Ragù is a unique registered recipe (in Italy, at least). Nonetheless, if you take a trip around Italy, you will encounter plenty of different combinations of ingredients and tastes which make the most famous Italian dish different from one region to another one.
Several types of meat, various sautéed vegetables, more or less aromatic herbs or spices, tomato puree or paste: a wide range of recipes:, all of them … simply delicious.
Although, Italian people have been arguing for ages about which is the best ragù, everyone has got their own untouchable, traditional, secret recipe- never ask for it: you could make people suspicious and they might give you may the wrong answer on purpose! Here, we are very jealous of our traditions, we may say a few things, but we never reveal our secret tricks. Secret must be “stolen” by a careful observation, by asking very politely, and most of all, by focusing on the tastes and guessing the ingredients.
The point is that, there isn’t only one ragù, but there are numberless versions: and they are all flavorful, toothsome, and unforgettable.
Simple ingredients: ground meat, tomato sauce, aromatics, and sautéed vegetables, milk, and wine. Simmer for long hours until the meat has released all its taste into the sauce. It is a kind of magic: basic ingredients are turned into a perfect delicacy.
If you are not really good at cooking you may find ragù a bit diffcult dish to prepare, but a good home-made ragù means Sunday and family: it is the king of the sauces.
It will be perfect if you chose first-class, high-quality and fresh ingredients. Then, you should be patient too, it takes quiet along time.
How can you make a delicious home made sauce?
Preparing ragù, a good ragù is easy, if you know a few tricks. First, you have to be very careful with the cooking method and time-be patient and “pamper” your salsa as you may pamper a baby! It has to simmer slowly for a long time, it gets a wonderful color and turn into a delicious mixture which develops a tempting meaty flavor.
Ragù Bolognese dictates the proportions among the ingredients which are acknowledged by every version of ragù across Italy.
That’s: 280g of meat, 100g of sautéed vegetables. Read in link here.
A few hints for a toothsome unforgettable sauce:
- Opt for a large saucepan to arrange the meat evenly;
- Sauté the vegetables over medium low heat until softened and golden: you don’t want to burn them;
- Stir-fry the meat until the liquid inside the meat has evaporated, then add the wine;
- Every recipe wants wine;
- Completely cover meat with the tomato puree or paste (which is diluted with broth);
- Gently simmer the sauce over very low heat for long time.
What can you eat ragù sauce with?
Ragù was born to be paired with pasta. It doesn’t only season pasta, it enhances and makes its taste unique.
That’s not enough! Ragù is also one of the main ingredients of the arancini. Do you know what they are? Well, mouthwatering rice croquettes are coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried or grilled in the oven. When you bite them, you find a delicious surprise; ragù with peas.
More and more ragù: it perfectly combines with potato gnocchi, or with a scorching rustic cornmeal mush.
And finally, don’t forget lasagna: ragù and béchamel sauce-the ultime couple!
What pasta do Italians combine with Bolognese?
Even if it is really appreciated all around the world, in Bologna (and in Italy) we do not eat “spaghetti with ragù”. Spaghetti al ragù first appeared in the menù of the Hotel Commodore in New York in 1923. Since then, Spaghetti al Ragù has become one of the most famous Italian dishes abroad; it has been canned and sold all around the world.
Ragù is wonderfully paired with fresh or dry egg tagliatelle, or with stuffed pasta such as cappelletti. Along with bechamel, it also seasons egg pasta sheets to make lasagne.
Well ragù is so scrumptious that can be paired with any pasta shapes; but do not tell the Bolognesi!
What can you add to Bolognese to make it tastier?
The registered recipe does not allow any variations, but in the secret of my kitchen I usually make a few changes! With addition of some basil leaves and rosemary when cooking, my ragù tastes stronger and fresher. Then, you may also like a little hot chili pepper, no more than that!
Please, leave cheese, cream, mushrooms, or garlic out: they taste good, but they don’t really have anything to do with ragù!
