It isn’t a stew, it’s a ragu

In Recipes on July 29, 2011 at 4:54 am

In Italy you would not necessarily see the sort of Bolognese sauce we serve up here in Australia.  This sauce at its most basic is  onion, garlic, dried basil, beef mince, tomato and seasonings all boiled up together and served over spaghetti.  Some people may add diced carrot and celery to the mix but it is still quite different in texture to the meat ragu style sauces that would be served in an Italian trattoria or home kitchen.  In Italy mince would not be used and the ragu could include any meat from beef to veal or duck.  I like to serve my ragu with rigatoni instead of the usual spaghetti as the large holes in the pasta tubes are good for trapping the rich sauce.

Ragu served with rigatoni

Beef Ragu  


750 g topside or blade steak (cubed)

2 rashers bacon or 3-4 thin slices pancetta

1 large onion

1 large carrot

2 stalks celery

1 medium bulb fennel

2 cloves garlic (minced)

1 tbs tomato paste

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp all spice

1 bay leaf

1 sprig fresh rosemary

2 strips orange zest (I use a potato peeler)

1 cup red wine

1 tin diced Italian tomatoes

1 cup beef stock

freshly ground black pepper

1-2 tbs olive oil


flour for dusting


Finely dice the onion, fennel, celery and carrot.  Chop the bacon or pancetta.  Dust the meat with the flour.  Heat some of the oil in a large heavy based saucepan.  Brown the meat in batches.  Remove and set aside.  Add a little more oil to the pan and gently fry the onion, fennel, celery, carrot, bacon and garlic.  Add the dried oregano, bay leaf, all spice, orange zest and tomato paste.  Fry for 1 min.  Add the red wine and cook for a further 2 mins.  Add the tomatoes, beef stock and 1 cup water.  Return the meat to the pan and season with pepper – don’t add salt at this point as the bacon and the beef stock can be salty, you can adjust your seasoning to taste at the end of the cooking time.  Bring to the boil, cover and reduce to a low simmer.  Cook for two hours stirring occasionally.  When the beef is almost falling apart, remove lid and reduce sauce for 15 mins.  Make sure there is still plenty of sauce.  Serve over rigatoni or large penne pasta.

Tasty and filling

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