Ragu

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This rich Ragu  combines ground beef and Italian sausage with diced veggies and crushed tomatoes. We toss this deeply savory and indulgent-tasting sauce with pasta, garnished with herbs, and topped with freshly grated Parmesan.

While traveling through Italy, I had the chance to take a few cooking classes and this very recipe is based off an authentic Italian one! 

What Is Ragu Sauce?

Ragu is a meat-based sauce most commonly served with pasta. One of the most beloved sauces in Italian cuisine, a Ragu is made from ground or chopped meat, celery, onion, carrots, aromatic herbs, and tomatoes. The sauce is simmered slowly over a long period of time becoming ultra-flavorful and tender.

Overhead image of the best Ragu

Our Favorite Ragu Recipe

I’ve shared quite a bit about the cooking classes we took in Italy, specifically when sharing this Beef Ragu recipe. That recipe is made with shredded beef (made in the slow cooker) and based on an authentic Italian recipe from the cooking class.

And today’s recipe is based on the same recipe, but we’re using sausage plus ground beef and cooking it on the stovetop. My kiddos could eat pasta for every meal if I let them and a good Ragu sauce is a favorite in our home. 

Process shots-- images of the beef and sausage being browned, then the veggies being cooked

A few ingredient-specific notes, tips, and tricks:

Ragu Ingredients

  • Ground beef chuck. Ground chuck is a form of ground beef that is taken from the neck and shoulder of the cow. It’s got an 80/20 lean to fat ratio which makes it great for a rich sauce like Ragu. If you’re looking to reduce fat or calories, pick a lean ground beef instead.
  • Italian sausage. Depending on personal preference, use mild or spicy sausage. Look for well-marbled meat, which is going to contribute more flavor and richness. Remove the casings before cooking and use the leftover sausage in these quick Italian Hoagies.
  • Veggies: Dice veggies small and aim to keep them the same size. You don’t want to end up with large chunks of veggies in the final sauce; we want them to be fairly imperceptible when looking at the sauce–they’re there to add flavor. 
  • Crushed tomatoes: Use the best quality canned tomatoes you can find! We use and recommend San Marzano or Muir Glen crushed tomatoes (so much flavor!) With cheaper tomatoes, you may need to add some sugar to balance out acidity.

Note: San Marzano and Muir Glen are trademarked brand names of canned tomatoes. 

Process shots of Ragu-- images of the garlic, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, seasonings, and Worcestershire sauce being sautéed

Ragu Pasta

You can use whatever pasta you prefer. Our favorite pasta to use in this recipe is pappardelle. A lot of times pappardelle is confused with tagliatelle–here are the differences.

QUICK TIP

What is pappardelle? Pappardelle is one of the less-common kinds of pasta, but most larger grocery stores carry it. It’s a long, flat, wide noodle–imagine taking a lasagna noodle and slicing it into three long strips. That’s pretty much what pappardelle looks like. If you use spaghetti as the typical width of a noodle, fettuccine is a bit flatter and wider. Tagliatelle is a bit wider than fettuccine and pappardelle is the widest of all.

Process shots-- images of the broth being added to the pot and the meat being added back in and it all being simmered

How Can I Make My Ragu Better?

  • Take time to sear the meat. Searing adds color and color = flavor. Let the beef and sausage stand in the hot pan for a minute before crumbling and browning. This will elevate the flavor of the meat.
  • Use good ingredients. The better the ingredients, the better the flavor!
  • Make the sauce ahead of time. This sauce only gets more flavorful and tender the longer it sits. I like to make it a day before serving.
  • Emulsify sauce and pasta. Tossing the hot pasta with the Ragu sauce and reserved pasta water is called emulsifying and that’s how you get a wonderfully smooth and flavorful sauce that clings to the pasta instead of falling to the bottom of the pot!
  • Don’t forget to season at every step. Season the meat, the veggies, the pasta water, and the final dish (if needed). Seasoning as you cook (as opposed to just at the end) is a great way to add more dimension to the dish.

Process shots of Ragu-- images of the noodles being cooked and then tossed into the sauce

Ragu FAQs

1What makes a sauce Ragu?

A Ragu is a sauce made from ground or chopped meats and tomatoes.

Ragu is a general term for any tomato-based meat sauce. Other sauces are specific to particular regions. Bolognese sauce, for instance originates from the city of Bologna and is a ragu fewer tomatoes and with milk added to make it creamy.

Marinara sauce has no meat in it and quite a few more vegetables.

2What type of meat is in Ragu?

Any ground or chopped meat can be considered a Ragu–beef, pork, even horse!

I learned to make authentic Ragu while I was in Italy and that recipe used shredded beef.

3What is the difference between Ragu and spaghetti sauce?

Ragu has meat in the sauce while spaghetti sauce does not necessarily have to have meat (it can be solely vegetable based).

You can think of Ragu as tomato sauce with meat, and spaghetti sauce is simply tomato sauce.

4 What does Ragu taste like?

Because we have taken the time to individually sauté each element and then simmer everything together, this Ragu has many layers of flavor. It’s deeply savory with a wonderful richness. It’s got a concentrated tomato flavor and welcome aroma from the various herbs used in the sauce.

5How do I add flavor to Ragu sauce?

