Mains/ Sauces and Dressings

Italian Beef Ragu – A Classic Recipe

September 9, 2019

A classic Italian beef ragu that’s easy and packed full of flavour! This ground beef ragu is made using only a few simple ingredients and can be used in so many ways. Toss it with fresh tagliatelle pasta, make it into lasagne with bechamel sauce or use it as a filling for homemade ravioli for a truly authentic Italian meal. Find step by step photos and instructions below.

Italian beef ragu tossed with tagliatelle pasta in a bowl

Classic beef ragu is one of my all-time favourite Italian foods, it’s very simple, easy to put together and incredibly delicious!

It can simmer away on a Sunday afternoon while you relax and sip on a glass of wine before tossing it with your favourite pasta. Proper comfort food that’s made to be enjoyed with the whole family.

The Difference between Ragu and Bolognese

Ragu depending on where you are in the world is a meat-based sauce usually consisting of finely chopped vegetables, ground meat and cooked in a liquid such as wine, tomatoes or stock.

There are hundreds of different types of ragu all containing different meats or vegetables like our Venetian Duck Ragu (perfect for special occasions) and our Sausage Ragu which is super easy!

Bolognese on the other hand actually means something originating from Bologna, Emilia Romagna and their classic ragu alla bolognese (ragu from Bologna) has been a little lost in translation over the years.

It’s very similar to this one although is often made with white wine and sometimes milk which is thought to tenderise the meat.

It’s also traditionally served with tagliatelle pasta and never spaghetti which is why you’ll hear Italians say that Spaghetti Bolognese doesn’t exist.

Slow Cooked Beef Ragu

This Italian ragu is slow-cooked because it needs time to develop all the incredible flavours BUT it’s not as time-consuming as you may think.

Because this classic beef ragu recipe is made with ground beef and pork it doesn’t need as much time as a big chunk of meat would to break down and tenderise.

This ragu needs a minimum of 2.5 hours cooking time so you can easily make it only a few hours before serving it.

That being said the longer it has to simmer the better the flavour will be, just remember that you’ll need to keep topping up with water or stock to stop it reducing too much.

A close up of Italian beef ragu and pasta on a fork

How To Make Beef Ragu – Step By Step

The ragu starts like a lot of Italian sauces, stews and soups, with Il Soffritto.

Il Soffritto is very simply, finely chopped carrot, celery and white onion sauteed slowly with a little olive oil for about 10 minutes until soft but not browned.

This adds an incredible depth of flavour to many dishes and can even be made in advance to add into weeknight meals for an extra flavour punch.

How To Make Il Soffritto

Finely chop equal amounts of carrot, white onion and celery. To make Italian beef ragu, I use 1 carrot, 1 celery stick and 1 white onion.

Saute the chopped veggies in a large pan with a little olive oil. The key is to saute the veg slowly on a low/medium heat so they soften and release all the delicious flavours without browning or burning (around 7-8 minutes, photo 1)

Once the vegetables are soft add the ground beef and pork (mince) to the pan and brown then add the red wine and continue to cook until the wine has reduced by half.

Step by step photos showing how to make soffritto for Italian beef ragu

Once the wine has reduced add the tomato passata/pureed tomatoes and half of the beef stock. Stir the sauce and let it simmer on a low heat for 2 and a half hours topping up the rest of the stock as it reduces.

Tip: Remeber to check on the ragu every now and then to stir it and add extra stock or water if needed. 

Step by step photos showing how to make Italian beef ragu

How to get the BEST Flavour

An important tip about making this classic recipe is to make sure you use equal amounts of beef and pork.

Beef is a lean meat whereas pork is much sweeter and fattier and adds a tonne of extra flavour to a ragu.

Trust me, when you try using 50% beef and pork instead of all beef you’ll notice a huge difference in flavour and that’s exactly how it’s made in Italy.

Ways to Use Beef Ragu & Serving Suggestions

This authentic beef ragu is perfect tossed with tagliatelle pasta (or any pasta of choice) made into a classic lasagne with a cheesy white sauce or stuffed into cannelloni or ravioli (simply replace the original fillings in these recipes for ragu).

You can even serve it how it is over creamy polenta with lashings of parmesan cheese and a glass of red wine.

It’s comfort food at it’s best and can be used in so many different ways you’ll never get bored!

An overhead shot of Italian beef ragu in a rustic bowl

How to Store Leftover Beef Ragu

Like most stews or slow cooked sauces, they taste even better the next day because the flavours have had a long time to develop.

You can store leftovers in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. You may need to loosen it by adding a little water or stock when reheating and make sure it’s piping hot all the way through before serving.

You can also freeze this beef ragu, it freezes perfectly and it’s a great way for prepping ahead.

Just freeze in suitable containers then thaw completely before reheating.

