The French version is called “Ragoût” and is a stew. The Italian version is called “Ragù” and is a sauce.
The meat is cut into even chunks. It may or may not be browned first before liquid is added, depending on whether the recipe is aiming for a brown stew or pale stew. If the recipe is aiming for a pale stew, the meat will still be cooked a bit first, but very carefully in order to prevent browning.
When the liquid is added, the stew is cooked very slowly, and eventually thickened.
Ragoûts tend to be more heavily seasoned than other stews.
Italian Ragù Sauce
This is a very meaty sauce, in which finely chopped or minced meat is the predominant ingredient. There is likely to be carrots, celery, garlic, onions and tomatoes in the sauce. Milk or cream may make an appearance in some recipes.
All Ragù recipes require long simmering of several hours.
References to Ragù seem to almost always refer to the northern Italian Bolognese Ragù sauce, but in fact there are many southern Italian versions of Ragù as well as other Northern versions.
- Pappardelle con il Ragù de fegatini is chicken livers, butter, pancetta, white vermouth and only a tablespoon of tomato paste.
- Ragù alla genovese is made with lots of onion, cubes of meat, mostly white, no tomato or tomato paste.
- Ragù napoletano (aka Ragù di Carne) takes days to make, until the meat has disintegrated and the sauce is a brownish red.
Ragù may be served over a pasta.
Literature & Lore
“A properly made Ragù clinging to the folds of homemade noodles is one of the most satisfying experiences accessible to the sense of taste. It is one of the great attractions of the enchanting city of Bologna and the Bolognese claim one cannot make a true Ragù anywhere else. This may be so, but with a little care, we can come very close to it. There are three essential points you must remember to make a successful Ragù :
- The meat must be sauteed just barely long enough to lose its raw color. It must not brown or it will lose delicacy.
- It must be cooked in milk before the tomatoes are added. This keeps the meat creamier and sweeter tasting.
- It must cook at the merest simmer for a long, long time. The minimum is 3 ½ hours, 5 is better.”
— Marcella Hazen on Ragù (from her first book, Classic Italian Cooking.)
Ragoût comes from the French verb “ragoûter”, meaning “to revive the taste.”
Larousse Gastronomique dates the word Ragoût back to 1642.
In Italian, “al Ragù” means cooked in a sauce.