If you’re looking to pop the flavor ja bit, consider adding one of the following:

  • Stir in a pinch more of salt and pepper.
  • Toss in some fresh herbs (basil, thyme, or oregano).
  • Add in some red pepper flakes for some heat.
  • Top the sauce with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

6Does Ragu have garlic in it?

Yes, we love the addition of garlic in this sauce!

The recipe from our Italian cooking class includes garlic as well.

Up close overhead image of the dish

STORAGE

Make Ahead Of Time!

Since the sauce is tossed separately with the pasta, it’s a great make-ahead component. In fact, the Ragu only gets more flavorful and tender as it sits and ingredients have a chance to meld. When ready to serve, cook the pasta fresh and emulsify the sauce plus pasta right before eating.

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Ragu

5 from 2 votes
This rich Ragu  combines ground beef and Italian sausage with diced veggies and crushed tomatoes. We toss this deeply savory and indulgent-tasting sauce with pasta, garnished with herbs, and topped with freshly grated Parmesan.
Print Recipe

Ragu

5 from 2 votes
This rich Ragu  combines ground beef and Italian sausage with diced veggies and crushed tomatoes. We toss this deeply savory and indulgent-tasting sauce with pasta, garnished with herbs, and topped with freshly grated Parmesan.
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword beef ragu, Ragu, ragu sauce
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 5 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 369kcal
Author Chelsea Lords
Cost $10.12

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound (80/20) ground beef chuck
  • 1/2 of a 19 oz. package Italian sausage (Note 1)
  • Fine sea salt & pepper
  • 3 cups mirepoix (finely diced onion, carrots, celery -- I use a cup of each)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes (Note 2)
  • 1 teaspoon each: dried oregano, dried thyme, dried basil, dried crushed rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons each: Worcestershire sauce & beef bouillon powder
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 2 cups beef broth or stock (See Note 3)
  • 1 cup red wine (or use 1 cup additional beef broth and 1-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar)
  • Optional: 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • For serving: 8 oz. pasta of choice, freshly grated Parmesan

Instructions

  • MEAT: Add 1-1/2 tbsp oil to a large, heavy bottomed pot. Heat to high heat and once oil is hot, add in beef and sausage (in a single layer). Season to taste (I add 1/2 tsp each salt & pepper). Let stand, undisturbed for about 1 minute to get a nice sear before breaking up and crumbling to brown with a wooden spoon. Once meat is all browned, use a slotted spoon to remove to a bowl leaving grease behind. (If there is more than 2 tablespoons grease, drain the rest off--See Note 3).
  • VEGGIES: Reduce the heat to medium. Add in mirepoix. Season to taste (I add 1/2 tsp each salt & pepper). Sauté, stirring occasionally, until veggies begin to soften, 7-10 minutes. Add in 2 tsp garlic and 3 tbsp tomato paste and stir for 1 minute. Add in crushed tomatoes and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. We're adding layers of flavor here!
  • FINSH SAUCE: Return the cooked meat to the pot, along with 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp thyme, 1 tsp basil, 1 tsp rosemary, 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 2 tsp beef bouillon, 3 bay leaves, 2 cups beef broth, and 1 cup wine (or additional beef broth). Return beef mixture and stir.
  • SIMMER: Bring to a simmer then turn heat to lowest setting. Cover with a lid and cook for 2 up to 2-1/2 hours. Stir every now and again, returning the lid after stirring. The sauce will thicken, reduce, and become ultra flavorful as it slowly simmers.
  • ADJUST: Stir sauce and adjust seasonings, adding more salt if needed. If you didn't use wine, add 1 up to 3 tbsp red wine vinegar (add 1 tbsp at a time, tasting after each addition). Depending on tomatoes used, you may even need to add a touch of sugar (add 1 tsp at a time) to counteract the acidity. Remove bay leaves and discard. Enjoy sauce served over cooked pasta. See Note 4 for how to serve the "authentic" way 🙂

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Sausage: Depending on personal preference, use mild or spicy sausage. Look for well-marbled sausage which is going to contribute more flavor and richness. Remove the casings before cooking and use the leftover sausage in this quick Sausage And Veggie Skillet. Sausage labeled sweet is a mild sausage that is seasoned with basil instead of oregano.
Note 2: Tomatoes: Grab the best quality canned tomatoes you can find! We use and recommend San Marzano or Muir Glen crushed tomatoes (so much flavor!) With cheaper tomatoes, you may need to add some sugar to balance out acidity.
Note 3: Drain off grease: I line a bowl with foil and pour all the grease in the bowl. Then I measure out 2 tablespoons to add back to the pot. When the grease hardens you can ball up the foil and discard!
Note 4: To serve: Bring a very large pot of salted water (1 tsp salt to every 4 cups) to a rapid boil. To serve for 4-6: Add 1 pound (16 oz.) pasta and cook until just al dente - cooked but still quite firm (I usually go for 2 minutes less than cook time per packet).  Before draining, pull out 1 cup pasta water. Meanwhile, heat a large, deep fry pan over medium high heat. Add about 4-1/2 up to 5 cups of Ragu; bring to simmer. Use tongs to transfer pasta straight from the pot to the pan. Toss gently, gradually adding in pasta cooking water until the sauce reduces, by which time the sauce will thicken and stick beautifully to the pasta. Serve immediately, garnished with Parmesan cheese if using!
Nutrition information is for the sauce only. 

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 369kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 67mg | Sodium: 760mg | Potassium: 680mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 355IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 66mg | Iron: 3mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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