How to Make Hearty Ragu Sauce
This post shows How to Make Hearty Ragu Sauce, an authentic Italian Ragu with ground lamb and pork, simmered slowly for hours. Delicious served over rigatoni giganti pasta.
Slow cooking demonstrates so much love and so many deep flavors in a recipe. This hearty ragu sauce is a perfect example. Ragu is the quintessential comfort food, and I love it for fall.
Last week, my daughter was cooking for hours in the kitchen, experimenting with a homemade ragu sauce made with lamb and pork. If you know anything about ragu, it’s a comfort dish made with a lot of love (many hours simmering with delicious flavors).
My dad and his wife, Ginny, were here this past week (for a whole week!), and Abby cooked us this delicious Hearty Ragu Sauce recipe, served over rigatoni pasta.
We actually got to eat dinners together four nights in a row! That hasn’t happened since I was a kid living at home.
This is what I love about my daughter. She’s good at stopping everything, and taking in the moment—simply cooking recipes from scratch. Sometimes it takes one hour, or even more. I love seeing Abby so relaxed when she cooks.
She was deep into a ragu recipe, when I asked her if we could serve it for dinner, since Grandpa was coming.
How to make Hearty Ragu Sauce
A ragu recipe can take anywhere from two to six hours, depending on how deeply flavored you want your meat sauce — and how traditional the recipe is. We used a mix of lamb and pork for our recipe, with baby bell peppers.
Does Ragu have meat in it?
Ragu is not Bolognese. Ragu is a meat-based (veal, beef, lamb, pork, fish or poultry) sauce, with a small amount of tomato sauce added to it.
What defines a ragu?
A hearty, seasoned Italian sauce of meat and tomatoes. Here are the ingredients for our recipe:
- Ground lamb
- Ground pork
- Chopped onions
How to make rigatoni giganti pasta
Rigatoni giganti pasta takes 9-10 minutes for el dente texture.
- Bring a large pot of salted water (no oil!) to a boil, add pasta, and allow water to return to a boil.
- When the water returns to a boil, start the timer for 9-10 minutes.
- A few minutes before the time is up, remove 1/3 cup of pasta water and add it to the sauce—this helps the sauce stick to the pasta.
- When time is up, immediately strain the noodles, and gently rinse under cold water.
Bringing people together is sacred
Something sacred happens when we bring people together around the table for a meal.
Obviously, we set out the food and invite others in, and then the conversation starts to flow, and stories are told. Really good stuff happens. It goes deeper than the stories, deep into our souls—it’s sacred and it changes us.
If we never make mealtime happen, we miss one of the richest moments in our lives.
When bringing people together, we never know how one invitation can help or change another person, young or old, family or new people in our lives.
We feel God’s grace when we host, or at least I do, and then I feel so honored that I can extend that grace to others!
Hearty Ragu Sauce
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1/4 c olive oil
- 1 Tbsp chili flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 7 oz can tomato paste
- 28 oz canned whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
- 3-4 stalks celery cut into 1/4’’ pieces
- 1 bunch carrots (4-5 medium), cut into 1/4’’ pieces
- 1 large shallot diced
- 8-10 baby bell peppers cut into 1 inch thick strips, seeded
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 cinnamon sticks optional
- 1/2 c red wine
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 c vegetable or chicken stock
- 17 oz rigatoni giganti pasta or other
- Pecorino cheese grated
- Fresh basil finely chopped
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil on medium-high. When oil is hot, add the pork and lamb—use your fingers to break it up into smaller pieces. Allow meat to sit and brown in oil before stirring.
- Add the pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Stir periodically, until meat is fully cooked, then remove from pan with a slotted spoon, in order to keep the fats in the pan to cook the aromatics and vegetables.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and add the shallots, garlic, celery, and carrots. Cook until translucent and slightly tender—10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste, then add the bell peppers and continue to soften the vegetables, 7 more minutes.
- Next, increase heat to medium, and add the meat back to the pan (make sure to include any rendered fat that was released). Add the wine, and use a spatula or wooden spoon to scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir for 3-4 minutes, or until the wine has slightly evaporated.
- Add the hand-crushed, peeled tomatoes, tomato paste, lemon zest, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, and chicken stock. Bring liquid to a boil, then reduce heat and begin to simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer sauce for 45 min to 1 hour, or until thick and reduced. Remove bay leaves and cinnamon sticks when sauce is thick.
- While the sauce simmers, prepare your water with kosher salt to boil your pasta. Prepare your pasta 10 minutes before you’re ready to serve.
- Rigatoni giganti pasta takes 9-10 minutes for el dente texture. To prepare pasta, bring a large pot of salted water (no oil!) to a boil, add pasta and allow water to return to a boil. When the water returns to a boil, start the timer for 9-10 minutes. A few minutes before the time is up, remove 1/3 cup of pasta water and add it to the sauce—this helps the sauce stick to the pasta. When time is up, immediately strain the noodles and gently rinse under cold water.
- Either plate pasta in bowl and top with sauce, or stir the noodles into the ragù.
- Serve pasta with basil and freshly shaven pecorino cheese. Enjoy!