I’ve decided, it’s finally time to share my ragu recipe. For one, it’s getting cooler, fall is here and there’s nothing better than the smell of this stuff simmering away on the stove-top on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Secondly, it’s a great comfort food, and seeing as we are moving our whole lives across the world on November 13th, I’m in need of some. Thirdly, it’s my most cherished recipe and I’ve been meaning to share it for a long time.
Ragu says so much about Italy and Italians in general: each region has a different recipe and they all think theirs is the best. Honestly, I’ve tried ragu recipes from Tuscany, Bologna (where, they say, the original comes from, called ragu alla bolognese) Lombardia, Le Marche and Puglia, and while I’ve enjoyed them all and appreciated their differences, nothing ever compared to mama’s.
I first ate Fabio’s mother’s ragu a few weeks into dating him, back in 2005. He brought some ragu to my apartment to cook for me, and it was love at first bite. I asked her for the recipe, which she happily shared with me, before I got on a plane back to America and I’ve been cooking it ever since. This was my staple in while studying at University of California Santa Cruz (go banana slugs)! As a broke college student (I spent all my extra cash on phone cards and plane tickets to keep my ‘crazy’ long-distance relationship going), this meal fed me though many a night. It’s been over 8 years since I started cooking it and while I have been complimented on it many times (it’s not me, it’s the recipe, I swear), it’s still not as good as she made it, but I’ll never stop aspiring to perfect this recipe that is very close to my heart for many reasons.
Because it needs to simmer for over three hours, and it’s quite inexpensive to make, I always suggest, like I did for college and still do now, making a ton and freezing the rest. It saves really well and it’s always a nice go-to on cold winter nights.
So now…with out further adieu…
Silvana’s Ragu recipe
chopping/cooking – approx. 30-35 minutes (this is cut in half if you have a food processor)
simmer- at least 3 hours
this quantity serves 10-14 (depending how saucy you like your pasta!)
1/2 pound / 1 kilo ground beef *can be substituted by ground turkey meat
3 white onions
5 celery stalks
2000 grams of tomato sauce (about 5 15oz-cans)
4-6 cloves of garlic (most of the flavor get cooked out)
1 vegetable bullion cube *or gluten-free substitute
3-4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp red chili flakes/powder
3-4 tsp salt
Step one: chop the onions, celery and carrots into small cubes -how small is your preference, if you like chunky sauce, obviously leave them a little bigger (you can also do this in a food processor to save time, I like to chop because it’s a stress reliever!)
Step two: pour the olive oil onto the bottom of a high-volume pot (it cooks down but you’ll need a substancial amount of room when you first put the sauce in) and turn the heat on medium. After a few seconds, add the cloves of garlic (no chopping necessary, just remove the skin by smashing). Let them simmer for about 60 seconds, this gives the oil a little hint of garlic.
Step Three: add the chopped celery, onion carrots and add a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions are transparent and the carrots start to become soft (about 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently).
Step Four: once the veggies are cooked, you’re ready to add your ground beef, bullion cube (broken up), pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook until the beef in completely browned (about 5 minutes, stirring frequently).
Step Five: add your tomato sauce- just dump it all in there and stir well
Step Six: put a lid (with space for steam to escape) or screen on the top of the pot, move it to the smallest burner (otherwise, it may burn the bottom) and let simmer for at least 3 hours, stirring ever 10-15 minutes (I suggest cozying up on the couch with a good put/putting on a movie to pass the time, you won’t mind because by this time your kitchen will already smell amazing). The trick to know when it’s done is the fact that the olive oil will appear at the surface of the sauce. This is the time to add salt to taste, I usually add about 2 teaspoons.
boil your favorite pasta (mine is penne rigate- penne past with ridges since the sauce sticks to the sides and goes inside…yummy) and enjoy!
This post is in loving memory of my mama italiana, Silvana, who shared and always made this recipe with lots of love. I hope, by passing this recipe on, we can honor her and it can bring a little of mama’s love into your home.