Ragù is a tasty meat sauce for pasta that is easy to make and can be knocked up a couple of days before you actually need it. In fact, it probably tastes all the better for the keeping. This recipe uses minced beef and you can serve it with any pasta of your choice, all dished up on one plate.
- 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium onions
- 2 celery stalks
- 2 carrots, peeled
- 1 lb / 500g lean minced (ground) beef, more or less
- 2½ ounces / 70g pancetta  cubes
- 4 fluid ounces / 118ml / ½ cup dry red wine
- 25 fluid ounces / 710ml / 3 cups (about) beef stock or chicken stock
- 3 tablespoons of tomato purée (paste)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8¼ fluid ounces / 235ml / 1 cup whole milk
- 1 lb / 500g pasta, preferably fresh
- Finely grated Parmesan, for serving
Finely chop the onions, celery, and carrots.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan on a medium heat.
Add the chopped onions, celery, and carrots and sauté for about 8-10 minutes until they are soft.
Add the beef and make sure you break it apart properly in the pan. Use a wooden spoon.
Add the Pancetta.
Cook for about 15 minutes, making sure nothing catches on the bottom.
Add the wine and bring to the boil for about a minute, stirring well.
Add about ¾ of the stock keeping the rest in reserve for later.
Add the tomato purée (paste).
Reduce the heat to very low and let it simmer for 90 minutes.
Then, season with salt and pepper.
Shortly before the 90 minutes is up, bring the milk to a simmer in a small saucepan.
Gradually add the simmered milk to the sauce.
Cover the saucepan with the lid slightly askew and simmer over a low heat for a further 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to stop anything catching, until the milk is completely absorbed into the sauce. Add more of the reserved stock a bit at a time to thin the sauce if it starts to become too thick.
In good time, cook the pasta and drain, reserving some of the pasta water.
Transfer the sauce to a large frying pan (skillet) over a medium high heat.
Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to mix thoroughly. Stir in some of the reserved pasta water if it looks too dry.
Serve with plenty of grated Parmesan on top.
You can make a ragù two days ahead, if you wish. After cooking the sauce, let it cool down completely then transfer it to a covered dish or plastic tub and keep chilled in the fridge. Make sure you heat the sauce up thoroughly when you need it. Then, cook the pasta and combine with the sauce in the frying pan (skillet) as above.
While considered today as a classic Italian meat sauce for pasta, the ragù is almost certainly of French origin, derived from the word ragout – a stew – in the Emilia-Romagna region in the 18th century, following Napoleon’s occupation of what is now northern Italy. But it was the Italians who used it as a meat sauce to add to pasta.