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Made in Italy

The uses of ragù in the kitchen

The king of Italian cuisine: ragù

The eternal historical struggle: Bolognese or Neapolitan ragù

We know that every Italian recipe contains secrets handed down from family to family, ingredients that come from the region or country you are in and different cooking methods given by needs or possibilities. But, among the many recipes that we can interpret as we like, one above all has an eternal dispute over where it was born first: let's talk about ragù.

The first recipe for this very famous sauce seems to have come to us from France, born as a poor dish and which originally did not contain tomatoes. From this archaic version a variant develops; the Neapolitan ragù which has little to do with what we know today; in fact it was a sort of stew with little meat and no tomato. Only from 1850, the real meat ragù with tomato used as a condiment for pasta and in different variations based on the families and the city in which it is prepared was developed.

The Bolognese ragù, however, always appears in the first half of the 19th century, as a derivation from the Neapolitan one, but much richer in cuts of meat (such as bacon), vegetables (see the sautéed onion, celery and Co) and with various added ingredients such as mushrooms or truffles. In short, what the true original ragù is is still a dilemma, the fact is that only in more modern times has ragù begun to be proposed in its current version and the tomato as the cornerstone.

The basics of ragù in points

Whether you choose to prepare Bolognese or Neapolitan ragù, there are some cornerstones in its preparation. Here are all the secrets in a nutshell for a perfect ragù.

  • the meat used for the ragù must be fatty and not lean
  • you can use clever mixes of meat cuts (such as beef and pork sausage)
  • do not use too watery tomatoes such as salad or cherry tomatoes
  • the quantity of tomato must be less than that of meat
  • add the tomato at room temperature
  • if the tomato is too acidic or if you use a homemade sauce, sweeten with a pinch of sugar: never use cream!
  • use the sauté par excellence: carrot, celery and onion finely chopped by hand
  • use a quality white or red wine to give a special taste to the ragù
  • cooking must be rigorously long and over low heat
  • if the ragù becomes too dry, add hot water or broth to avoid stopping the cooking
  • never cover the pan completely while cooking the ragù to make it simmer gently
  • the last secret is to mix: never leave your ragù on the stove!

The uses of ragù: recipes and tips and ideas with leftover ragù

Ragù as a condiment for pasta

Well, needless to say, the true nature of ragù is as a condiment for a genuine pasta dish - even better if homemade -. Rigatoni, penne rigate or with spaghetti with meat sauce, in short, you love it in its original and iconic version: as a sauce for pasta. A small recommendation, the ragù must always be kept warm so as not to cool the pasta as soon as it is seasoned.

Ragù as a filling: cannelloni & Co

Meat ragù is not only an excellent sauce for pasta but becomes a perfect filling or condiment in one of the Emilian recipes par excellence: cannelloni with meat. Good, or rather very good, with a Bolognese pork ragù, a little Parmigiano Reggiano and homemade bechamel, a pop in the oven and you're done! The typical recipe for Sunday lunch at grandma's house.

In addition to being a tasty filling for many types of pasta, such as shells, conchiglioni and cannelloni, in our capital ragù is often also used as a recovery condiment to fill typical supplì - given that generally the more it is prepared, the better it is. Roman supplì are generally seasoned with a normal tomato sauce, but have you ever thought of using leftover ragù which gives that extra flavour?

Vegetables stuffed with ragù: the recipe with leftover ragù

Also in this case, using the leftover ragù, we can have fun creating a tasty second course. Stuffed peppers with ragù (instead of the typical plain version), stuffed courgettes with ragù and a reinterpretation of the Neapolitan recipe for aubergines. In short, if we don't have vegetarian guests, we can have fun using the meat sauce as a tasty filling for the vegetables, rigorously cooked in the oven.

Grandma's recipe: lasagna with meat sauce

Evergreen but which needs a worthy mention in recipes with ragù. Lasagna Bolognese is truly the great Italian (and Emilian) classic that attracts the family around the table on Sundays, but also a dinner with friends and relatives. Few and rigorous elements: fresh homemade egg pasta, bechamel and lots of ragù!

These are the main ingredients for real Bolognese lasagna, but we all know that every mother and grandmother always manages to add that particular ingredient that marks its creation. Aromatic herbs (such as a bay leaf), a particular spice or a mixed ragù of white and red meats, in short, every cook has her own magical touch that adds flavor to her ragù, and we will never be against it!

The tasty alternative: the meat sauce sandwich

A recipe not exactly codified in great cookbooks but which as children our mother offered us as an alternative to the pasta dish with sauce: the ragù sandwich. Some international recipes involve filling each size of bread with a good meat sauce, fresh vegetables and a good dose of sauces, but here we are talking about the real sandwich with Bolognese sauce.

Even today I remember the taste, the feeling of home and the consistency of the sandwich - often turtle-shaped - filled with the ragù that my mother prepared with so much love the day before. Have you never tried it? Next time you cook ragù, try it and thank me later!