Cabernet short ribs ragu with parmesan polenta: The ultimate deep winter meal. Nothing fancy. Just stick to your ribs delicious and made in the crock pot.

Cabernet Short Ribs Ragu with Parmesan Polenta

How about this frigid weather, people?! Are you hunkering down in your homes baking, building forts, doing puzzles, watching movies?

I don’t know about you, but as much as I love winter – and I really do! – I get a little stir crazy when it’s so cold for so long.

Perhaps it’s having a 6 month old in the house now and the house feels just a little bit more…claustrophobic. I don’t know.

We’re not overrun with toys yet thankfully, and we have a really nice space set up as a playroom for her so I know it’s not the “stuff.”

Cabernet Short Ribs Ragu with Parmesan Polenta

It’s more about not wanting to open the windows because it’s been so cold. The stale air. The stale DRY air.

Ugh! I can’t take it anymore and neither can my nostrils!

Anyway, we should probably take down the Christmas decorations but it’s not Valentine’s Day so this would be early for me. Just kidding! (sort of.) That would probably make the place feel a little more open but I don’t know.

I still just want to hide under a blanket with a book in front of the fireplace. But then there’s diapers and bottles and tummy time (which, now is more like chase the rolling baby all over the house time) so my reading time is about 2.5 minutes before I fall asleep in bed each night.

I MIGHT make it through 2 books this year at that rate.

Cabernet Short Ribs Ragu with Parmesan Polenta

I’m totally rambling here, aren’t I? Sorry! We should probably get to this Cabernet short ribs ragu with parmesan polenta.

‘Cause really, it’s the best – the BEST! – dinner I’ve made it quite a while. Although, the crock pot actually made this dinner, not me. Ha!

And it couldn’t have been easier to make because the crock pot does all of the hard work to slow cook the short ribs down to a fall-apart tender state in a thick tomato-based sauce.

It’s a sauce you’ll want to sop up with some crusty buttered bread – some whole grain ciabatta maybe? – and the recipe makes a ton of it so there’s enough to feed a big crowd or reheat for leftovers for a few daaaays.

Cabernet Short Ribs Ragu with Parmesan Polenta

I’ve made short ribs this way for years now and I totally love how the Cabernet adds some heft of flavor to sauce without overpowering it. It’s not a wine-flavored sauce at all so don’t worry if you’ll be serving it to non-wine or white wine-only fans.

And I’ve served these Cabernet short ribs all shredded up like I did here in the ragu and on the bone – both ways are fantastic! I’ve also served them over mashed potatoes, egg noodles, cheesy hasselback potatoes, and plain polenta.

I’m really partial to the polenta since I’m basically in love with all things cornmeal-based – give me ALL THE GRITS – and the addition of a heaping dose of parmesan cheese and some fresh thyme just make this polenta completely irresistible.

Cabernet Short Ribs Ragu with Parmesan Polenta

This Cabernet short ribs ragu and parmesan polenta combo couldn’t be more of a insanely perfect deep winter meal. The kind that sticks to your ribs.

The kind that you crave after shoveling more snow than you care to admit. It’s the kind of meal you want to come home to after it’s been simmering itself away all day in the crock pot, and that’s ready for you to eat about 20 minutes after you walk in the door.

It’s a lot like that crock pot loaded baked potato soup I made a couple years ago in these ways. But Cabernet short ribs automatically beat soup any day in my book!

Cabernet Short Ribs Ragu with Parmesan Polenta

And since you’ll have some Cab leftover from the bottle, you may as well just pour yourself a glass. Go ahead. You earned it.

  • Prep Time: 15min
  • Cook Time: 9hrs 10min to 11hrs 10min on LOW or 5hrs 10min to 7hrs 10min on HIGH
  • Yield: 6-8 servings


If you’re not up for whipping up the parmesan polenta from my recipe below, this short ribs ragu would be just as delicious served over mashed potatoes or cauliflower, or over butter egg noodles.


For the short ribs ragu:
6 to 7 lbs bone-in short ribs (about 9 to 12 ribs)
2 tbsp canola oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp minced fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups Cabernet or another dry red wine
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley or thyme, for finishing (optional)

For the parmesan polenta:
6 cups water
¾ tsp Kosher salt
1 ¾ cup coarse cornmeal (I like Bob’s Red Mill)
4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
3 tbsp minced fresh thyme


  • 01

    To make the short ribs ragu: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and brown half of the short ribs on all sides then transfer them to the crock pot; repeat with remaining oil and short ribs.

  • 02

    Saute the onions, carrots, celery, tomato paste, and thyme in the leftover short rib fat, about 8-10 minutes, until the onions have softened and are lightly browned. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring for about 1 minute. Whisk in the wine and vinegar until the mixture is smooth, scraping up the bits on the bottom of the pan, and cook for about 5 minutes, until the liquid has thickened and reduced down to about 1 cup. Transfer the mixture to the crock pot and stir in the chicken stock and bay leaves. Nestle the short ribs in the sauce.

    Cook on LOW for 9 to 11 hours or on HIGH for 5 to 7 hours.

  • 03

    Once the short ribs are fall-apart tender, remove them from the crock pot, remove the meat and fat from from the bones (discard the fat), and coarsely shred the meat. You don’t want to shred too much, but rather, you’ll want bite-size chunks of short ribs here.

    Skim the liquid fat off the top of the sauce and discard. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Return the shredded short ribs to the sauce and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep the crock pot on the warm setting (if yours has this) while you make the polenta.

  • 04

    To make the parmesan polenta: Bring the water to a boil and slowly whisk in the cornmeal as you pour it into the water in a steady stream. Stir in the salt.

    Continue to whisk frequently until the cornmeal thickens and is soft to the tooth, reducing the heat along the way if the mixture bubbles up too much. This should take about 15 to 17 minutes.

  • 05

    Whisk the butter into the cornmeal – let’s start calling it polenta now – until melted and then whisk in the parmesan cheese and thyme. If the polenta is too thick, stir in a little water, milk, or cream to loosen it up.

  • 06

    To serve: Ladle some of the polenta into the bottom of each bowl and the ladle some of the ragu over the top. Sprinkle with parsley or thyme to finish. Serve while still hot.

    Leftover ragu can be refrigerated for 2-3 days or frozen for up to 2 months for additional meals. I suggest freezing the ragu in quart-size zip-top bag laid flat in your freezer. This takes up much less space than freezing in containers. Thaw in the fridge overnight.

    Leftover polenta can be refrigerated for 2-3 days and reheated in the microwave without sacrificing too much of the original texture. Add a little water, milk, or cream to loosen it up as needed when you reheat it.

short ribs adapted from Slow Cooker Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen | polenta adapted from this spinach polenta recipe

This post may contain affiliate links. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.