Spaghetti con Ragù alla Bolognese (Tomato Meat Sauce)

Pasta con ragu' is my Italian comfort food.   After splurging on different contemporary dishes, it's a relief to go back to basic and taste this familiar tomato and meat sauce sprinkled with a torrential amount of parmigiano reggianoRagu' is the tomato and meat sauce popularized worldwide with the name bolognese.  It's actually ragu' alla bolognese.   Bolognese signifies that it comes from Bologna, Italy. 

Like any other classic dish in Italy, every family holds on to a recipe passed on from the grandmothers of the grandmothers.  More often than not, the ragu' is usually excellent, whatever variation it may be.  The meat can vary from pancetta, salsiccia, ground pork, veal, beef, chicken, rabbit & wild boar.   The pasta that is associated with it is tagliatelle.  Then there are also pappardelle, spaghetti, pici, and so on. 

When in Tuscany, I can never stop myself from ordering pici al ragu' di cinghiale or wild boar in the restaurants.  It's an addiction.  Pici is a type of handmade pasta that is made of water, flour & some eggs.  It is a specialty of the southern part of Tuscany, specifically Siena.  A trip to Tuscany cannot end without a conclusive plate of this more than wonderful pasta.  When my husband and I still had a lot of time in our hands (Sigh. When no kids have taken over our time yet.), we would drive for 5 hours back and forth to Montepulciano just to have a plate of pici in Ristorante L'Angolo where the grandmother of the owner was still doing the pasta with her own hands.  And the ragu' di cinghiale is without a doubt, the best I have ever tried.  We never regretted the 5-hour drive!  Even if it's less frequent now, we still include a lunch there whenever we are passing through.

Pici al ragu' di cinghiale in a restaurant in Siena, Tuscany.
I have had my ragu' recipe for about 11 years and never looked for another one after my first dry run.  I got it from a pasta packaging and thought of giving it a try.  I was curious about its exclusive use of tomato concentrate instead of a can of tomato sauce or pulp.   I just took away the butter from the original recipe and decided to use 100% extra virgin olive oil, I lessened the garlic and added more water because the sauce keeps on drying up.  The first time I cooked it was such a hit that everyone gave me compliments even after months they tried it.   No one believed me that I just lifted the recipe from a pasta packaging.  Who actually takes these recipes seriously?  Me.  And it's a good thing I did or I wouldn't have discovered this delicious ragu' recipe that I will pass on to my kids then to their kids and so on. 

Spaghetti con Ragu' alla Bolognese

Serves 4
  • 260 g. tomato concentrate or paste
  • 250 ml. Marsala wine 
  • 250 ml. water   
  • extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 onion, finely chopped  
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped 
  • 200 g. ground veal or beef
  • 200 g. ground pork
  • 250 g. passata di pomodoro (tomato puree)
  • salt & pepper
  • parmigiano reggiano (parmesan), grated
  • 400 g. spaghetti
  1. In a bowl, mix the tomato concentrate, Marsala and water then set aside.
  2. Over medium heat, in a saucepan, sautè the garlic with extra virgin olive oil.  When it turns golden brown, discard.
  3. Add the chopped onion & carrot. Toast for about 3 minutes then add the meat.
  4. Pour the tomato concentrate mixture & tomato puree when the meat changes color.  Cover.  Simmer for an hour on low fire.  Stir occasionally.  If the sauce is drying up, add hot water.
  5. Season with salt & pepper.
  6. While waiting for the sauce to cook, boil the water for the spaghetti.  Put a generous amount of salt when the water boils.  Cook the spaghetti following the number of minutes suggested in the package.  
  7. When the spaghetti is cooked, mix with the ragù.  Sprinkle a generous amount of grated parmigiano reggiano.