Ultimate Italian Beef Ragu

Nothing speaks comfort like a plate of hot pasta topped with this robust and flavorful beef ragu!  This beef ragu recipe is one of my all-time favorite pasta sauces and is a regular in our home.  Rich and hearty and positively PACKED with flavor, we’re confident you’re going to love it too!

beef ragu recipe beef pasta bolognese best Italian from scratch

This is one of my all-time favorite pasta sauces and it’s one that my kids and husband regularly request.  There’s never a drop left on their plates and they usually reach for seconds.  Besides being absolutely delicious, another reason I love this dish is that the sauce can be made well in advance, the flavor only improves with time, and I can double or even triple the recipe so I have leftovers on hand during a busy week.  It’s also a great potluck dish to feed a crowd.

Also known as Ragu di Carne, this traditional Italian meat sauce is a wonderful stick-to-your-ribs eating experience.  I make mine with ground beef, sausage, and bacon for a flavor-packed sauce.  I also include onions, garlic, carrots, celery, Roma tomatoes, tomato sauce, red wine, heavy cream, and Italian herbs.  And for an additional punch of umami you can include some dried ground porcini mushrooms.  The vegetables are caramelized in butter and olive oil and the ragu is cooked on low for an hour.  The end result will wow your taste buds!

Ragu vs Bolognese – What is the Difference?

Ragu and bolognese are both Italian meat sauces and are quite similar, but one of the main differences between the two is that ragu is often heavier on the tomatoes than bolognese.  Ragu is also usually a bit chunkier and thicker while bolognese is a little “saucier” (though by American spaghetti sauce standards bolognese is quite thick as well).  These differences can be very subtle though and vary from one family recipe to another.

Ragu also differs from Italian-American spaghetti sauce in that it is generally thicker and is made with a larger variety of ingredients, including more vegetables.

What is the Best Pasta to Serve with Beef Ragu?

This ragu sauce pairs well with any kind of pasta, be it spaghetti, fettuccine, rotini, rigatoni, penne, macaroni, etc, or to make a fabulous lasagna.  But wide pasta is particularly great for thick sauces like ragu because the large surface area enables the chunky sauce to click to it.  So when given the choice I recommend pappardelle.

Can I Make Beef Ragu in Advance?

You sure can!  In fact the flavor only gets better, so we recommend making it a day in advance.  And while you’re at it make a double batch so you can enjoy the leftovers!

How to Make Vegetarian or Vegan Ragu

It’s easy!  You can substitute the bacon for a product like Morningstar Veggie Bacon Strips,  Morningstar Italian Sausage Crumbles, and use TVP instead of ground beef.  See the recipe below for substitution info.

Does Beef Ragu Freeze Well?

Yes, it does!  This is one of those sauces I always like to have on hand in my freezer for a quick and ready meal.  You can freeze it for up to 4 months and reheat it in the microwave or on the stovetop.  Stir it into hot pasta and your meal is ready to go!

beef ragu recipe beef pasta bolognese best Italian from scratch

Beef Ragu Recipe

Let’s get started!

Heat a heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high and fry the bacon until done.

Add the butter and olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrot and cook until tender but not browned, about 10 minutes.

cooking bacon and veggies

Add the ground beef and sausage and cook, breaking up the lumps, until no longer pink, about 10 minutes.

Add the wine, bring to a boil, and simmer for 2 minutes.

cooking ground beef and wine

Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, heavy cream and remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 60-90 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove the lid and cook for an additional 30 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

simmering sauce

Serve with hot al dente pasta of your choice along with a sprinkle with Parmesan-Reggiano cheese.

Note: This sauce is even better the next day after the flavors have had more time to meld!


beef ragu recipe beef pasta bolognese best Italian from scratch

For more delicious meat sauces be sure to try our:

Originally published on The Daring Gourmet March 2, 2021

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