough.

After 2 sides of second batch have been browned, add onion and cook for 2 mintues until onions have softened.

Smelling really good at this point!

Smelling really good at this point!

Add 2 cloves minced garlic. Transfer mixture and remaining meat cubes to slow-cooker pot (if not in already). Then add bay leaf (if fresh, give it a twist to release the oils), one whole cinnamon stick (or a small 1/8 teaspoon pinch of ground), and ½ teaspoon oregano.

Cinnamon is the secret spice!

Cinnamon is the secret spice!

Add 1 cup marinara sauce, 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, and 1 tablespoon sugar. (You could also use 2 cups of tomato puree instead of the marinara and diced tomatoes.) Stir in 1 cup red wine.

Mix and match 2 cups (+/-) of tomatoes: marinara sauce, tomato puree, canned plum tomatoes

Use what you have on hand: mix and match 2 cups of marinara sauce, tomato puree, canned plum tomatoes, skinned & seeded chopped fresh tomatoes, etc.

Use a red wine you like to drink -- then serve the rest with the meal!

Use a red wine you like to drink — then serve the rest with the meal!

Slow-cooker: Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.

Love this slow-cooker because the insert is stove-safe.

Love this slow-cooker because the insert is stovetop-safe.


Dutch oven: Cover and cook in a 325F oven for 2-3 hours, or until meat can be flaked with a fork or wooden spoon.

Super-tender meat after braising. Keep the meat in cubes by stirring gently, or break up with a wooden spoon for a more even distribution throughout the sauce.

Super-tender meat after braising. Keep the meat in cubes by stirring gently, or break up with a wooden spoon for a more even distribution throughout the sauce.

Add parmesan (or romano for stronger flavor) cheese and cooked pasta. Then taste for seasoning. (Cheese acts like salt, but you may need a pinch more salt or sugar depending on the type of tomatoes you used.) Serve with additional parmesan and chopped parsley, if using.


brisket ragu with pasta

Lighting issues in my new kitchen. . .

brisket ragu

IMPORTANT NOTICE: As a ShopRite POTLUCK blogger, I received Barilla products for free. This was my first time using cellentani (corksrew) pasta, and I really liked how well it held up in this dish. (And reheated the next day and the next day.)

Barilla Cellentani (corkscrew) pasta



16 thoughts on “A Winning Slow-Cooker Brisket Ragu

  1. Hi Sue! Looks amazing!!! Ingredients going onto my shopping list now- perfect dish for crazy, busy school nights. Hope you are well!! 🙂

  2. Looks delicious my friend – sports have kicked in and this is great for busy weeknights! Mwahh. Come visit in Charleston when you want some sun or need a break!

  3. Sue, A million thank you’s for your site! I have been baking and cooking since last week and so far, everything has turned out great! I just made this Ragu and I was pleasantly surprised with how it came out.

    • Hi Kim,
      A million thanks for subscribing! And for commenting — love to hear how things work for people. Always room for improvement! Hope all the cooking and baking means your new kitchen is working out.

  4. Sue, Just finished my second helping of this pasta dish. This was a big hit with the whole family! It was so simple to follow but rich in flavor. Another winner!

  5. sue, im going to make this for dinner party tomorrow. what’s a good app and salad to go with this? we’ll be at wilmington, delaware this sunday for a regatta. any chance we can meet up.

    • Hi Sang – I would do a basic green salad with balsamic vinaigrette (see mine under “cabbage, kale & quinoa salad”), or something like my harvest salad (with or without apples & blue cheese). For an easy app I would do the bacon-wrapped dates or fillo cups baked with small cubes of brie, topped with apricot jam and slivered almonds. Or easier – mini mozzarella, cherry tomato & basil skewers w/a little olive oil, salt & pepper. Will email you about Sunday!

      • Everyone loved it. No leftovers! All asking about your blog during dinner. Did the harvest salad. Didn’t have time to do the the appetizer because of tennis drama. Also over cooked the pasta a bit because of the same tennis drama. Otherwise a huge success! Thanks Sue!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s