Here you are, a few variations from the Bolognese
Let me take you by the arm and set off for a trip around the best ragù I have ever tasted in Italy
Ragù from Romagna, infinite taste!
“Ragù alla Romagnola” certifies undeniably the mastery of every azdora (housewife). It perfectly seasons lasagna, tagliatelle, strozzapreti, every pasta shape- home made pasta would turn the dish into an absolutely unforgettable experience! It also tops cornmeals mush: a very mouthwatering matching.
Very tasty, you may cook plenty of this sauce and then freeze it in single serving containers,…of course fresh ragù is a cut above the rest!
Ragù from Romagna combines ground beef meat with sausages or lard, which makes its taste even richer. The original registered recipe wants chicken livers as well, they are not appreciated by everybody (I don’t like them!)
- 600 g of beef
- 300g of sausages of a stripe of freshly ground lard
- 600g good quality tomato puree
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 medium white onion
- 150g of tomato pasta
- A clove
- A glass of red wine
- A pinch of salt
- A pinch of sugar
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 3-4 tbsp pd extra virgin olive oil
- To taste : a small bunch of freshly chopped parsley
- Use a mezzaluna knife to finely and evenly chop carrot, onion, and garlic cloves.
- In a saucepan with two tablespoons of oil, sauté the vegetables until softened (about 15 minutes);
- Add the ground meat, the sausages or the lard, stir fry over high medium heat until golden brown for about 15 minutes;
- Add the clove and season with salt and pepper (add now the extra parsley to taste), stir well; pour the red wine and sauté over medium high heat until it has completely evaporated;
- Add the tomato puree, the tomato paste, a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar;
- Reduce the heat to low and stir occasionally for 1 hour;
- Partially cover the saucepan and cook for other 2 hours; stir and check the ragù every then and now. In case it gets too thick, add a little hot water;
- Pour the ragù into twist off cap glass jars, and put them upside down to make them vacuum-sealed;
- Store in the fridge.
White ragù from Liguria: pork meat for a stronger taste, it best suits those you are not fond of tomatoes.
El toc- it is the name of the most famous ragù from Liguria whose secrets I am going to reveal you (at least those I have found out myself). It is faster to prepare than the other ones, but not less less appetizing at all. Only pork meat is sauté with shallot, carrots and bacon. No tomato sauce. A mix of spices will enhance its natural taste: clove, nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper. Well a spiced and drunk ragù!
It matches to both good dry pasta, or fresh egg tagliatelle.
- 400g of ground pork meat,
- 120g of bacon,
- 3 tbsp of pine nuts,
- 1 glass or 1 glass and a half of dry white wine,
- 1 medium carrot,
- 1 medium shallot (about 30 gr),
- 1 twig of rosemary,
- Freshly ground spices (black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove),
- Salt to taste,
- Meat or vegetable broth,
- 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil;
- Extra ingredient to taste: saffron powder, 1 envelope.
- In a hot non-stick pan stir fry the bacon until the fat has melted;
- In another pan with a little olive oil, sauté the pine nuts, the chopped carrot and shallot until softened; then add the (quite high fat) pork meat;
- Stir fry the meat until browned over medium heat;
- Add the bacon, spices, salty and a little hot broth;
- Add white wine and sauté over high medium heat until it has evaporated;
- You may add the saffron here: dilute it in little warm water or broth and pour into the sauce;
- Reduce the heat to low and cover with a lid. Simmer for about two hours; check it every half an hour. If it gets too thick add some hot broth. After two hours, if it seems too liquid, let it cook with the lid off until thickened.
Sicilian ragù with piselli for perfect Arancini
Simple ingredients, easy to make, Sicilian ragù has a quite unique taste in its sweetness due to white onions and carrots. Peas make it ever more pleasantly scented and flavorful. Keep in mind: easy doesn’t meat “less toothsome” at all.
