Best Homemade Italian Ragu Spaghetti Recipe

homemade italian ragu spaghetti recipe

Picture this: You’re wandering through the enchanting streets among the terracotta buildings of Bologna, Italy, and your senses are starting to come alive. You’re noticing this irresistible aroma of a hearty and comforting flavor in the air – but what is that? 

Now you’re starting to sense a simmering sauce that’s been cooking for hours to create a symphony of flavors enmeshed with one another. The busy nature of life is left behind, and all you can think of now is the heady scent of tomatoes with garlic cloves and herbs, which wafts from the open doors of osterias and family-run trattorias – speaking generations of nonnas passing down cherished recipes.

Ready to get your nose tickled with aroma and fill your stomach with easy homemade Italian food? 

How to Make Homemade Italian Ragu Spaghetti

The best way to make this true Italian American classic is to take your time – it will quickly become your comfort food!

Ingredients of Homemade Ragu Sauce

  • 1 pound (450g) ground beef (consider mixing different meats!)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 cup red wine (optional)
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (extra-virgin olive oil is best!)

For the Pasta

  • 12 ounces (340g) spaghetti or really any type of pasta – alternatively: polenta
  • Salt for boiling water

 

Alternative Ingredients for Ragu Sauce Recipe

  • Ground beef – ground pork, ground turkey, lamb, veal, of a combination of everything for a unique flavor 
  • Vegan version – use plant-based ground meat alternatives, such as soy crumbles, lentils, or mushrooms
  • Tomatoes – diced fresh tomatoes or cherry tomatoes give a chunkier and fresher sauce
  • Herbs – fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, parsley, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning
  • Vegetables – bell pepper, zucchini, eggplant
  • Wine – red wine, white wine, vegetable broth, beef bone broth, mushroom broth

Note: If you want a nutritional boost, add cooked lentils, quinoa, or chickpeas for added protein and fiber!

Step-by-Step Recipe for Italian Ragu and Pasta Recipe

Ready for some authentic beef Ragu with Spaghetti? Let’s go!

Step 1: In a large pot or large pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the chopped onion, carrot, and celery (if you like celery) – cook it until it becomes soft and translucent, so about 5-7 minutes.

Step 2: Add minced garlic and cook for an additional 1 minute until you can smell the aroma.

Step 3: Add the ground beef (and ground pork if you want to mix it) and break it up with a wooden spoon. Fry it until it’s browned and no longer pink.

Step 4 (optional): If you’re using wine, pour it into the pot and allow it to simmer until it reduces by half, for about 5 minutes.

Step 5: Add tomato paste and cook for a few minutes to remove the raw taste, then add the crushed tomatoes, dried oregano, dried basil, dried thyme, salt, pepper, and still well to mix everything. 

Tip: If you have a food processor, consider using it at this step.

Step 6: Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let the sauce simmer for at least 1-1.5 hours, slow cooking and stirring occasionally – the longer it simmers, the richer the flavors will be.

Note: YES! Italian Ragu takes a really long time to make; however, it tastes absolutely fantastic because it gives it the time to really mix all the flavors together – if not, you can also just let it cook for as long as you have time! However, if you have a slow cooker, use that to make your life easier.

Step 7: While the sauce simmers, bring another large pot of salted water to boil and cook the spaghetti (or your favorite pasta) until it’s al dente (check your packaging info) – then drain and set aside. 

Step 8: Taste the Ragu and adjust the seasonings with more salt and pepper if needed – serve the bolognese sauce over cooked spaghetti and ladle the Ragu sauce over the top. 

Want to make it taste even better? Garnish it with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley or fresh basil leaves – enjoy!

Italian ragu sauce recipe

Expert Tips

One of the biggest key factors in Italian recipes is the high quality and fresh ingredients to make delicious food. When it comes to ground beef Ragu, use lean, high-quality ground meat to get that hearty meat sauce.

For Flavor

As mentioned before, for the best flavor, you want to let the Ragu sauce simmer over low heat for an extended period to let the flavors meld and intensify – so, aim for at least 1.5-2 hours and, if you can, even longer than that.

For Frying Meat

When you’re frying the ground meat and browning it, make sure it develops a rich and deep brown color, also known as caramelization, as it adds to the depth of the sauce’s flavor.

Choosing the Wine For Ragu

If you’re using wine, whether it’s dry or sweet wine, make sure to let it reduce significantly before adding anything else. Letting it reduce immensely and concentrate ensures that you won’t have this alcohol taste afterwards. 

