What’s in a ragù is a very personal choice. You could probably tell a lot about people based on what ragù means to them. Everybody in Italy has a different take on ragù. I’ve taken notes on ragù recipes from every matriarch in my husband’s family (we’re talking a dozen or so), from Italian cookbooks, and from the scores of cooking classes I’ve accompanied my clients to over the years. And each one is different. Some people add sausage and pancetta for a super-tasty, rich version, some people make it with rabbit meat, some people make it in bianco, meaning without tomato, some people cook it for hours, some whip it up in 15 minutes…
Over the years I’ve finally settled on my favorite heart-warming, comfort-food version of ragù. Here’s the recipe!
- 450 g / 1 lb. ground meat (I like to use half pork and half beef)
- 1 1/2 c. “battuto” ( veggie & herb mix – use parsley & rosemary here)
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1/4 tsp cayenne powder
- 1/3 c. red wine (white works too), optional
- 1 c. vegetable or meat broth
- 2 c. tomato purèe
- salt and pepper, to taste
Make your “battuto“. Before cleaning your food processor that you used for the battuto, run the ground meat through it with a quick pulse.
In a heavy-bottomed pot (but not cast-iron which would react with the acid in the tomatoes) heat the olive oil and cayenne powder over medium heat. When the oil just starts to bubble, add the battuto, stir it with the oil, and sautèe until the colors become more muted and the veggies are softened.
Here comes a key moment: adding your twice-ground meat. The trick is to mix it really well with the oil and veggies, and keep the meat from creating clumps as it cooks. I take a wooden spatula and a fork and vigorously stir and press the meat so it breaks apart until the red raw meat has turned brown. Salt the meat lightly, and let it simmer in it’s own liquid for about 5 minutes.
When the liquid is mostly evaporated, turn the heat up a notch and add the wine. Give it a quick stir, let the wine mostly evaporate and then add the tomato purèe and the broth. Bring to a low boil, turn the heat down to low, and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve tossed with your favorite pasta, on top of toasted bread, to stuff oven-baked vegetables like peppers, zucchini or eggplants, or, of course, to make a killer lasagna!
The ragù will last for 3-4 days in the fridge, but it also freezes really well so you can make up a big batch and then freeze single portions for later use.