Ragù di Carne is the traditional Italian meat sauce, and while there are many regional variations, this one has a Tuscan twist. It begins with most good Italian sauces, with an Italian soffritto—finely chopped carrot, celery, and onion sautéed in olive oil—which is similar to the French mirepoix.
An authentic Italian-style ragù, unlike the meat sauce commonly made in the United States, is mostly meat with a little tomato, but you can create your sauce with more or less liquid based on your taste and how you wish to use it. For example, if it’s part of a lasagna cooked with dried pasta, make the sauce more liquidy; if it’s part of a lasagna made with fresh pasta sheets, keep the sauce dryer.
Except for Potato Tortelli With Tuscan Ragu meat sauce, here are some dishes that go with this Tuscan meat sauce.
Recipe for Ragù di Carne (Tuscan Meat Sauce)
Of course, before we get into the various Ragù dishes, let’s start with the sauce recipe.
This recipe includes a few unusual ingredients that are entirely optional: fish sauce, Japanese soy sauce or tamari, and Worcestershire sauce. They all bring umami (a pleasant savory flavor) to your recipe. It is employed in such small amounts that the individual flavors are undetectable, and it does not affect the traditional taste profile of an Italian ragù.
If you don’t have such ingredients or prefer not to use them, the recipe will still be delicious.
For the Soffritto:
- 1 cup small diced onion
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup small-diced celery
- 1/2 cup small-diced carrot
For the Ragù:
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
- 1/2 ounce prosciutto (around 4-5 paper-thin slices)
- 4 ounces ground beef
- 4 ounces ground pork or one sweet Italian pork sausage (casing removed)
- 12 ounces tomato puree
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
- Fine sea salt (to taste)
- 1 pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest ( finely grated)
- 1 to 2 drops of fish sauce (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon soy sauce or tamari sauce (optional)
- 1 to 2 drops Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Prepare the Soffritto:
- Collect all of the ingredients.
- Heat olive oil over a medium-low fire in a big, heavy-bottomed pot. Sauté the carrot, onion, and celery for about 20 minutes, or until softened and reduced slightly, and the onions are mildly caramelized.
Prepare the Ragù:
- Collect all of the ingredients.
- While the soffritto is cooking, rehydrate the dried mushrooms: Set aside for about 15 minutes in a small bowl with adequate warm water to cover the dried porcini.
- When the mushrooms have softened, drain them, reserving the soaking water in another bowl. Set aside the finely chopped mushrooms.
- Cook until the tomato paste darkens and thickens, about 2 minutes, in the soffritto.
- Increase the heat to brown the meat, frequently stirring with a wooden spoon, after adding the prosciutto, ground beef, and pork.
- Stir in the wine for about 1 minute, or until most of the alcohol aroma has evaporated, loosening and dissolving any bits glued to the bottom of the pot.
- Stir in the tomato puree and chopped porcini until well combined.
- Season with pepper, salt, and freshly ground nutmeg to taste. If using, combine 1 or 2 drops Worcestershire sauce, 1 or 2 drops soy sauce or tamari, and 1 or 2 drops fish sauce.
- Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Allow your Ragù to simmer for at least 1 hour, ideally 2 or 3 hours. Check it from time to time, and if it appears to be too dry, add some more of the mushroom soaking brine. (Flavor-saving advice: Pour the mushroom-soaking brine into the unused tomato puree jar to avoid wasting any puree.)
- Remove your sauce from the heat and mix in the finely grated lemon zest. This also appears to be unconventional, but the hint of brightness balances out the thick richness of the meat sauce and holds all of the other flavors together.
- Serve immediately or prep with different types of pasta and enjoy.
What Should You Serve With Ragù?
Pappardelle With Tuscan Ragu
Slow-cooked braised beef ragu with garlic, onions, fresh basil, San Marzano tomatoes, and parmesan rind. The meat absorbs all flavors and falls apart when shredded with a fork. Tender and saucy, this dish is best served over pappardelle pasta.
Ragù Alla Bolognese
Ragù is the epitome of Bolognese cuisine: lavish yet restrained, rich yet balanced, meaty yet fresh-tasting. This dish adheres to the principles of a traditional ragù. It is critical to finely chop the vegetables until they are the size of rice grains.
Wild Boar Ragù With Fresh Pasta
The braised, tender wild boar adds an incredible flavor to this beautiful pasta, among the most famous dishes in the region, inspired by a no-hassle Tuscan restaurant recipe. You won’t be disappointed with this dish when served with silky pappardelle.
Fennel and Sausage Ragù With Tagliatelle
This rich sausage ragù is fragrant with fennel, rich with cream, and served with homemade tagliatelle. This is the pasta dish that people always order in Italian restaurants. It’s easiest to replicate the flavor at home by using high-quality sausage meat and seasoning it with garlic, fennel seeds, chili, salt, rosemary, and black pepper.
Oxtail Ragù With Gnocchi
There aren’t words to express how mouthwatering this dish is. Delicious and decadent, this fresh, freshly made plantain gnocchi topped with oxtails slow-cooked for hours in a rich ragù sauce is ideal for a special date night or as a treat for yourself (because, yes, you deserve it).
Short Rib Ragù With Orange-Parsley Gremolata
this ragù stands out from the crowd with the addition of ground allspice, fennel seeds, and hot habanero sauce. It tastes much better after a day or two in the fridge, as do most great braises, making it the perfect do-ahead dish for entertaining. Search for meaty short ribs; they can be skimpy, consisting primarily of bones.
For a fresh, bright finish, the ragù is topped with gremolata. Traditional gremolata is made with garlic, parsley, and lemon zest, but in this recipe, the lemon is replaced with orange zest, which pairs well with the habanero and fennel in the ragù.