A rich, smoky and spicy Italian pasta sauce with fiery Calabrian ‘nduja salumi. Marta’s Rustic Pork & Beef Ragu is super easy to make and packed with flavour (and hidden vegetables). Perfect for a hungry winter’s night or when you just need a big bowl of comfort food.
Today we’re a teensy bit keen, because we’re finally going to share with you the FIRST European recipe we ever collected.
And it just so happens we came across it in Japan.
How 'nduja like this smokin' Italian #ragu recipe? #homestylesauces Click To Tweet
Even though we were staying in a remote Japanese temple, enjoying temple life and making udon noodles with our feet, we were surrounded by travellers from all walks of life.
A freelancer like us, Marta was a digital nomad wandering across the northern hemisphere. But UNLIKE us, she was doing it on the back of a decked out motorbike.
Hailing from Switzerland but with family roots going back to Italy, we were scrambling for pen and paper when she started talking about her favourite recipes from home.
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Like the Ragu di Selvaggina we learned in the Bologne region of Italy, Marta’s Rustic Pork & Beef Ragu recipe starts off with a base of sautéed onions, carrot and celery.
But the similarities end there.
While selvaggina is made from venison, this smoky spicy concoction calls for a mix of beef and pork mince, paired up with fiery Calabrian ‘nduja salumi paste.
Intense? Oh yeah!
But hold up, what exactly is ‘Nduja?
‘Nduja is literally what foodie dreams are made of.
Originating in Calabria, ‘nduja (pronounced DU-yah) is a spicy, smoky Italian salumi made from pork and roasted hot chilli peppers. So it’s literally packed with spicy + peppery + smoky goodness.
It’s so soft you can spread it with a knife, which is pretty much due to ‘nduja’s high fat content (around 50%, compared to 20% in normal salumi).
The good news is that a little ‘nduja goes a long way, so you’ll only need around 100 – 150 grams for your own batch of Rustic Pork & Beef Ragu.
Food Republic has a fantastic article on the ingredient with renowned chef James Bissonnette if you want to know more.
You’ll likely find slices of ‘nduja as vacuum-sealed slices of salumi or in a jar as a paste. If you can’t find it at your nearest Italian market or import store, check out online sources like Amazon.
On it’s own, ‘nduja has a fiery enough kick to make you go running for a tissue. But when simmered down with the sautéed vegetables and mince, it adds a gentle chilli kick.
In Italy it’s super popular to eat ‘nduja slathered on crusty bread, or with slice of strong, ripe cheese.
According to Gina over at Serious Eats, “Adding a smear of creamy sheep’s milk ricotta tames the fire nicely. I’ve also topped it with softly scrambled eggs and snipped chives for a breakfast bruschetta, and sautéed it into home-fried potatoes.”
Marta’s Rustic Pork & Beef Ragu
We guarantee this spicy, meaty Italian ragu is so satisfying you’ll want to fill your bowl to the brim and eat it ALL. (Plus a little bit more, just because.)
It goes amazingly with your favourite pasta (we recommend tagliatelle or fettuccini), but we’ll have to credit Sarah’s brother for suggesting it as a sauce for nachos with sour cream and guacamole.
I mean, what’s wrong with a little cross-cultural flavour-fest every now and again? 😀
Marta also had some delish recommendations on how to use up any leftover ragu, which we’ve popped in the recipe notes below.
Assuming there ARE any leftovers. 😛
And to Marta, wherever you are now in the world – thank you! It may have taken us a year to cook, but it was totally worth it.
If you love fiery, smoky deliciousness be sure to check out our other experiments with Italian cuisine like this Smoky Beef & Bacon Bolognese.
To serve (optional):
- pasta cooked, we recommend tagliatelle or fettuccine
- parmesan cheese for garnish
- fresh basil leaves finely chopped (for garnish)
- hot buttered bread
- Alright, grab out your largest, deepest saucepan and get ready to cook! Heat the olive oil over a medium heat and throw in the onions, carrots and celery. Toss them around to coat them nicely in the oil, and cook until the onion becomes translucent (around 3 - 5 minutes).
- Now turn add your beef and pork mince and stir stir stir to loosen and cook through. Add the nduja pieces and continue to cook. Don't worry, they'll soften and disappear into the sauce as everything cooks.
- Pour in a glass of red wine (reserving one for yourself of course), and stir til mixed through evenly. Now cook (uncovered) until all the liquid has evaporated, stirring frequently so nothing sticks to the bottom and burns.
- It's time to add the passata. Pour in both bottles, then season with salt and pepper and throw in the cloves. Stir once more so everything is nicely mixed.
- Lower the heat to a slow simmer and cook uncovered for 2 hours, stirring occasionally and tasting until you're happy with the flavour and consistency. Cook shorter for a saucier texture, or longer for a dryer ragu.
- Serve with al dente tagliatelle or fettuccini, and don't forget to sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Optionally garnish with freshly chopped basil leaves.
- For the BEST FLAVOUR EVER eat this ragu the day after cooking. Serve with your favourite pasta and hot buttered bread.
- What exactly is ‘Nduja? Originating in Calabria, ‘nduja (pronounced DU-yah) is a spicy, smoky Italian salumi made from pork and roasted hot chilli peppers. It’s so soft you can spread it with a knife, which is due to ‘nduja’s high fat content (around 50%, compared to 20% in normal salumi). If you can't find 'nduja, you can leave it out or substitute with spicy salami, or regular salami + chilli oil or harissa, or chorizo.
Ways to Use Leftovers
- Quick Ragu Pasta Bake - Mix some cooked penne with mozzarella, parmesan and/or béchamel, top with ragu and an extra sprinkling of parmesan, then bake in the oven until parmesan is nicely brown.
- Shakshuka Style - Heat a dash of olive oil in a pan then add the ragu and warm through completely. Crack in a few eggs (1 to 2 per person), then continue to heat until eggs are cooked to your liking.