Forget the Jar: Hearty, Slow-Simmered Ragu

raguRagu…that’s grandma stuff. Like, what your Aunt Kathy with the pallet of a six year-old orders when you all go out for Italian, right? NOPE. Not this ragu.

So far, Bon Appetit magazine has not let me down once. It’s encouraged me to use new ingredients and try trickier techniques and you guys, it’s totally paying off. Learning is fun! Or something! Anyway, they had an issue on pasta a couple months back and it was drool-worthy. Some seriously carby stuff hitting the newsstands just weeks before bathing suit season, is what I’m saying. Bon Appetit ain’t scurred.

choppin broccoliiiiI got to work on this ragu recipe and WOW, it was not your typical tomato-and-meat sauce. It was rich, had incredible depth and it was somehow less watery than regular tomato sauce? We really couldn’t get enough of it. I have the red stains on not one but TWO shirts to prove it. This recipe isn’t for whipping up after a long day at work. The key lies in it simmering for about 3-4 hours so that the meat kind of breaks down so make it on a weekend and make extra! It freezes really well. You can serve it with any type of pasta, really, but I’m partial to rigatoni right now because they’re less sloppy than long noodles and also they look like tiny Chinese finger traps which I happen to find delightful.


makes about 5 cups
original recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine


1 medium onion, cut  into rough pieces
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
1 celery stalk, cut into 1″ pieces
3 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 chopped parsley, divided
1 can (28oz.) crushed or whole tomatoes (I use San Marzano)
1/4 cup olive oil
sausage1/2 lb. hot or sweet Italian sausage
1 lb. ground pork or beef
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 lb. rigatoni pasta
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1. In a food processor (or a blender, and yes, this step is necessary) pulse the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 cup parsley until finely chopped, then transfer to a small bowl. Then puree the canned tomatoes with their juices in the processor and set aside.

2. In a large dutch oven over medium heat, heat the olive oil (don’t skimp on the oil here! You need all 1/4 cup!) Add the sausage and ground pork/beef, season with salt and pepper, and cook until browned, about 8-10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to a plate while leaving the drippings in the pot. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and cook about 10 minutes, or until beginning to brown.

ragu sauce3. Stir together the tomato paste and 1 cup warm water in a small bowl, then add to the pot. Bring to a boil (scrape up brown bits off bottom) then reduce heat and simmer for about 8-10 minutes. Add the meat, tomato puree and 1 more cup of warm water. Stir well and bring everything to a boil. Reduce heat to low then simmer for about 3-4 hours, adding more water as necessary to keep the meat almost covered.

4. Cook your pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water and reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid before draining. Add the pasta to the sauce pot along with about 1/2 of pasta water. Stir to coat and add more water if needed to help the sauce stick. Add the Parmesan cheese and reserved 1/4 cup parsley and serve hot.
***I’ve always resisted doing the “add some pasta water thing” but it really, really works with this sauce. It doesn’t make it watery – on the contrary, it actually makes it stick to the noodles better.


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