Mamma Angela’s ragu

Mamma Angela’s ragu

Ragu di mamma Angela

Sharing Puglia
Alicia Taylor

My mamma, Angela, was a brilliant cook who knew how to feed her family using very few ingredients. Her ragu was legendary and she shared her cooking tips with neighbours and friends. A normal greeting from her friends was, ‘What are you making for lunch?’ or ‘How many onions do you use in your ragu?’ On Sunday mornings we always woke to the smell of the delicious ragu cooking. The sauce from the ragu was generally used to coat maccheroni and eaten as a first course. Then the slow-cooked meat would be eaten as the main course. This recipe includes tasty rolled meat packages called braciole. Like many Pugliese meat dishes, these were traditionally made with horsemeat. I remember pounding out the thin slices of meat with a mallet on our marble benchtop and tying the little rolls with string. In this version, we use veal instead of horsemeat and toothpicks to hold the braciole in place once rolled up.


Quantity Ingredient
500g short tubular pasta or orecchiette
40g pecorino, grated


Quantity Ingredient
1 onion, diced
80ml olive oil
or 1 x 20-30 g piece pork fat, plus extra for drizzling
100g pork or veal sausages, halved
200g pork shoulder, diced
4 pork ribs, chopped in half if large
200g lamb shoulder, diced
200g beef silverside, diced
flour, for dredging
150ml red wine
1 litre tomato passata
1 bouquet garni, 1 sprig each of sage, oregano, rosemary and flat-leaf parsley and a bay leaf, tied together with kitchen twine
200ml beef stock, warm


Quantity Ingredient
4 veal or pork fillets
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
8 thin slices pancetta
100g pecorino, shaved
1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
extra-virgin oil, for drizzling
50ml olive oil
150ml white wine


  1. To make the ragu, gently sauté the onion in the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Remove the onion from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  2. Dredge the sausages and all the meats in the flour and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sear the meat in the pan, in batches, until brown and crispy on all sides.
  3. Transfer the onion and all the meat back to the pan. Deglaze the pan with the red wine for 3–5 minutes. Stir in the tomato passata, mixing well and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and add the bouquet garni on a long string and attach the string to the handle of the pan. Partially cover the pan and simmer gently for 2–3 hours. Stir from time to time and ladle in some of the warm beef stock during cooking time, to keep the meat just barely submerged in liquid. You may not need to add all of the stock. The meat is cooked when it’s fork-tender.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the braciole. Pound the fillets until thin using a mallet, then cut them in half and place on a large board or work surface. You should have 8 pieces of meat.
  5. Season the meat well with salt and pepper and place a slice of garlic on top, then a slice of pancetta about the same size as the piece of the meat. Top with a shaving of pecorino and a little parsley, along with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Roll up the parcels tightly and secure with a toothpick or kitchen twine.
  6. Brown the veal rolls in the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan, large enough to hold all the rolls, over medium heat for 3–5 minutes. Pour in the wine and continue to cook until the wine has evaporated, about 3–5 minutes.
  7. Remove the veal from the pan and set aside.
  8. After the ragu has been cooking for 2 hours, add the seared braciole and stir gently to incorporate them into the sauce. Continue cooking over low heat for 30–60 minutes, with the pan partially covered.
  9. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente.
  10. Uncover the pan and allow the ragu to simmer for a few more minutes. Use some of the ragu sauce to coat the pasta, and serve with some grated pecorino sprinkled over the top.
  11. Reserve the meat to serve as a main course.
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