Top Tips for Making the Very Best Beef Ragu

  • Don’t rush the soffritto or you won’t get the real depth of flavour.
  • Make sure to use 50/50 ground beef and pork.
  • Use high-quality passata (sieved tomatoes) as cheaper brands can be very acidic.
  • Use a red wine that’s good enough to drink and never use cooking wine.
  • Try to use the highest quality beef stock or broth you can find if not homemade. This sauce is super simple so high-quality ingredients are important.
  • If serving the traditional way with tagliatelle pasta then boil the pasta then add it straight into the ragu and toss to coat before serving.

More Authentic Italian Recipes To Try;

If you’ve tried this Italian Beef Ragu or any other recipe on the blog then don’t forget to rate the recipe and let me know how you got on in the comments below, I love hearing from you! You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM and PINTEREST to see more delicious food and what I’m getting up to.

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5 from 7 votes

Italian Beef Ragu

A classic Italian beef ragu that's easy and packed full of flavour! This ground beef ragu is made using only a few simple ingredients and can be used in so many ways. Toss it with fresh tagliatelle pasta, make it into lasagne with bechamel sauce or use it as a filling for homemade ravioli for a truly authentic Italian meal. Find step by step photos and instructions below.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 45 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 547kcal
Author Emily Kemp

Ingredients

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 8.8 oz 250g ground beef (mince) (250g)
  • 8.8 oz 250g ground pork (mince) (250g)
  • 2 cups sieved tomatoes (passata) (470g)
  • 1 cup (230ml) red wine (240ml)
  • 4 cups beef stock (1 litre)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pinch salt and pepper

Instructions

  • Finely chop the carrot, onion and celery and sweat the vegetables gently in a large frying pan with the olive oil. Once the vegetables are soft add the ground beef and pork and cook until browned.
  • If there is a lot of excess fat in the pan, drain some out. Add the red wine and reduce by half. Once the wine has reduced by half add the passata and half of the beef stock and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Stir the sauce and let it simmer on a low heat for 2 and a half hours topping up the rest of the stock as it reduces.
  • Tip: Remeber to check on the ragu every now and then to stir it and add extra stock or water if needed. 
  • To serve with pasta add cooked pasta into the ragu and toss or use as desired.

Notes

  • Don't rush the soffritto or you won't get the real depth of flavour.
  • Make sure to use 50/50 ground beef and pork.
  • Use high-quality passata (sieved tomatoes) as cheaper brands can be very acidic.
  • Use a red wine that's good enough to drink and never use cooking wine.
  • Try to use the highest quality beef stock or broth you can find if not homemade. This sauce is super simple so high-quality ingredients are important.
  • If serving the traditional way with tagliatelle pasta then boil the pasta then add it straight into the ragu and toss to coat before serving.
  • Leftover can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days and reheated. You may need to loosen with extra water or stock.
  • You can also freeze this ragu just thaw completely before reheating.

Nutrition

Calories: 547kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 36g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 119mg | Sodium: 457mg | Potassium: 1228mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 2130IU | Vitamin C: 11.1mg | Calcium: 67mg | Iron: 4.4mg
Helpful Info for All Recipes
  • I always use extra virgin olive oil in all of my recipes unless stated otherwise
  • When I use canned or jarred tomatoes of any kind I always use this brand for the best results and flavour
  • All vegetables are medium sized unless stated otherwise
  • All recipes are tested and developed using a fan oven
  • Find out more about how nutrition is calculated here
  • Check out our must have Italian Pantry Staples here
  • You can also find all our Essential Kitchen Tools for Italian Cooking here
Did you try this recipe?Mention @insidetherustickitchen or tag #insidetherustickitchen! We'd love you see what you're getting up to in the kitchen!

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Caitlyn Erhardt
    September 9, 2019 at 7:53 pm

    This looks so cozy and comforting! Can’t wait to make it!5 stars

  • Reply
    Jordin
    September 9, 2019 at 7:27 pm

    This is great for a family weeknight dinner! I need to try this out.5 stars

  • Reply
    Catherine
    September 9, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    I cannot tell you how much I would love to sit down to plate of this beautiful ragu! This looks absolutely mouthwatering!5 stars

  • Reply
    Pam Greer
    September 9, 2019 at 7:16 pm

    Oh my gosh, this is pure comfort food!! I love your suggestion to sit back and sip some wine while it cooks! That works for me!5 stars

  • Reply
    Marie-Charlotte Chatelain
    September 9, 2019 at 6:50 pm

    OMG MEGA DROOL ALERT! This sauce looks so good! I do not eat pork, so I might make this with ground turkey and beef instead! So delish!5 stars

  • Reply
    David
    April 29, 2019 at 11:51 pm

    Thank you so much for this recipe. It is the single most delicious ragu I have ever tasted!

  • Reply
    Soniya
    November 2, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    This looks so scumpticous!! Nothing beats homemade 🙂 Saving it for later !

  • Reply
    Laura
    November 2, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Beautiful photos Emily, you have done a very accurate step by step and the final creamy colour of your ragu is mouth watering. I usually add Marsala wine instead of red wine, as it is sweeter and off sets the acidity of the tomatoes. It is more commonly used in the South of Italy.5 stars

  • Reply
    David @ Cooking Chat
    November 2, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    one of my favorite Italian classics! looks like a delicious version.5 stars

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