Braised Beef Cheek Ragu with Strapponi

I’m on a bit of a comfort food kick at the moment, and for this one, I’m going back to the braised meat, but this time going for a beef cheek ragu, served with the laziest ‘shape’ of pasta on the planet, strapponi. The base of this recipe was given to me by a friend when I was at university in London, and although it’s been tweaked slightly, it basically the same thing. Thanks, Mike!

Beef Cheek Ragu with Strapponi

As I mentioned last week in the beef short rib recipe, what I really love about braising tougher cuts of meat like beef cheek is that they offer unparalleled flavour. One of the other benefits of these cuts, especially cheeks and tail, is the texture which is hard to find in any of the more ‘popular’ cuts of meat. These hard-working muscles tend to include a large amount of collagen, which is what makes them tough when cooked quickly. Only consistent heat and moisture can break down the collagen into gelatin, providing a thick and satisfying texture to any sauce made from the braising liquid.

The great thing about this particular meat is that when you’ve finished the braise for your beef cheek ragu, you end up with the meat falling apart into long strands. These ribbons give you a perfect pulled beef texture when mixed back into the reduced sauce, which now contains all that gelatin. I know I said the short ribs were epically comforting, but this is a whole new level.

I say strapponi is the laziest shape of pasta, but strapponi isn’t really a shape at all. Simply roll the pasta out into a long sheet and then tear it up with your hand into random chunks, simple! Not only is it super easy, but the large flat chunks of strapponi make it the perfect delivery method for all of those tasty chunks and ribbons of pulled beef cheek ragu that we’ve made. Great alternative shapes of pasta to use if you don’t want to make your own would be pappardelle or even broken up lasagne sheets. Avoid thin shapes such as linguine, fettuccine and spaghetti, as they won’t be able to hold on to the thick sauce.

Braised Beef Cheek Ragu with Strapponi

Braised Beef Cheek Ragu with Strapponi
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
4 hrs 40 mins
Total Time
5 hrs

Take this tough but tasty cut of meat and braise it down to unlock some serious flavour and tender flesh. Goes perfectly with silky pasta. 

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 680 kcal
  • 280 g 00 flour
  • 1 eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
Braised Beef Cheek Ragu
  • 50 g dried porchini mushroooms
  • 300 mL boiling water
  • 500 g beef cheek
  • 200 g panetta finely diced
  • 2 carrots finely diced
  • 2 celery sticks finely diced
  • 1 large onion finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic crushed
  • 2 sprigs rosemary leaves chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 tbsp tomato puree
  • 175 mL red ine
  • 400 g chopped tomaotes
  • 300 mL beef stock
  1. Tip the flour onto a large, clean work surface and make a big well in the centre. Add the eggs to the well. 

  2. Whisk the eggs and then slowly start to incorporate the flour from around the edges into the egg, until you’ve made a wet and sticky dough. 

  3. Use a bench scraper to clean off your hands and the work surface, and begin to knead the dough, incorporating any excess flour into the dough. Keep the surface and your hands floured while kneading. 

  4. Keep kneading until the dough has formed a firm and smooth ball, around 5 minutes. If the dough is too wet, slowly add more flour. If it is too dry, add a small amount of water by moistening your hands, and then knead through.

  5. Tightly wrap the dough in cling film and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature, or put in the fridge for use tomorrow. If refrigerating overnight, remember to let the dough come up to room temperature before using.

  6. To roll the pasta, follow your pasta maker’s instructions, but generally;

  7. Divide the dough into quarters, and flatten enough to be taken by the pasta machine on the widest setting.

  8. Roll the dough through the machine, before lightly flouring and folding in half, and repeating the process four or five more times.

  9. Reduce the setting on the pasta machine by 1 notch, and pass the dough through. Repeat this until you reach the desired thickness, about 2 mm.

  10. Keep the pasta well floured and tear into random pieces, aim for around 4 to 5 cm squared, but don’t worry too much.

  11. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a rolling boil. Cook the pasta for around one to two minutes, until al dente. Stir with the ragu and serve. 

Braised Beef Cheek Ragu
  1. Soak the mushrooms for 30 minutes in the boiling water, finely chop and set aside. Retain the water for later.

  2. In a large braising pot heat enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Brown the beef cheek on a high heat very well on all sides and set aside.

  3. Turn the heat down to medium and cook the pancetta until it gets golden and crispy.

  4. Add the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, rosemary and bay leaf. Stir well to combine and cook on medium-low for around 5 minutes until softened.

  5. Add the tomato puree and cook off for two more minutes.

  6. Add the remaining ingredients including the chopped mushrooms from earlier and around three-quarters of the mushroom water, being careful not to pour in any grit which may be at the bottom. Bring to a simmer for three minutes to boil off the alcohol.

  7. Cover with a cartouche and lid before transferring to an oven at 140oC for four hours.

  8. Remove the meat from the braising liquid and shred with a fork. Put the vegetables and liquid over a high heat and reduce by around a quarter. 

  9. Add the meat to the sauce and mix well. Season to taste and serve with the pasta. 

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