I'd just learned to make Ragu Sauce in a tiny Tuscan hill town when I wrote this sentence in my journal: "I am skeptical about the recipes; they are so simple. But they mock me by being delicious!" We had just finished a cooking class and Giovanna was our teacher.
At Podera Vignale, a small farm and agriturismo in rural Tuscany, Giovanna taught us to make traditional Italian delights. Her Ragu Sauce recipe, in particular, stood out as a revelation. Made with just a few basic ingredients, it's a dish that speaks to the heart of Italian cooking, where simplicity and quality reign.
Ingredients You Need to Make Ragu Sauce
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: Choose a high-quality oil with a fresh, fruity aroma.
- Onion: Select a firm yellow onion with smooth skin.
- Carrot: Look for bright orange carrots that are firm to the touch.
- Celery: Opt for crisp stalks with vibrant green leaves.
- Ground Beef: Use fresh, lean ground beef.
- Tomato Sauce: A smooth, flavorful tomato sauce without additives is ideal (San Marzano are ideal).
- Fine Sea Salt: A fine grind ensures even seasoning.
- Red Wine: A dry, full-bodied red wine works well.
- Tagliatelle: Any broad, flat pasta can work, but tagliatelle is a classic choice.
- Parmesan Cheese: Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano provides the best flavor.
- Parsley: Fresh, minced Italian parsley adds color and freshness.
Hands-On Cooking Class in Tuscany
When we remember our trip to Italy, above all, we remember the wonderful people that we met along the way. Giovanna and her father Carlo are two of those people.
First there was the cooking class with Giovanna, with gravity defying, dirt road adventures, hand-drawn fifty-eights to frighten flies, and mouth-watering recipes. You can read more about that here. The very next day we spent with Carlo, Giovanna's father, zipping along rural Tuscan roads to organic vineyards and olive groves, with an emergency detour to the vet for a viper-bitten dog - again, more here.
Since then, Giovanna and I have kept in close contact and have become good friends. And she is graciously letting me share her recipe for authentic Italian Ragù Sauce. I asked Giovanna to share a little bit about her story so that you'll feel like you know her. I loved what she wrote, so I'll share it in her words:
Meet Your Italian Cooking Teacher: Giovanna
I was born and grew up in Como. I started my biology degree at the university of Milan, but at a certain point decided to travel and have some other experiences. So I went to San Francisco to work in a marine biology rescue center, then on to Puglia, south of Italy, to do my final project or thesis for my biology degree. There I was studying a lone, sociable dolphin.
In Puglia I met my future husband and fell in love with him and in 2001 followed him to Tuscany. In that time, my father was opening the farmhouse so I decided to help him for a while, but then it became my job - forgetting about my studies and my university ... I've lost the pleasure to study, I thought it was for nothing ... bad mistake !!!
in 2006 i got married and in 2007 Marco was born. With the baby I could not work full time at the farmhouse, staying so far from my husband so I moved to Livorno. Together we looked for a house. We found a lovely house in Fauglia (Pisa) that we bought and it's where we are living now. This house, my sweet home now, became my little nest and now it's where I can think about my projects; where I can test recipes and write my blog; and where I often leave to go to Podere Vignali.
I love my life in Fauglia, that it's in the province of Pisa but 20km from Livorno. I've met nice people and new friends. With 2 moms we started to walk around Pisa to discover new places and have a lot of fun. My life is now divided between Fauglia where I can have my "everyday" normal but nice routine, and Podere Vignali where I'm very happy to meet people from other countries and makes new friends, like you Marissa.
- Simplicity Equals Flavor: Though it may appear unassuming, you'll be rewarded with a complex, chunky pasta sauce that's almost magical in taste.
- No Need for Extras: When making it, resist the urge to add more flavors such as black pepper or herbs. Trust the process, and savor the authentic flavors.
- Versatile Sauce: This hearty meat sauce can be the star in various dishes, like Bolognese Sauce recipe (reminiscent of ragu, but enriched with pancetta and heavy cream), or even Lasagna with Cottage Cheese.
- Fun and Easy Pasta Making: Paired with homemade pasta, like Food Processor Pasta Dough, the experience becomes fast and enjoyable.
- More Italian-Inspired Pasta Recipes:
- If red wine is not available or preferred, white wine can be a suitable substitute, offering a slightly lighter and tangier flavor to the sauce.
- While the recipe calls for tagliatelle, you have the flexibility to use fresh pasta of your choice, enhancing the dish's homemade quality. (It's easy to make your own with this Food Processor Pasta Dough recipe.)
- A blend of meat, such as ground beef and ground pork can add flavor complexity to the sauce.
Rich in flavor and comforting in texture, this Ragu Sauce recipe will transport you straight to the rustic Italian countryside with every bite. It’s perfect when paired with broad, flat pasta like tagliatelle and embodies the soulful cooking that makes Italian cuisine so cherished. Whether you're an experienced cook or just beginning your culinary journey, this sauce offers a taste of tradition that's both accessible and satisfying.
How to Make Ragu Sauce
Cook onion, carrot and celery in olive oil until onion is translucent.
Add ground beef and cook and stir until browned.
Stir in red wine and a pinch of salt; let simmer until the wine has evaporated.
Stir in tomato sauce; cover and let simmer on low for one hour, stirring occasionally.
Serve tossed with a broad, flat pasta like tagliatelle cooked according to package directions. Top with
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 carrot finely chopped
- 1 rib celery finely chopped
- 1 lb ground beef
- 16 ounces tomato sauce
- pinch fine sea salt
- 5 ounces red wine
- coarse salt
- 16 ounces tagliatelle or other broad, flat pasta
- grated Parmigiano Reggiano for serving, optional
- minced Italian parsley for serving, optional
- Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery; cook and stir until the onion becomes translucent. Add ground beef, cook and stir until browned.
- Add a pinch of salt and red wine, stir, and let it evaporate. When all the liquid is gone, add tomato sauce, stir, season with coarse salt to taste. Cover and let simmer very slow at low heat for an hour or a little more. Stir the sauce occasionally to ensure that it's not beginning to stick on the bottom.
- Serve tossed with broad, flat pasta – such as tagliatelle – cooked according to package directions. Top with Parmigiano Reggiano and parsley if desired.
- If you like a saucier pasta, use the sauce to serve 4 and reduce the amount of pasta to 8 to 12 ounces.
- A note from Giovanna: "Remember you have to follow slowly all the steps, never be in a hurry… about a couple of hours to prepare it!"