This classic Italian ragu recipe was passed on to me by my lovely friend Laura; she’s an amazing cook and also very much Italian to the core, it’s no wonder that this ragu sauce is absolute magic every time I make it. This recipe calls for a mix of beef chuck, veal and pork shoulder and pancetta; the meat is slow-cooked in tinned tomatoes with garlic, onions, celery and carrots until the meat falls apart. A couple of the secret ingredients here are the red wine, milk (whole cream only!) and ground nutmeg. The devil’s in the details and these little touches really do add enough depth and creaminess to make all the difference.
This recipe requires a little patience; but it’s perfect for those cold days when you’re stuck indoors and have the luxury of time- this hot pot of saucy meat will be sure to keep you warm, and you most definitely will be rewarded for it once it’s time to serve.
This sauce is best served with pappardelle, or if you have a little extra time for some hand-rolled pasta, lorighittas (as pictured here). It needs something quite thick and substantial to match the heaviness of the sauce. This ragu is also beautiful on some creamy polenta, or served between pasta sheets for the most luxurious lasagna you’ve ever tasted. The recipe makes 6 servings- however if you’re feeding fewer people; instead of scaling down the ingredients (it can be hard to get those cuts of meat in smaller portions), make some extra ragu sauce and the keep it in the fridge in an air-tight jar for a week, otherwise pop it in the freezer for 1-2 months.
Best-Ever Classic Ragu Pasta
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 brown onion- finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves- minced
- 3 young celery sticks- finely chopped include the leaves
- 1 large carrot- peeled and finely chopped
- 100 pancetta- finely chopped
- 500 g beef chuck
- 500 g mix of veal and pork shoulder
- 200 ml dry red wine
- 800 g tinned tomatoes
- 150 ml whole milk
- 1 pinch freshly ground nutmeg
- 1 beef stock cube
- 2 bay leaves
- 500-600 g dried pappardelle
- freshly grated pecorino
- freshly picked parsley
- 300 g buffalo mozarella
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat
- Add the chopped onions, season with salt & pepper and cook for 5 minutes or until softened
- Add the chopped garlic, celery and carrots and cook for a further 6 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the chopped pancetta and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly
- Increase the heat to high and add the beef chuck, veal and pork shoulder, turning constantly to brown on all sides
- Add the red wine and stir for 3 minutes, or until the smell of alcohol has gone
- Transfer the contents of this pan to a slow-cooker. Add the tinned tomatoes, milk, ground nutmeg, beef stock cube and bay leaves. Stir with a wooden spoon to ensure that everything is evenly combined, then slow cook for 4 hours.
- Alternatively, if you would like to continue cooking on the stove top; add the tinned tomatoes, milk, ground nutmeg, beef stock cube, 250ml of water and bay leaves. Stir with a wooden spoon to ensure that everything is combined, turn the heat down to low and simmer with a lid on for 3-4 hours; stirring occasionally.
- Once the sauce has finished cooking; remove the lid, turn the heat to high and cook for another 10 minutes to allow the sauce to reduce and for any excess liquid to evaporate. Stir the sauce occasionally and break down any chunks of meat with a wooden spoon. The sauce is ready once it has reduced and thickened.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil, season generously with salt and cook the pasta 2 minutes short of the recommended cooking time (according to the packet instructions)
- Drain the pasta, reserving 1-2 cups of starchy pasta water. Add the pasta to the sauce, add about half of the reserved pasta water and combine. Turn the heat down to medium and continue combining the pasta with the sauce for 1-2 minutes or until the sauce thickly coats the pasta.
- Transfer the pasta onto serving plates, and add a generous handful of freshly grated pecorino and parsley on top
- Tear apart the buffalo mozzarella and dot the pasta with small chunks of mozzarella. Serve and enjoy!