This decadent, Italian style dish is perfect for chilly weather celebrations. With Valentine's Day next weekend, this recipe for Red Wine Braised Short Ribs with cheesy Parmesan Polenta is the perfect way to show your love. Make it a day ahead for an easy date night at home!
If the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, these red wine braised short ribs are enough to earn you permanent residence there. Deeply flavorful, fork tender and made with simple ingredients, this is one recipe to put in your winter repertoire for good.
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Why I Love This Recipe
When I was growing up in Sacramento, CA, Biba's Ristorante Italiano - Biba Caggiano's flagship restaurant - was about as fancy as it got. I only got to go on special occasion, and I remember the couple of times my Dad took me for our Father-Daughter Dates. The food, while incredibly simple, was always extraordinarily delicious.
While Biba's has since permanently closed, her memory - and the many memories made at her restaurant over the years - will live on in my heart forever. This recipe for beef short ribs is adapted from a recipe out of one of Biba's cookbooks, Trattoria Cooking.
Braising is also an ideal cooking method for any level of cooking skill. Since you're cooking low and slow, this recipe is incredibly forgiving. Once you have the browning done, you can basically set it on the stove and forget about it. It is, for all intents and purposes, impossible to overcook.
As an added bonus, this is one of those dishes that actually tastes better over time. I love to make it the day before I plan to serve it, meaning the celebration day is just as much mine to enjoy as everyone else's. The only thing to do is heat up the stew and make a pot of cheesy polenta, which takes just 20 minutes of active time.
What Exactly Are Short Ribs?
Beef short ribs are a similar cut to pork spare ribs, although they are much meatier than their pork counterparts. By American definition, they are from the rib area that can come from the brisket, chuck or plate of the animal. If you use boneless short ribs, as I did in this recipe, they come from either the chuck or plate.
For reference, other cuts that come from the rib region are the aptly named ribeye and prime rib steaks. If you are a fan of the flavor of these cuts, chances are you'll also like short ribs a great deal. Short ribs have a delicious, steak-like flavor, but are often much cheaper to buy per pound.
Due to the large amount of connective tissue in the short rib cut, braising is an ideal cooking method. Cooking low and slow helps to break down the connective tissue, and renders the fat caps down into the vegetables for an exceptionally rich gravy of sorts. By the end of cooking, you'll be able to easily eat the entire pot armed with nothing more than a fork (and some bread for sopping).
Ingredients for Braised Short Ribs
True to the simplicity I love about traditional Italian cooking, this recipe relies on no fancy-schmancy gimmicks, no chef-y tricks and no crazy ingredients. Everything about these braised short ribs is easy, straightforward, and aside from the short ribs, quite inexpensive to buy.
Here's everything you need for red wine braised short ribs:
Note that the mirepoix (carrots, onions and celery) are all diced very fine. This is by design and results in a luscious sauce. If you have the time, I recommend dicing your own veggies for this recipe rather than buying prepackaged mirepoix which is usually much larger.
If you have a gluten sensitivity or allergy, feel free to use gluten free all purpose flour mix instead!
How to Make Red Wine Braised Short Ribs
Toss short ribs in flour that has been generously seasoned with kosher salt and pepper.
Heat olive oil in heavy bottomed dutch oven over medium high heat. Working in batches, brown floured short ribs on all sides. If needed, add more olive oil to the pan between batches. Remove browned short ribs to the side.
Don't fret about all that browned and blackened stuff on the bottom of the pan. That's the fond, and it's going to make your final dish taste delicious!
Add carrots, onions and celery to dutch oven with a hefty pinch of kosher salt. Sauté 4-5 minutes, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan.
Mirepoix should be golden. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about another minute.
Add red wine and tomatoes, stirring to incorporate.
Return browned meat back to pan, nestling it into the braising liquid.
Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for 3-3 ½ hours, until meat is fork tender. Stir occasionally.
If making ahead, allow stew to cool before refrigerating entire dutch oven. To reheat, remove from refrigerator, scrape off any excess fat that has solidified on the top (optional) and reheat over medium low heat.
TIP: If you're short on refrigerator space and it's cold where you live, feel free to let the outdoors act as an extension of your refrigerator. Refrigerators should be 40F or lower, so check your forecast beforehand. Also, to prevent critters from gobbling up all of your homemade goodness, be sure your pot lid is heavy (preferably cast iron), tied shut, or is secured inside a cooler.
How to Make Parmesan Polenta
Making polenta is a whole lot like making grits. Here's everything you'll need:
Bring milk and stock to a gentle boil. Whisk in polenta. Stir until there are no lumps. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook, stirring often, until thick. If lumps form during cooking, whisk vigorously until smooth.
When polenta looks thick enough for your liking (about 15 minutes for me), remove from heat and whisk in butter. Fold in cheese and season with salt and pepper to your liking. If you want more information on how to cook the best possible polenta, this is an incredibly helpful article.
To plate, scoop a hefty serving of polenta into a bowl. Top with hot short ribs. Garnish with fresh herbs. Enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
Honestly, either will work for this recipe. Some people prefer bone-in meat due to the flavor the bones give. Bone-in cuts are often a bit cheaper, too. I opted for boneless short ribs this time since the price difference was minimal and required one less step from me. If you don't mind discarding the bones prior to serving, I'd say go with whatever is less expensive.
