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Italian Ragu Recipe with Beef & Pork

21/04/2021 (Last Updated: 27/05/2021)

A rich, smoky and spicy Italian ragu pasta sauce with beef and pork, simmered down with spicy nduja salumi paste. Serve with your favourite pasta or use as a meat sauce pasta bakes or other tasty recipes. 

Pork and beef ragu sauce with basil leaves.

Why We Love This

This easy Italian ragu recipe pure comfort food that will warm you up from the inside out. Packed with flavour (and hidden vegetables), it calls for mostly simple everyday ingredients, with tingling heat from spicy nduja paste. 

A great Sunday night dish, it’s cooked slowly to allow plenty of time for all the delicious flavours to absorb into the meat. Minimal hands on time. You’ll never want to buy store-bought pasta sauce again. 

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.)

Italian ragu in a large pan with spoon.

What is Italian ragu? 

Italian Ragu is a meat sauce usually paired with fresh pasta. It’s made from a mix of beef and pork mince simmered in pureed tomatoes, wine and a classic Italian soffritto (sautéed) base of finely chopped onions, carrot and celery. 

There are almost endless variations when it comes to the ingredients used in ragu. The most famous version, usually called Bolognese or ragu alla bolognese.

A lot of ragu recipes are flavoured with stock, however, this recipe adds extra flavour and fiery heat from ‘nduja salumi paste.

What 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, due to its high fat content (around 50%, compared to 20% in normal salumi). 

On its 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 more gentle peppery zing.

Where We Learned This

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 by motorbike. Hailing from Switzerland but with family roots in Italy, we were scrambling for pen and paper when she started talking about her favourite recipes from home.

This recipe was faithfully transcribed and includes lots of her tips and tricks to get it just right.

What You’ll Need

  • Beef & Pork Mince –  Traditionally, Italian ragu is made with a mix of beef and pork mince. For the best flavour, Marta recommends 70% beef / 30% pork, but feel free to experiment. You can use all of one, or play with the ratios depending on your preference. 
  • Nduja Salumi Paste – A little goes a long way, so you’ll only need around 100 – 150 grams for this recipe. You’ll likely find it sold 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. Substitute with spicy salami, chorizo or Italian sausages (skin removed), or regular salami + chilli oil to taste. 
  • Pasta – We recommend tagliatelle or fettuccine, but you can use any pasta. 
  • Red Wine – Dry varieties like Shiraz or Cabernet work best. Don’t worry about the alcohol content, as it will evaporate during the cooking process, leaving only flavour behind. Skip it if you prefer to avoid alcohol. 
  • Passata – This is a puree of uncooked tomatoes. It gives a lovely flavour and smooth texture to the sauce without being too watery. Substitute with canned tomatoes (same amount) or 2-3 tbsp tomato paste. 
  • Veggies & Herbs – We used onion, carrot, celery and garlic, which are common inclusions for bolognese-style sauces. Chop them super fine or use a food processor to make it easier. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.
Ingredients laid out for our Italian ragu recipe.

How to make beef and pork ragu:

  1. Grab your largest, deepest saucepan and get ready to cook! Heat the olive oil over a medium heat and throw in the onionscarrots and celery. Toss them around to coat them nicely in the oil, and cook until the onion becomes translucent (around 3 – 5 minutes).
  2. 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 the red wine and stir until mixed through evenly.
  3. Cook uncovered until all the liquid has evaporated (around 30 minutes), stirring frequently so nothing sticks to the bottom and burns.
  4. Pour in the passata then season with salt and pepper and throw in the cloves. Stir once more so everything is nicely mixed.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Stir Regularly – This helps to stop the sauce from sticking to the pan. You can also add more water if it’s starting to become too dry. 
  • Best Flavour – Eat this ragu the day after cooking. Serve with your favourite pasta and hot buttered bread.
  • Cook the Pasta Al Dente – Cook your pasta for 1-2 minutes less than your packet directions for the perfect al dente bite!

FAQs

How long does ragu last?

Around 3-4 days in the fridge, if stored in a sealed, airtight container.