Save Pasta Water

Save a cup of the pasta cooking water before draining the pasta. If the sauce is too thick, you can thin it with starchy water from the pasta – it will also blend really well once you add the pasta!

What to Serve Italian Ragu with Spaghetti with

This homemade pasta sauce recipe has plenty of flavor and heart on its own, but it also works wonderfully with other foods to provide a complete and delicious meal (or multi-course menu) – Especially if you want to impress family and friends for special occasions by recreating the atmosphere of an authentic Italian restaurant.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Garlic bread – toasted garlic bread or a baguette with garlic butter to mop up any leftover sauce at the end
  • Bruschetta – diced tomatoes, garlic, basil, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze (personal fave)
  • Salad – fresh garden salad with crisp lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and a simple vinaigrette adds a refreshing contrast
  • Antipasto platter (great appetizer) – cured meats like prosciutto and salami, marinated olives, roasted peppers, and mozzarella cheese 

Consider opting for a glass of Italian red wine like Chianti or Barbera.

Tip: For dessert, consider serving either of these classic Italian sweets – Tiramisu, cannoli, or panna cotta to complete an Italian-themed lunch or dinner.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do you have questions about this recipe? Well, we have the answers!

Can I use ground turkey or chicken instead of beef for Ragu Spaghetti?

Yes! Absolutely. A turkey, chicken, or a mix of both will give you a lighter and leaner sauce, but it will be just as flavorful! 

How can I make Ragu Spaghetti gluten-free?

Use either gluten-free pasta made from rice, corn, or other gluten-free grains – make sure that any seasonings or other ingredients are also gluten-free if you don’t make everything from scratch!

Do I have to use red wine in the Ragu sauce?

Nope! You can also use white wine (same principle, let it reduce immensely to omit that alcoholic taste) or use chicken or beef broth (I prefer bone broth for the nutritional value!).

Can I make Ragu Spaghetti in advance?

Yes! Just store the sauce separately from the pasta, so it won’t get soggy. If you want to freeze it, make sure it cools off first and you place it into an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months.

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homemade italian ragu spaghetti recipe

Best Homemade Italian Ragu Spaghetti Recipe


  • Author: Anna Dykeman

Description

Ready to make the best homemade spaghetti sauce with hearty ground beef you ever had?


Ingredients

Scale

Ingredients of Homemade Ragu Sauce

  • 1 pound (450g) ground beef (consider mixing different meats!)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 cup red wine (optional)
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (extra-virgin olive oil is best!)

For the Pasta

  • 12 ounces (340g) spaghetti or really any type of pasta – alternatively: polenta
  • Salt for boiling water

Alternative Ingredients for Ragu Sauce Recipe

  • Ground beef – ground pork, ground turkey, lamb, veal, of a combination of everything for a unique flavor 
  • Vegan version – use plant-based ground meat alternatives, such as soy crumbles, lentils, or mushrooms
  • Tomatoes – diced fresh tomatoes or cherry tomatoes give a chunkier and fresher sauce
  • Herbs – fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, parsley, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning
  • Vegetables – bell pepper, zucchini, eggplant
  • Wine – red wine, white wine, vegetable broth, beef bone broth, mushroom broth

Note: If you want a nutritional boost, add cooked lentils, quinoa, or chickpeas for added protein and fiber!


Instructions

  1. In a large pot or large pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the chopped onion, carrot, and celery (if you like celery) – cook it until it becomes soft and translucent, so about 5-7 minutes.
  2. Add minced garlic and cook for an additional 1 minute until you can smell the aroma.
  3. Add the ground beef (and ground pork if you want to mix it) and break it up with a wooden spoon – fry it until it’s browned and no longer pink.
  4. (optional): If you’re using wine, pour it into the pot and allow it to simmer until it reduces by half, for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add tomato paste and cook for a few minutes to remove the raw taste, then add the crushed tomatoes, dried oregano, dried basil, dried thyme, salt, pepper, and still well to mix everything – Tip: If you have a food processor, consider using it at this step.
  6. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let the sauce simmer for at least 1-1.5 hours, slow cooking and stirring occasionally – the longer it simmers, the richer the flavors will be.
  7. While the sauce simmers, bring another large pot of salted water to boil and cook the spaghetti (or your favorite pasta) until it’s al dente (check your packaging info) – then drain and set aside. 
  8. Taste the Ragu and adjust the seasonings with more salt and pepper if needed – serve the bolognese sauce over cooked spaghetti and ladle the Ragu sauce over the top. 

Want to make it taste even better? Garnish it with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley or fresh basil leaves – enjoy! 

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