YES! In fact, I highly recommend that you do. As with many stews, the braised short ribs will continue to develop flavor over time. I also love that after refrigeration, the excess fat that has rendered will float to the top and solidify. To remove it, simply scrape a spoon across it before reheating.
This is an ideal celebration or dinner party dish mainly because it does so well being made ahead. On the day of, all you need to do is reheat the short ribs and whip up a quick batch of polenta.
Yep! While I prefer a creamy polenta for this dish, if you prefer firm polenta that you can cut, you should be making it ahead of time. If you want to make the polenta ahead of time you can either:
Pour it into a greased 8x8 pan to cool. When you are ready to reheat, turn the polenta out, cut into desired sizes and pan fry in a bit of butter or oil.
If you want to reconstitute the polenta into a creamy, grits-like dish, simply heat it up on the stovetop, adding milk, water or stock as necessary to thin it out as it reheats.
While the two are both made from corn, typically speaking grits are finer than polenta, which can have more of a chewy consistency. Traditionally, polenta is made from yellow corn while grits are made from white corn or hominy. If you have one and not the other in your pantry, feel free to use them interchangeably.
While I love the heartiness of polenta, this dish would be equally delicious over mashed potatoes instead. Don't be shy with the cream and butter, either.
While fonio is new to me, it reminds me a lot of polenta, so that's another option.
While I'm 100% on board with the idea that you shouldn't cook with bad wine, I'm also on a serious budget over here. While I might splurge on a $10-15 bottle for a special occasion, I'm most likely to be sipping on a glass of something in the Bota-Box-to-$8/bottle range.
For this particular application, I used boxed red wine that was palatable enough. Guess what? It turned out GREAT! If you happen to have a hefty disposable income, feel free to use your spendy bottles. If you do, let me know how it turns out!
I opted for a box of Pinot Noir for this recipe, but Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz/Syrah, Côtes du Rhone, Chianti or Zinfandel would all probably do quite nicely. I would recommend buying a box of something that you'll also enjoy sipping on, since you won't need all 4 bottles for the recipe.
If you'd like a more scientific approach to determining which wine would be the best, check out this awesome article from Cook's Illustrated.
Need more date night inspiration? Check out these other tasty recipes:
- Easy Salmon with Caramelized Carrots and Minty Pea Purée
- Instant Pot Beef Stew with Bacon
- Moussaka Style Lamb and Eggplant Shepherd's Pie
Don't forget dessert!!
- Black Bottom Banana Pudding with Coffee Rum Fudge
- Spicy Aztec Hot Chocolate
- Healthy Apple Crisp for Two
- Julia Child's Favorite Brownies
- Ultimate Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
If you made this recipe for Red Wine Braised Short Ribs with Parmesan Polenta, let me know how you liked it! I love hearing from you in the comments below.
Red Wine Braised Short Ribs with Parmesan Polenta
Red Wine Braised Short Ribs
- 3 ¼ lb Boneless Short Ribs cut into 3" chunks. Can substitute bone in if preferred
- ½ C AP Flour or sub gluten free all purpose mix
- Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste
- 2-3 glugs Olive Oil
- 2 Yellow Onions diced fine
- 2 stalks Celery diced fine
- 2 Carrots diced fine
- 6-8 cloves Garlic minced
- 3 C Dry Red Wine
- 2 C Canned Whole Tomatoes preferably Italian (e.g. San Marzano), chopped roughly
Braise Short Ribs
- Toss short ribs in flour that has been generously seasoned with kosher salt and pepper.
- Heat olive oil in heavy bottomed dutch oven over medium high heat. Working in batches, brown floured short ribs on all sides. If needed, add more olive oil to the pan between batches. Remove browned short ribs to the side.
- Add carrots, onions and celery to dutch oven with a hefty pinch of kosher salt. Sauté 4-5 minutes, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Mirepoix should be golden.
- Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about another minute.
- Add red wine and tomatoes, stirring to incorporate. Add browned meat back to pan, nestling it into the braising liquid.
- Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for 3-3 ½ hours, until meat is fork tender. Stir occasionally.
- If making ahead, allow stew to cool before refrigerating entire dutch oven. To reheat, remove from refrigerator, scrape off any excess fat that has solidified on the top (optional) and reheat over medium low heat.
- Bring milk and stock to a gentle boil.
- Whisk in polenta and a hefty pinch of salt. Stir until there are no lumps. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook, stirring often, until thick. If lumps form, whisk vigorously until smooth.
- When polenta looks thick enough for your liking, remove from heat and whisk in butter. Fold in cheese and season with salt and pepper to your liking.
- To plate, scoop a hefty serving of polenta into a bowl. Top with hot short ribs. Garnish with fresh herbs. Enjoy!
- Pour it into a greased 8x8 pan to cool. When you are ready to reheat, turn the polenta out, cut into desired sizes and pan fry in a bit of butter or oil.
- If you want to reconstitute the polenta into a creamy, grits-like dish, simply heat it up on the stovetop, adding milk, water or stock as necessary to thin it out as it reheats.