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Ragù alla Napoletana | Authentic Neapolitan Ragù Sauce Recipe

Updated: Dec 5, 2022

Ragù is a weekly, Sunday tradition in southern Italy. Walking through the streets of Naples on a Sunday morning, you'll be greeted to the incredible smell of this long-simmering sauce. This ragù can be used as a simple pasta sauce, but it's also the base of other dishes such as lasagna alla Napoletana.

Ragù alla Napoletana Recipe | Authentic Southern Italian "Sunday Sauce"

There are many different kinds of meat that can be used to cook ragù. Some Italians add meatballs, pork skin, or braciola into the sauce. Below we've given instructions using a simple but effective mix of beef and pork, a must for achieving a good ragù. The meat is always served separately, as a second course, making this a 2-in-1 hit!

Watch the Pasta Grammar video where we make this recipe here:

For this recipe, you will need:

  • 3-4 tbsp lard or extra virgin olive oil

  • 6 pork spare ribs

  • ~10 oz. (285g) pork belly, cut into 2-3 large chunks

  • ~1 lb. beef chuck roast, cut into 3-4 large chunks

  • 1 Italian sausage

  • 1/2 onion, diced

  • 1 stalk celery, diced

  • 1/2 large carrot, diced

  • Fresh basil leaves

  • Salt

  • Fresh black pepper

  • 1.5 cup (355ml) red wine

  • 3 tbsp tomato paste

  • 56 oz. (1.6kg) tomato passata or milled whole peeled tomatoes

Typically, a ragù is started by first cooking the "soffritto" (onion, carrot and celery) before adding the meat. If, like us, you live in a country where meat generally holds more water, we recommend starting with the meat so that it has some time to sweat and brown before adding the soffritto.

In a pot (we recommend terracotta or a Dutch oven if available), bring the olive oil or lard up to medium/high heat. Add all of the meat in; don't be afraid to crowd the pot. Turning and mixing the pieces often, cook the meat until browned on all sides.

Next, add the onion, celery and carrot, along with a handful of fresh basil. Salt/pepper to taste, and cook until the onion is tender. Next, add the wine and bring to a simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste and add the tomato passata, plus 1 cup of warm water. Add a generous pinch of salt. Partially cover the pot and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir occasionally and cook for 2-3 hours, or until the meat is very tender and almost falling off the bone.

Using tongs, remove the meat from the sauce and set aside for later. Bring the sauce to a simmer again, partially covered, and cook for a further 1-2 hours. You can always add warm water and continue to cook for longer, developing the flavors even further! As the ragù nears completion, taste it and add salt as necessary.

The ragù is done! It can be refrigerated for a few days or frozen for longer storage.

If you plan on serving your ragù with pasta, followed by the meat as a second course:

Add the meat back into the finished sauce over low heat so that it can reheat and stay moist. Cook and drain your pasta, as directed. Place it back in its pot and ladle in enough ragù to fully coat the pasta. Stir over medium/high heat for 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately, topped with extra ragù and grated Parmigiano or pecorino cheese.

Keep the meat warm in the sauce until everyone has finished the first course, then serve it. Buon appetito!

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