There are dozens of versions of ragù which are favourites in different regions of Italy. During our cooking classes in Tuscany, we teach this Tuscan version (using not much tomato). You can use this basic recipe, then experiment with quantities of wine, tomato and spices (replace the nutmeg with cinnamon for a completely different sauce!) and create your own ragù repertoire.
- 250 g (1/2 lb) good quality ground (minced) beef
- 1 Italian sausage (or a handful of minced pork if you can't get an Italian sausage)
- 3 medium carrots, peeled
- 3 large sticks of celery, strings removed if stringy
- 2 large onions, peeled
- Handful of parsley, stalks only
- Good bunch of sage, leaves only (around 20 large leaves)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 whole nutmeg
- Olive oil
- 650 g (1 1/2 lb) good quality crushed tomatoes
- A cup or two of white OR red wine OR vin santo – for different effects!
- Vegetable stock as needed (a cup or two)
- A good handful of Parmesan cheese
- Chop the carrots, celery, parsley and onions finely, using either a mezzaluna or a food processor (careful that you don't form a mush!) Separately, chop the herbs and garlic finely.
- Heat a little oil in a saucepan and fry the above on a gentle heat until the vegetables are soft.
- Add the ground beef and fry until the meat is very brown (10 minutes or so). Add salt and pepper. (If you wish, for a different, drier texture, you can fry the beef separately with a little garlic until it is well browned and then add to the vegetables).
- Add the garlic, herbs and half the grated nutmeg. Fry a little longer, being careful that the garlic does not burn.
- Add the wine, mix well and cook further, allowing it to evaporate.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, mix well and allow to cook on a low heat for at least an hour, adding wine or stock if the sauce looks as though it is drying out. The longer you cook it, the better it will be!
- Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water, salted just before you add the pasta. Cook it al dente (a good minute or two less than the packet instructions, until it is cooked but still firm to the bite). Keep some cooking water aside.
- In a warmed bowl, combine the pasta with the pasta sauce. Add some cooking water if the result seems too dry. Either add freshly grated Parmesan cheese now or at the table.