Can I freeze ragu sauce?

Yes you can! Portion out the cooked sauce to airtight containers and store in the freezer for up to three months. You can freeze cooked pasta as well, although the texture will be much better cooked fresh. Allow it to fully defrost before reheating.

What can I do with leftover ‘nduja?

In Italy it’s super popular to eat ‘nduja slathered on crusty bread, or with a slice of strong, ripe cheese.
Try it with a smear of ricotta for a spreadable condiment / ‘nduja sauce. 
Pair it with scrambled eggs and fresh chives for breakfast, and sautéed it into home-fried potatoes
Use as sauce for Italian classics like pizza or lasagne.
Stuff chicken breasts with ‘nduja and cream cheese and wrap in bacon then bake.
Get creative and use it for other cuisines like tacos, quesadillas or nachos with sour cream and guacamole.
Or If you want to make more ragu but not right now – just pop any leftover ‘nduja in the freezer and thaw once you’re ready to make another batch.

My ragu is watery, how can I make it thicker?

Cook it for longer, or if you’re in a hurry, make a cornstarch slurry. Dissolve 1 -2 tsp of cornstarch in 2 tbsp of cold water then mix into your ragu. Viola!

Variations

  • 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. Otherwise try our chicken pasta bake if you’re looking for something creamier.
  • 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 simmering until eggs are cooked to your liking.
  • Use in Stuffed Capsicums or Mushrooms – especially if you add pasta or rice to beef it up.
A wooden spoon scooping out fresh Italian ragu sauce.

Italian classics like these are perfect for your next weeknight dinner:

★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and a star rating below!

Ragu sauce in a cast iron pan, topped with basil.

Italian Ragu Recipe with Beef & Pork

A rich, smoky and spicy Italian pasta sauce with beef and pork, simmered down with spicy nduja salumi paste. Serve with your favourite pasta or use as a meat sauce for other tasty recipes.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 6 serves
Calories: 633kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $15

Ingredients

To serve (optional):

  • pasta cooked, we recommend tagliatelle or fettuccine
  • parmesan cheese for garnish
  • fresh basil leaves finely chopped (for garnish)

Instructions

  • Grab 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).
    3 carrots, 2 onion, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 celery stalks
  • 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.
    700 g beef mince, 300 g pork mince, 150 g Nduja salumi paste
  • Pour in the red wine and stir til mixed through evenly. Now cook uncovered until all the liquid has evaporated (around 20 minutes), stirring frequently so nothing sticks to the bottom and burns.
    1 cup red wine
  • Pour in the passata then season with salt and pepper and throw in the cloves. Stir once more so everything is nicely mixed.
    1.5 L passata, Salt and pepper, 4 cloves
  • 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.
    pasta, parmesan cheese, fresh basil leaves

Video

Recipe Notes

  • Nduja Salumi Paste – Substitute with spicy salami, chorizo or Italian sausages (skin removed), or regular salami + chilli oil to taste.
  • Pasta – We recommend tagliatelle or fettuccine, but you can use any pasta.
  • Red Wine – Dry varieties like Shiraz or Cabernet work best. Skip it if you prefer to avoid alcohol.
  • Passata – Sub with canned tomatoes (same amount) or 2-3 tbsp tomato paste.
  • 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. Otherwise try our chicken pasta bake if you’re looking for something creamier.
  • 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 simmering until eggs are cooked to your liking.
  • Use in Stuffed Capsicums or Mushrooms – especially if you add pasta or rice to beef it up.
  • Stir Regularly – This helps to stop the sauce from sticking to the pan. You can also add more water if it’s starting to become too dry.
  • Best Flavour – Eat this ragu the day after cooking. Serve with your favourite pasta and hot buttered bread.
  • Cook the Pasta Al Dente – Cook your pasta for 1-2 minutes less than your packet directions for the perfect al dente bite!

