Lazy-day ragu recipe


Planning to be at home the whole day? Then make the most of it by giving this ragu recipe a whirl.

classic ragu sauce

Why? Because ragu is quite simply the BIG DADDY of pasta sauces!

Hailing from Naples on the South-West Italian coast, this ragu recipe takes an onion-packed tomato sauce, throws in a big ‘ole chunk of beef (and some pork for good measure), and cooks it reeeal slow over a few hours… with just the occasional lazy stir from you.

Why is slow cooking worth the bother?

Well if you have to ask, I assume you haven’t tasted classic ragu sauce! You simply can’t beat that syrupy onion, tomato and molten meat mix.

And afterwords you’re still left with a chunk of cooked beef, giving you either a second meat course or the tastiest sandwich filling possible for the next day. Bargain!

Make it once. I promise you it won’t be the last time.

(Learn all about the Slow Food Movement.)

Starter Tip: This ragu recipe serves 7-8. Even if you are cooking for just 2 or 4, I suggest you make it all, as you can freeze the rest of the sauce to enjoy it again and again.

Serves 7-8

Ingredients: (For a printable ragu recipe shopping list click here, or right-click this link and choose 'Save target/link as' to save it for later.)

- One 950g/33.5oz cut of solid muscle beef (i.e. shoulder or thigh)

- 1 rib of pork

- 900g/32oz chunky short pasta (i.e. paccheri, rigatoni (big penne) or tagliatelle)

- 1kg/35oz of onions, plus 1 extra!

- 1 carrot

- 1 stalk of celery

- x4 400g/14oz tins of plum tomatoes

- 1 glass of full-bodied red wine (chianti, merlot etc.)

- 1 tablespoon of lard or butter

- 25 basil leaves (fresh or dried)

- Salt

- Pepper

- Extra virgin olive oil

Optional: 100g/3.5oz grated parmesan cheese (for serving)


- 1 very large pasta pot with lid (ideally aluminum or clay)

- A 'food mill' (such as this wonderful example) or a dense sieve/colander

- Vegetable peeler

Optional: Electric food processor (a handheld version is perfect)

STEP 1 – First we make the staple ingredient of many an Italian meat sauce… a 3-veg mixture containing carrot, onion and celery.

(You’ll find the same mixture used here and here.)

- Cut the ends off the celery and chop roughly.

- Chop the ends off, peel and chop the carrot too.

- End, unpeel and chop 1 onion too.

Now… either blend these ingredients to a medium-fine texture using a food processor, or chop more finely.

STEP 2 – Let’s get busy with the main batch of onions…

- Clean the onions by chopping off the ends and removing the rough outer layers of skin.

- Chop all these onions roughly.

ragu sauce recipe

Tip: If you can do this chopping near your sink, with cold water running, you will cry less!

STEP 3 – Now we get this sauce a cooking! First add into your huge pot:

- The chopped onions

- 100g/3.5oz of the 3-veg mix

- 360ml/12 fl oz of olive oil
(approx 90ml/3 fl oz for each 400g/14oz can of plum tomatoes)

ragu recipe
- 25 washed, torn basil leaves

- 1 tablespoon of lard or butter

- 1 heaped tablespoon of salt

- Both pieces of meat (beef and pork) - sprinkled with a little pepper if you like

- 50ml/1.7 fl oz of water (according to my teacher Marisa, this makes the onion more digestible)

Now put this pan on a low-medium heat hob (setting 3-4 out of 10), keep uncovered, and set your timer for 2 hours:

- Stir approx. every 15 minutes the first hour, turning the meat each time, and a little more regularly the second hour.

- When the beef starts to brown, turn the heat up 1 notch and continue stirring at the same intervals.

STEP 4 – While these 2 hours are passing, grab your plum toms. The task now is to ‘juice’ these... leaving the hard green sections and seeds to one side and keeping that pure tom juice!

Either use a proper food mill like this or grab a sieve and…

- Use a large spoon or pestle to squash the toms and really try to get every bit of juice out of them.

- The only tomato bits you do not want are the pips, so give it some stick!

ragu tomato sauce

STEP 5 – When is this sauce ready for the next step?

When the meat has browned on the outside, and the onion starts to stick to the pan. Just scratch off the onion with your spoon when you stir (that crunchy bit is tasty!), then…

-Turn up the hob to 60-70%. When sizzling, add half the wine and stir.

- Give this wine 2 or 3 minutes of sizzling away (to evaporate the alcohol).

- Add the rest of the wine and sizzle again.

ragu tomato sauce

STEP 6 – Now we enter ragu tomato sauce stage 2.

- With the hob still at 60-70% heat, pour in all the toms and heat until they are really bubbling!

- When bubbling, move to the smallest hob ring, and put on a low 30-40% heat.

- Put on the lid but balance a spoon on the rim to let a little heat out.

The aim? For the final 2 hours of this ragu recipe, the sauce will bubble super slow. As my wife puts it, “one slow bubble at once”…

How slow? Watch my Bubblin’ Ragu Recipe Video here.

Stir exactly as you did previously – once every 10 or 15 minutes.

STEP 7When is the sauce completely done?

When the oil separates from the rest of the sauce, and the overall liquid level is half that of when you first added the toms, the ragu sauce is ready.

classic ragu sauce

So now just...

- Remove the remaining meat chunks to use separately

- Boil up your pasta as suggested on the packet (just pop the ragu in another bowl if you only have 1 pot) – and don’t forget plenty of salt in the water.

Serve with a good helping of ragu on each serving of pasta. Ideally add a little grated parmesan cheese too.

Done! Your first Italian ragu recipe and you nailed it!

IMPORTANT! - If you will keep the ragu sauce for later, move it into a non-aluminum bowl. It’s not good to keep it in this particular metal.

Ideas for the remaining meat...

• Serve immediately after your first pasta course, alongside a little salad and crusty bread.

• Refrigerate with the sauce to reheat and enjoy the same meal tomorrow.

• Carve up the beef to use in tasty sandwiches.

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