Ricette Italiane: Silvana’s Ragu

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

Prep Time:    

        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!)

dairy-free, gluten-free



here are your ingredients! remember, if you add a little more/less of something (veggies, beef etc..it’s okay!)

1/2 pound /  1 kilo ground beef      *can be substituted by ground turkey meat

3 white onions

5 celery stalks

4 carrots

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!)


aaand here’s your mirepoix all chopped up and ready for the pot!

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.


let that garlic simmer a bit

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).


this is how the veggies should look before you add the meat

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.


and, after 3+ hours, the finished product (you can see the oil in small pools, but since I don’t add much, there’s not much to see)

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.


in loving memory

About This AmerItalian Life

My parents took me on my first camping trip when I was 2 months old and I haven’t stopped traveling since. My curiosity for new people, cultures, landscapes, food, ideas and opinions has brought me to where I am today: living in Northern California with my Italian husband, dog an AmerItalian son. Having spent my formative adult years living in Tuscany and then starting my life completely over yet again back in the U.S., I have been able to experience life through different lenses. I started this blog several years ago because I felt like I’d explode if I kept all my experiences of living in Italy it inside. I was barely able to scratch the surface before be began making plans to move stateside. So here I find myself with 5 more years of post-expat experiences, just bursting to get out of my head. My intentions are simple: since I love to connect with people and share stories, I hope by putting mine out there, I might be able to connect with others who have their own to tell. I don't consider myself to be a writer and I am not the best at self-editing...you have been warned!
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5 Responses to Ricette Italiane: Silvana’s Ragu

  1. barbedwords says:

    This looks like a lovely recipe and a nice reminder for you of your mama. The best ragu I’ve had was in Bologna so I’ll give this one a go and see if it’s as good (I’m sure it is!)

  2. Jill says:

    I am a facebook friend of Georgette’s and it’s through her that I found your post. What an amazing recipe! I make ragù all the time, but my recipe is a mixture of various recipes from the past, I don’t have any specific recipe that I follow … that is until now. I decided to try yours and well, we are hooked! Your dear mama Silvana will continue to live on in our home in Venice as this will be the only recipe we use from now on. Good luck with your move across the pond!

    • Jill,
      I’m so touch and honored that you like the recipe so much! Just the thought that it’s being cooked up in Venice is such a kick! It makes this whole blog worth it! Thank you so much for your well wishes, they’re much appreciated. I hope to continue to post recipes close to my heart as we embark on this new journey!
      Thanks again and best wishes,

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