Classic Ragù Bolognese

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Wow. Bon Appétit has done it again. The Pasta with Sun Gold Tomatoes that I made a few weeks ago was the first recipe I tried from the May 2011 issue, which is focused on Italy.  And the Classic Ragù Bolognese is the second Italian recipe I made and it was even better. This isn't all that surprising since it contains meat and whole milk and a host of other unhealthy ingredients - the end result is delicious and rich and easy to make (and the bulk of the recipe can be prepared ahead of time, which is perfect for entertaining).

In Italian cooking, a ragù is a meat-based sauce, which is typically served with pasta. A ragù is usually made by adding meat to a combination of chopped onions, carrots and celery (called a soffritto in Italian), tomatoes and other seasonings and then simmering the sauce for a long time.  Ragù alla bolognese contains a lot of meat and relatively little tomato and its name is derived from the Bologna, an Italian city.

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I've provided a link above to the recipe as written in Bon Appétit, but below is the recipe that I used. I didn't have pancetta or ground veal on-hand so I improvised (and without sacrifice, I think) and used prosciutto and ground beef in similar quantities. Unfortunately, we only had quinoa pasta (on the whole, I don't love this even though I do love quinoa) and I was too lazy to make a trip to the store but this was still SO GOOD. 

Classic Ragù Bolognese

Yield = 4-6 servings

  • 2 Tbsp.extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2medium onions, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 carrots, peeled, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 12 oz. ground beef (85% lean)
  • 4 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 1/2cupdry red wine
  • 3cups(about) chicken stock, divided
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste (I make mine using Tomato Powder from Savory Spice Shop)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1cupwhole milk
  • 1 lb. tagliatelle or fettuccine (preferably fresh egg)
  • Finely grated Parmesan (for serving)


Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, and carrots. Sauté until soft, 8-10 minutes. Add beef and prosciutto; sauté, breaking up with the back of a spoon, until browned, about 15 minutes. Add wine; boil 1 minute, stirring often and scraping up browned bits. Add 2 1/2 cups stock and tomato paste; stir to blend. Reduce heat to very low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors meld, 1 1/2 hours. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring milk to a simmer in a small saucepan; gradually add to sauce. Cover sauce with lid slightly ajar and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until milk is absorbed, about 45 minutes, adding more stock by 1/4-cupfuls to thin if needed. DO AHEADRagù can be made 2 days ahead. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm before continuing.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until 1 minute before al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water. Transfer ragù to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pasta and toss to coat. Stir in some of the reserved pasta water by tablespoonfuls if sauce seems dry. Divide pasta among warm plates. Serve with Parmesan.

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