Ragu Bolognese

Last Monday, the day before I went home for Thanksgiving, I was hurrying down the crazy ladder-like stairs in my tiny loft apartment and wiped out, somehow managing to break a toe.  So, let me paint this picture.  I slipped, bumped down the stairs, somehow got thrown forward, and landed on my face.  I’m laying on the floor and my cat is like, “what are you doing down here?” and I’m trying to figure out if I can move, much less walk.
Like, how does that happen?  I hobbled through Monday and Tuesday, then hobbled through the airport, then hobbled back to Texas and put my foot up for a week.  No problem.  My foot was black, but fine.  I wasn’t even going to tell you.

Then, that last night, I was also in a hurry, and somehow managed to get that injured pinky toe caught on something else that I didn’t notice because I was in a hurry, and I collapsed.  Fell on the ground.  I may have screamed.  A lot.  People.  Broken toes are not something to be taken lightly.  And!  It’s so annoying because this toe is so small and insignificant, except that you try to wear shoes without them touching your pinky toe.  You can’t!

So, here’s a little window into my life.  There’s a cat that doesn’t know what boundaries are, a whole lot of pasta, and when I’m in a hurry, I hurt myself.  Every, single, time.

Alright already.  Let’s talk about something better, something infinitely more enjoyable than a bum pinky toe.  This Ragu Bolognese is slow cooked, rich, meaty, comforting, and perfect.  It’s everything.

The actual Ragu needs to simmer for over 2 hours on the stove, so I started making this in the morning so I wouldn’t have to eat dinner at 10pm.  I started by sauteing some onions and garlic in a large dutch oven until soft.
Then I added the meat; I added ground beef and chopped pancetta to the onion party.
The meat browned for about 15 minutes, then I added wine, scraping the bottom of the pan while it boiled.  Next came the chicken stock and tomato paste.
That looks awful.  It gets better, I promise.  Anyway, I seasoned the sauce with salt and pepper then reduced the heat to low and let it simmer on the stove for about an hour and a half.  When it was done simmering, it looked like this:
See what a difference time makes?  In both cooking and toes, it makes all the difference.  When the ragu had simmered for about 90 minutes, I added some milk, then covered it, but not all the way, and let this simmer for about 45 more minutes.
When the milk was incorporated and the sauce had thickened, I removed it from the heat and let it cool, then stored it in my refrigerator until I came home that night.  Refrigerating the sauce also made it a bit easier to skim off some of the fat.  When I got home that evening, I heated the ragu and boiled some water for fettuccine.

I cooked the pasta to al dente, then added it to the ragu and tossed until each strand of pasta was coated in the sauce.
I served the pasta with a little bit of grated Parmesan on top, because I can’t not.  

As much as I whined in the beginning of this post about my stupid broken pinky toe, I want to sing the praises of this wonderful, not broken, Ragu.  I don’t know what I was expecting; I’m the one that cooked it and I know very well that the only tomato product I put in the sauce was tomato paste, but I expected Ragu to be, well, kind of like that jarred stuff–bright red and laced with oregano.  This ragu bolognese was nothing of the sort.
It was luxurious and rich and had a wonderful, deep flavor.  It felt like a special occasion eating this.  It’s special occasion pasta!
It also made wonderful leftovers, as the flavor of the sauce just seemed to get better as time went on.  We ate this the next night, bumping whatever recipe I had lined up, and couldn’t have been happier.
So, although I can’t seem to figure out how not to hurt my toe, I feel a little better knowing that I do know how to make ragu, and a pretty awesome one at that.  Careful planning and two hours is all you need, and if you don’t have the luxury of cooking in the morning, make this a weekend meal.  Maybe for a special occasion?  Maybe for a holiday dinner party?  Hmm?
Just, please be careful with your toes.

Here’s the recipe!


Ragu Bolognese


  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 3 ounces pancetta, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 1/2 cups beef or chicken stock (I used chicken because I had it on hand)
  • 1 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 pound fettuccine (or tagliatelle if you can find it!)
  • Grated Parmesan for serving


  1. Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and let soften, about 6 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
  2. Add ground beef and pancetta. Cook until browned, about 15 minutes.
  3. After the sauce has simmered for 1 1/2 hours, bring milk to a simmer in a small sauce pan, then gradually add it to the sauce. Cover the pot with a heavy lid that is slightly ajar and simmer for 45 minutes, until milk is incorporated. You can add more stock if it seems to thick. (at this point, you can let it cool and refrigerate it up to 2 days. Just rewarm it before going on to the next steps!)
  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add fettuccine. Cook according to package instructions, to al dente. Drain and add cooked pasta to the sauce. Toss for 2 minutes until each strand of pasta is completely coated in sauce.
  5. Serve in bowls with grated Parmesan cheese on top.



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