Wednesday, January 12, 2011

perfect meal for a snowy day: slowly simmered beef ragu (my go-to Bolognese / meat sauce)

We knew we'd wake up to a thick blanket of snow this morning, that school was cancelled and that the trains would be a mess. So, last night sort of felt like a Friday night. Homework was put off, the kids stayed up later than usual, and the wine was flowing. It was a comfort food kind of night, and this slowly simmered Beef Ragu Chiantigiana (fancy word for meat sauce) hit the spot. Plus I tucked two more containers of it away in the freezer for nights when I don't have the luxury of time!

Beef Ragu Chiantigiana
(makes 12 servings and freezes perfectly)
4 T olive oil
4 T butter
1 large onion, chopped
6 carrots, chopped
6 ribs celery, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 lbs ground beef
fresh or dried rosemary, chopped
fresh or dried oregano
fresh sage, chopped
1/2 bottle red wine (about 2 cups*) 
two 28 oz. cans chopped tomatoes, drained
3 cups whole milk
splash of red wine vinegar
2 T capers (optional)

+ your favorite cooked pasta
+ Parmesan

* I use a full bottle, but the extra liquid necessitates a longer cook time b/c the liquid haste reduce more… If you have the time and patience, I recommend using a full bottle as the flavor will be even more rich.

Heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat in a large, heavy saucepan or soup pot. Add onions, carrots and celery. Season with salt and pepper and cook until soft and lightly browned. Add garlic, ground beef and herbs. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is thoroughly cooked. Add red wine, chopped tomatoes, whole milk, a splash of red wine vinegar and capers. Lower heat to medium (or medium low, if it's splattering too much!) until the sauce is at a gentle simmer and cook for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. I keep the lid off when simmering the sauce. Toss with your favorite pasta and serve with grated Parmesan if you like.

This sauce freezes perfectly, so package any remaining sauce in the size containers that will be useful to you. Simply thaw the sauce in the fridge and then heat it in a saucepan.


  1. Hi! I tried making this today & after almost 3 hours, my sauce never really cooked down. Is this how it is supposed to end up? Thanks!

    1. Hi "little buddy"!
      The liquid should evaporate, especially if you've had it going for 3 hours!! Make sure it's on a consistent simmer, lid off. I start my heat at medium-high, then lower it to medium... unless it's splattering too much, then I lower it a bit more. The reason I cook it for so long is to let the flavors meld and the red wine to reduce down, making it really rich with flavor. It will definitely have some liquid still, but the liquid should be thick and rich. Hope you like it as much as my family does!!


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