Tuscan Ragù (Meat Sauce)

February 13, 2020 Updated: February 13, 2020
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Armed with patience and good ingredients, this will become one of your go-to sauces for pasta. You won’t need to spend the whole morning watching the pot simmering on the stove, just be sure to check it and give it a stir every now and then. 

This recipe will make a big batch. Use some of it to dress a bowl of tagliatelle, some to make a lasagna, and freeze what is left in small portions.

Makes about 12 servings

  • 1 red onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 1 small bunch parsley
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 6 1/3 cups tomato purée
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

Using a good sharp knife, finely mince the onion, carrots, celery, and parsley. We call this battuto in Italy, while the French call it mirepoix. If you prefer to use a food processor (even my grandma has abandoned her cutting board and mezzaluna for a vegetable chopper) do it in several rounds: First process the celery, parsley, and carrot together, then the onion, just enough to finely shred it. Be careful not to reduce the onion to a mush.

Cover the bottom of a pot with extra virgin olive oil. Add the finely chopped vegetables, along with a generous pinch of salt—this will help you cook the vegetables without burning them, as the salt will extract the moisture from the vegetables. Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring often. The battuto should be happily sizzling; do not burn it or let it darken too much. Now that the battuto has been sauteed in olive oil, we call it a soffritto.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the ground beef and pork. Stir with a wooden spoon to break the meat into smaller pieces and mix it into the soffritto. Stir continuously, using the wooden spoon to scrape the meat from the bottom and the sides of the pot. The meat will release some liquid, so cook it until the liquid has been completely absorbed and the meat is nicely browned. It will take at least 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Now gradually pour in the red wine in at least three separate additions, reducing it completely each time before adding more. This way, the wine will flavor the meat without boiling it.

Add the tomato purée and the tomato paste, stirring thoroughly. The ragù will begin to sputter. Cover the pot and simmer slowly, on the lowest heat.

Cook for at least an hour and a half, even two hours, stirring from time to time. You will notice puddles of olive oil forming on the surface of the meat sauce, colored red by the long cooking time with the tomato sauce. Keep cooking until you do not see them; then, the ragù will be ready.

Recipe by Giulia Scarpaleggia