Ragu: Is there a perfect recipe for this delicious meat sauce?

January 28, 2016

Ragu: Is there a perfect recipe for this delicious meat sauce?

Photo: "The flavours of Tuscany" Sughi e primi piatti page 80 Tortelli di patate di Cetica al ragù

Ragu: Is there a perfect recipe for this delicious meat sauce?

Ragu (meat sauce), also known as "bolognese sauce" around the world, is one of the most famous sauces in the world. If you haven’t tried it yet on pasta, you probably tasted it while you enjoyed lasagne, or as a stuffing for the famous cannelloni. Everybody knows this delicious sauce, but very few people know where the name ragu (ragù in Italian) comes from. It comes from the French word ragoût, chopped up meat stewed with tomato and other ingredients.

Many of the travellers and adventurers who visit Torre del Tartufo, the living heart of Tuscookany, sooner or later end up asking for it. Still, chefs all over the planet have been asking for quite some times if there is a perfect ragu recipe. The questions are seemingly endless. Should you use pork meat and dairy? Is it a matter of slow cooking? Maybe it all depends on whether or not you use red wine, or maybe is all about personal taste?

Truth be told, this wonderful meat sauce varies in the different regions of Italy. It is an expression of the changing Italian landscapes, a mirror of the many micro cultures that constitute the most precious Italian treasure. The ingredients vary depending on availability and traditions, but the most famous one was born in Emilia and then spread to Tuscany. The meat sauce of Naples has also an old tradition and often the people of Campania, where Naples is situated, claim their region is the birthplace of the original recipe. The main difference is how the meat is chopped, bigger in the Neapolitan version, and the habit in Bologna to add some sausage, making it thicker.  The real secret of a good meat sauce, however, is hidden in the quality of its ingredients and in the time needed to make it cook gently so that meat can flavor tomato with its taste, while aromatic herbs and vegetables can mix up together in a perfect symphony.

A little side note here is necessary. In the Italian cuisine, you always need to consider details and traditions. In this case remember that, even if they are both important in the cuisine of Emilia, meat sauce and spaghetti must not be mixed up together. The people of Bologna would never do that, and the Tuscans know it too well. In fact, the ideal companions are tagliatelle, lasagne, and almost any egg-pasta and also dried "small" pasta.  But then again at Tuscookany we believe in the kitchen there are no rules so if you like spaghetti with Ragu or a filled pasta with ragu – go for it!

An essential ingredient of a good Bolognese/Tuscan ragu is a pinch of imagination, which Italians certainly have. Therefore, the meat sauce had to be adapted depending on available ingredients. You can have wild game ragu (fantastic with polenta [cornmeal mush]), duck ragu, Chianina ragu, vegetarian ragu... some people also add grated pecorino cheese or Parmesan cheese, a little raw extra virgin olive oil, and the magic is done.

Poor families had a special recipe with chicken livers, hearts and offal instead of beef or pork meat. Even though it might seem unusual, these "poor" meats, properly cooked by allowing them all the necessary time to boil in a ripe tomato sauce, become a delicious sauce, with a strong yet exquisite taste, that has nothing less than the noble and traditional recipe.

Learn how to cook this wonderful culinary treasure with our Tuscookany chefs, a wonderful sauce the people of both Emilia Romagna and Tuscany consider part of their own heritage.

Want to share your thoughts on Ragu? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below:


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