Recipe: Real Ragu

I’ve been meaning to blog my recipe for bolognese for ages, but usually, in my haste to make a batch of rich, meaty goodness, I forget to grab my camera.  Not so this time.

This bolognese is based on proper authentic ragu from Bologna – the home of bolognese.  My sister’s boyfriend is Italian, hailing from a town close to Bologna, and his mum brings over ragu she makes when she visits.  It’s not like British bolognese, and there is not a jar of Dolmio to be seen.  It’s drier than what we are used to here in the UK, and very very rich, meaning you don’t need much, and a batch of this goes a long way.  I serve mine the way Italians do – a little of the sauce stirred into pasta cooked al dente.


To make a batch of ragu that will happily serve 10, you’ll need:

120g of cubetti di pancetta
800g fresh beef mince.  I cannot stress enough how much you need to use fresh and not frozen mince in this recipe.
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, grated
1 courgette, grated
1 stick of celery, finely sliced
half a pint of beef stock
a big glass of red wine, but don’t be too militant with the measure, add another big glug for good luck.
2 – 3 tbsp tomato puree
half a tsp fresh grated nutmeg
salt and pepper


First, gently fry the pancetta on a medium heat in a deep pan – preferably one with a lid.  You can add a teaspoon of olive oil to get it going but pancetta will release a lot of its fat when cooked.

ragu, vegetables

Add to the pan the grated carrot and courgette, onion and celery, stir to incorporate the pancetta and clamp on the lid.  At this point you don’t want the moisture from the veg to evaporate otherwise its all likely to catch on the bottom of the pan.  Stir occasionally and allow to render down for approximately 10 minutes.

bolognese wine

At this point pour in the wine.  It will bubble and the alcohol will evaporate off in no time.



Add the beef mince to the pan and stir (you may have noticed there is a fair bit of stirring in this recipe).  Keep stirring and moving the meat around in the pan to break up the pieces until it has browned.  Do NOT skim off the fat released from the mince – you’ll just get rid of an awful lot of flavour.  At this point add the tomato puree, and then the beef stock.

bolognese nutmeg

Grate in half a teaspoon of fresh nutmeg, and season with a bit of salt and pepper.  Clamp on the lid and allow the bolognese to simmer for a good four hours on a very low heat – you don’t want it to catch and burn.  Give it a stir every half an hour or so.  You’ll find the longer you can simmer it for the softer the meat becomes and the richer the flavour.


This amount of sauce will be plenty for about 10 servings, and is great for portioning off and freezing.  Serve stirred through the pasta rather than sitting on top of it, the oil will coat the pasta really beautifully.

I don’t often have four hours in one stretch to let this sit cooking on the hob.  So I let it cook until I have to go out, then turn off the hob but leave the sauce sitting in the pan.  When I get back I whack the hob back on and resume its cooking.

As I mentioned above, you’ll find this ragu is quite dry, but don’t let that put you off as it’s richness more than makes up for the lack of a tomatoey sauce.  This ragu is completely delicious and my go-to recipe for bolognese.


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