Beef cheek? What the heck is a beef cheek?
It is exactly what it sounds like. The cheek of a cow. When I think of cows, I tend to picture them chewing their cud in a grassy field. And the muscles the cow needs to chew are in the jaws and cheek. Those muscles work hard everyday, meaning they are tough and lean. That is a very good thing, because the tougher cuts of meat are also the most flavorful. But, if they are not cooked correctly, they become a not very good thing. Tough cuts of meat need to be cooked low and slow. That means low temperature for a very long time.
Beef cheeks are not something you find in your everyday supermarket, unless you live near a good Hispanic or Asian market. Go to a butcher store, or ask the meat department in your supermarket if they can order them for you. If beef cheeks are nowhere to be found, this recipe would work well with beef shanks or short ribs. You will have to adjust the cooking time.
- ½ medium onion, diced
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
- 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
- 2 pound beef cheek, excess fat trimmed
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 can (28 oz) whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 can water
- 8 ounces orecchitte
- Place the onions, thyme, rosemary, oregano and .garlic into a large slow cooker.
- Season the beef cheek with salt and red pepper, place on top of the vegetables.
- Pour the can of tomatoes onto the beef.
- Using clean hands, crush the tomatoes to release their juices.
- Fill the tomato can with water and pour into the slow cooker.
- Set the slow cooker to high.
- Cook for 6 - 6½ hours, until the meat is very tender.
- Remove the cheek from the slow cooker and shred the meat.
- Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce, removing any herb stems in the sauce.
- Return the meat to the sauce.
- Adjust the seasoning if needed.
- Cook the pasta according to the package instructions.
- Serve the ragu over the cooked pasta.