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Italian Recipe: Ragu (Bolognese sauce)

A bowl of Italian ragu or bolognese and tortellini with parmesanMy recent trip to Bologna in Italy really opened my eyes to Bolognese sauce, or ragu. Usually, like many, I would prepare spaghetti bolognese (the horror!) and it would take me about 30 minutes.  I learnt, almost as soon as I arrived in Bologna that the ragu (what bolognese is called in Italy) is most definitely never served with spaghetti (in Bologna it was usually tortellini, sometimes penne) and the sauce cooks for hours.  I also learnt that it can taste absolutely amazing and is absolutely worth the wait!

Trying to research for this recipe I also discovered that pretty much everyone has a different version.  But I did find that most had a similar ingredients, including milk, a variety of meats, tomato, onion and wine.

This version is a combination of what I learnt.


  • knob of butter and a dash of olive oil
  • 1 onion, cut finely
  • 1 carrot, cut finely (or grated)
  • 2 celery sticks, cut finely
  • 50 gr finely diced pancetta
  • 200 gr minced beef
  • 200 gr minced pork
  • 30 gr chicken liver, finely diced
  • 150 ml whole milk (not skim)
  • grated nutmeg
  • 150 ml white wine
  • 400 ml (1 can) tomatoes
  • salt and pepper

In a large dish that has a lid and can go on the stove, melt the butter and add a little oil, so the butter doesn’t burn.  Over a medium heat, add the onion and stir until they are soft.

Add the carrots, celery and pancetta.  Stir over the medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.

Add the beef and pork and break apart with a wooden spoon, while browning all over.  Add the liver and cook for another couple of minutes.  On a low heat now, add the milk and some nutmeg and allow this to simmer until all the milk has been absorbed.  This can take a while, around half an hour, but do keep an eye on it.

Once the milk has been fully absorbed, add the wine, tomatoes, half a can of water and a little salt and pepper (you can always taste and add more later).  Keep the temperature low and cover with a lid.  This can now cook for as long as you have the time.  At least 3 hours, more if you can.  Keep checking on it every 1/2 hour to an hour to make sure that it won’t burn.  Add a little water if you need.  Taste and season if need be.

Serve the ragu or bolognese with pasta (not spaghetti if you can!), a little grated parmesan and enjoy with a big salad and a good glass of red wine.

The last time I made ragu was for friends and I cooked it the day before and reheated the next day and the flavours were even better.  This ragu or bolognese sauce is just like a curry, always better on day two.


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1 Response

  1. Trudi says:

    This will be a must to try once we’re back home. Sound great!!

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