    Nutrition

    Nutrition Facts
    Italian Ragu Recipe with Beef & Pork
    Amount per Serving
    Calories
    633
    % Daily Value*
    Fat
     
    47
    g
    72
    %
    Saturated Fat
     
    17
    g
    106
    %
    Cholesterol
     
    139
    mg
    46
    %
    Sodium
     
    697
    mg
    30
    %
    Potassium
     
    755
    mg
    22
    %
    Carbohydrates
     
    8
    g
    3
    %
    Fiber
     
    1
    g
    4
    %
    Sugar
     
    3
    g
    3
    %
    Protein
     
    35
    g
    70
    %
    Vitamin A
     
    5095
    IU
    102
    %
    Vitamin C
     
    5
    mg
    6
    %
    Calcium
     
    53
    mg
    5
    %
    Iron
     
    3
    mg
    17
    %
    * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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    Italian Ragu Recipe with Beef & Pork

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    16 Comments

  • Reply
    Frogdancer Jones
    24/04/2021 at 8:37 am

    5 stars
    Now I see what you needed the nduja for!
    I loved reading this recipe – especially how you’ve taken the time to add so many variations and other tips to it.
    We have a little deli around the corner – I’ll wander up and see if they stock this.
    I usually add a chilli to bolognese – this seems a fancier way of getting the warmth.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      27/04/2021 at 11:01 am

      Yes! Haha. Glad you enjoyed it, and I hope you’re able to source some from your area, it really is such a unique ingredient to amp up a regular Bolognese. 😀

  • Reply
    Tracey
    24/11/2020 at 10:21 pm

    5 stars
    I used to use the Marcella Hazan Ragu recipe but this is now my favourite. We get our n’duja from our local pizzeria in big blocks. We also like to stuff chicken breasts with n’duja and cream cheese and wrap in bacon then bake

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      25/11/2020 at 9:30 am

      Wow, thanks Tracey – what a compliment! So glad you’ve been enjoying our ragu recipe. What great ideas to both source your nduja, and use it to stuff chicken. Yum! Thanks for the feedback and happy cooking!

  • Reply
    Bintu - Recipes From A Pantry
    20/07/2016 at 8:28 pm

    5 stars
    I’ve never seen the salumi paste before, I bet it adds a lovely richness to the recipe

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      20/07/2016 at 9:26 pm

      It was definitely the first time we’d heard of it too. Glad we tried it, the flavour is out of this world. We’re already thinking of new recipes we can try!

  • Reply
    Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine
    20/07/2016 at 7:40 pm

    5 stars
    Love the deep and rich flavors!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      20/07/2016 at 9:24 pm

      Thanks Rebecca, we couldn’t believe the colour in the finished dish. So vibrant and so delicious haha 😀

  • Reply
    Sarah
    20/07/2016 at 7:00 pm

    5 stars
    This looks like the DEFINITION of comfort food! Yum!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      20/07/2016 at 9:24 pm

      Mm hmmm!

  • Reply
    Sally - My Custard Pie
    20/07/2016 at 5:56 pm

    5 stars
    Great explanation about njuda – I never knew that. Looks delicious too

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      20/07/2016 at 9:22 pm

      Glad you learnt a bit about ‘nduja, it’s a great ingredient to experiment with if you can get a hold of some! So many good flavours that it just wouldn’t be the same with a substitute. 🙂

  • Reply
    swayam
    20/07/2016 at 3:09 pm

    Oh wow!! Just look at that. Glorious gorgeous colors. Wish i was eating this now!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      20/07/2016 at 9:21 pm

      Haha thanks Swayam, so do we! Unfortunately the whole batch was gone within two days! 😀

  • Reply
    Marisa Franca @ All Our Way
    19/07/2016 at 8:47 pm

    Looks delicious!! I’m from Northern Italy and since my friend from Southern Italy mentioned Nduja I’ve wanted to taste. You ladies just reminded me I need to get some. Our family loves spicy. This is right up our alley. Looking forward to making this and if I don’t have a delivery from Amazon they call me and ask if I’m feeling well 😉

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      20/07/2016 at 9:17 pm

      Marisa you’re going to love this! The flavour is amazing and the spicy level is juuuust right. 😀 Would love to hear what you think of the flavours ‘Nduja brings to a dish! 🙂

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