- 300g of finely ground beef
- 200g of ground pork meat
- 1 big white onion
- 1 medium carrot
- 800 ml of high quality tomato puree
- 200g of canned peas (or fresh or frozen ones)
- 1 glass of dry white wine
- 3-4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Extra: 2 leaves of fresh laurel
- First: boil the peas for 5 minutes if you have bought fresh or frozen ones;
- Peel the onion and grate it on a coarse shredder with the carrot;
- Sauté the vegetables in large saucepan until softened;
- Add beef and pork meat; sauté until cooked through and no longer red;
- Simmer with white wine until reduced;
- Add the tomato puree and cover;
- Bring it to a boil and season with salt and pepper;
- Add the laurel to your taste;
- Cook over low heat for 2 hour and a half stirring occasionally;
- Add the peas and cook for other 30 minutes until thickened. The Sicilian ragù is ready to season arancini, lasagna, or any shapes of pasta to your taste.
Ragù from Naples: “Go sightseeing in Naples, eat its ragù, and then die”-that’s what an ancient motto says”!
You may save your life only if you have cooked it for long, very long time! Neapolitan ragù is not much richer than other recipes. Differently from the traditional elaborated food, it is simple in its unique taste. Only an unavoidable prerequisite: high quality meat, the main character of the recipe- rigorously hand-chopped beef, pork and pork ribs with sautéed onion.
The sore point is the cooking time, not less than 6 hours. Neapolitan tradition does not allow a shorter cooking time! Don’t ask a genuine Neapolitan for a shortcut!
- 600g of brisket
- 300g of pork ribs
- 300g of high fat pork meat, sausage is perfect
- 10 dl of tomato puree
- 1 tbsp of tomato paste
- Red or white wine
- 1 yellow onion
- Salt and pepper
- Extra ingredient: 3.4 basil leaves
- Peel and coarsely chop the onion;
- With a sharp knife, remove the fat parts from the brisket and cut all the three types of meat into bite size pieces;
- In a large saucepan sauté the onion with a little oil over low heat until completely softened and the liquid has evaporated;
- Add the pieces of meat,
- Sauté the meat for 6-7 minutes until golden brown on all the sides and no more red;
- Simmer with the wine until reduced and then add the tomato puree;
- Add little water and season with salt;
- Cook over very low heat for 5-6 hours. In case it gets too thick, add some more water. In Naples they say “pippiare” or “pappuliare”: it means that ragù must simmer very slowly;
- Cover the saucepan with a lid, but leave a small opening to let the steam out;
- Add the basil to taste;
- Stir occasionally; be careful: it must not stick to the bottom of the saucepan;
- You know that in same parts of Naples, they add some 70% dark chocolate (in the ratio of 150gr per 5 liters of ragù) in order to balance the tomato sourness.
- After at least 6 hours the meat is tender and all the tastes have combined evenly; season with more salt if needed, and…your ragù is done. Enjoy it!
A few hints to make it more “Napoletano”:
- Cooking time is very long: at least 6 hours. You should prepare it the day before, on Saturday for instance, then transfer it into a ceramic bowl. The following day, it will be even more flavorful.
- As this ragù best fits large pasta shape, it combines perfectly with maccheroni. It may be also paired with rigatoni or rough maltagliati. And, what about paccheri, stuffed with sheep ricotta cheese? I know this is quite difficult to find outside Italy.
- You may stuff conchiglioni, striped nails, with ragù, top with fiordilatte mozzarella cheese and plenty of Parmigiano Reggiano. Grill in the oven: it is a rich dish…but so toothsome.
- Sprinkle each serving of pasta and ragù with plenty of parmigiano or (even better) pecorino cheese and scented black pepper;
- In Naples, after this dish, they eat “friarielli”: fried broccoli rabe season with garlic, oil and chili pepper. They are not very common outside Naples, so they may be well replaced by chard, spinach, or stewed potatoes.
- Store ragù in fridge up to three days in an air-tight container, or freeze in glass jars.