Fr. Z’s Kitchen: Sunday Ragù

Lately, Sundays have found me in the kitchen making something interesting… to me, at least.   Yesterday I had a hankerin’ for Ragù alla bolognese.

When I say “ragù” I don’t mean something in a jar!  Ragù alla bolognese is a classic from one of the truly amazing foodie regions of Italy – and that’s saying a lot – Emilia-Romagna and, so they say, Bologna in particular.  The denizens of Bologna, as a matter of fact, have codified the “official” recipe via their chamber of commerce.   You can use this ragù (French ragoût from ragoûter… “revive flavor”) directly on various shapes of pasta or as a layer with lasagne.   Broad, flat noodles, such as tagliatelle and pappardelle are great.  I used the latter, dried.  I was a too lazy to make fresh.

This sauce is easy to make, but you need patience and time.

I used the afrementioned “official” recipe I found online and even measured my ingredients in grams with a scale.

The usual soffritto involves the holy trinity of carrot, celery and onion.  I got this going and then added finely chopped pancetta and let it get some good color.  A couple grinds of pepper went in at this point but I withheld the salt.

The beef I had was ground chuck, so it had a good deal of fat.  I gave it a good browning and then added a generous slosh of white wine which then completely evaporated.

I did the soffritto and the beef in separate pans with the plan of combining everything in a medium sized sauce pan for the slow cooking.

Combining with the tomato.  I had just the right amount – 100 g – of strained tomato left from another project.

The addition of and reduction of some beef broth. There is already a rather creamy texture from the fat of the pancetta.

In goes the milk.   I had just a tiny bit of heavy cream left from last Wednesday’s pottage.  It went in.   During the hours of cooking that followed, I adjusted it with the small additions of broth and I skimmed a little of the fat that rose to the surface.  Next time, I will wait until I am well into the slow cooking time to add the milk/cream.  Putting it in at this point was too early.

Meanwhile, I am really looking forward to the end of winter.  It started out pretty mild, but then it got nasty.  We’ve had days and days and days of freezing rain.  Everything is covered with ice.

The official recipe suggests about 2 hours of cooking time.   Four hours later – on really low heat – I’m thinking about the pasta.  Egg pappardelle.

Ecco!   Pappardelle con ragù alla bolognese.

This portion rests on a discreet bed of chopped parsley.   Down it went with a 100% Sangiovese (Jupiter’s blood).  I now have in the freezer another portion awaiting its eschaton.

As it turned out, I had no need to introduce salt.  The ingredients themselves and the sprinkling of cheese was just right.

Yes, it was every bit as good as it should have been.   Some company would have been the only thing that could have improved it.


In retrospect, a Norcia beer would have gone well with this!   And it’s made by terrific, traditional Benedictines!

Consider joining the “beer club” which helps the monastery.  HERE

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Fr. Z's Kitchen and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Marg says:

    Wish we had known you needed company for dinner…my husband and I would have made
    a trip out there…looks delicious!

  2. rcg says:

    Sadly, for many years I thought ‘cacio e’ pepe’ was a puppet show.

  3. Art says:

    It all looks so tasty! Emilia-Romagna: isn’t that where Don Camillo hails from?

  4. Julia_Augusta says:

    Looks delicious! You reminded me to cook ragù alla bolognese, one of my favourite dishes of all time. I make the 5-hour version. Same recipe as yours, but everything goes into a Le Creuset, then into an oven for slow cooking over 5 hours. It’s much better the next day. As for pasta, I used to make pappardelle from scratch, but semolina flour is very expensive (where I live).

  5. Adeo3 says:

    Is it possible to obtain this recipe in English? Looks wonderful, thank you for Sharing Father!

  6. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Cream or milk are almost always the last ingredients to go into a simmer dish or a soup. But it is nice of you to to show that if it goes in earlier, it is not necessarily a disaster.

    [HARDLY. This was exceptionally good. I’ll make it for my mother for her birthday.]

  7. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    Mmmm. My mother used to make a very slow-cooked sauce much like this. She was half-Italian but never called it ragù, just spaghetti sauce. It was years before I learned there are other pastas and other sauces. Then I went to Italy. A few nights in a hotel in Padua that had a pasta bar every evening advanced my education. I read recently that the mayor of Bologna is on a campaign against “spaghetti Bolognese,” which he says doesn’t exist, although thousands of tourists come to the city every year and ask for it. He says the proper dish is this ragù with taggliatelle or another flat pasta, such as your pappardelle.

    You inspire me. Ragù coming up! Buon appetito!

Comments are closed.