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Hearty Meat Ragu

Hearty Meat Ragu is a family favorite.  Loaded with meat and vegetables, this is a meal in itself.  The vegetables can be diced by hand or you can use a food processor This is a good way to get your kids to eat their vegys!).  Trust me – you won’t see me at your door asking why the hell you aren’t practicing your knife skill.  Although – why the hell you wouldn’t is beyond me.

The Recipe –

2 Stalks – Celery

2 Each – Carrots

8 oz. – Mushrooms – Button or Cremini

2 oz. – Dried Porcini

½ - White Onion

3 Cloves - Garlic

1 lb. – Your Favorite Italian Sausage

1 lb. - Fresh Ground Beef – 80/20

1 lb. – Fresh Ground Turkey

3 oz. – Tomato Paste

4 Cups – Tomatoes with Juice *

½ Cup – Dry White Wine

1 Tsp. – Dried Thyme Leaves

1 Tsp. – Dried Sage Leaves

2 Tsp. – Dried Oregano Leaves

Kosher Salt

Fresh Cracked Pepper

Olive Oil 

* If you are using my Fresh Tomato Sauce, you won’t need to do anything but thaw the tomatoes and puree them.  If you are using canned whole tomatoes, cut them in half and squeeze the seeds into a plastic colander that has been placed over a bowl to catch the juices.  Cut the stem end off prior to placing  the tomato into your food processor or blender.  Add the captured juice with the tomatoes and puree these prior to pouring into the sauce.

Pureed Tomatoes

Soak the porcini mushrooms in warm water.  Once these are reconstituted, take the mushrooms out of the water and chop these finely.  Save the water for the sauce – remember to pour it through a fine meshed strainer to keep any grit out of your sauce.

Soaking Porcini Mushrooms

Chopped Porcinis with Recserved Mushrooms


Wash all of the vegetables.  Cut the tips of the stem end off the mushrooms before dicing them.  Finely dice or chop the vegetables. Keep the mushrooms separate from the other vegetables because you will begin by cooking those.

If you are dicing the vegetables, it’s best to slice into match sticks and then to chop across the vegetables.

If you are chopping the vegetables in the food processor, process one vegetable at a time to make sure that some of the veggies aren’t chopped too finely into a paste.

Celery Sticks

Chopped and Dice Celery

Chopped and Dice Carrots

Chopped and Diced Onions


Chopped and Diced Mushrooms


In a wide non-reactive pan, add a ½ Tbs. of olive oil to the pan and start with the mushrooms – both the dice mushrooms and the diced porcinis.  Add a good pinch of salt and a grind or 2 of pepper.  The mushrooms will release water.  Allow this to cook off before adding the other vegetables.

Saute Mushrooms 

Add the other vegetables and dried herbs, and allow those to sauté for a couple minutes. 

Saute Vegetables

Add the garlic, and allow that to cook for a moment before adding the meats. 

Add Ground Meat to Sauted Vegetables

The turkey and beef are not seasoned.  Add a good pinch of salt and a grind of pepper to each of those meats.  Carefully use a potato masher to chop up the meats.  Don’t scratch the pan with the masher.

Once the meats appear to be separated thoroughly, move the ingredients to one side of the pan.  There will be enough fat in the pan to sauté the tomato paste with.  Just tilt the pan so the fat moves over the empty side of the pan.  Add the tomato paste and sauté it for a few minutes.  Doing this will concentrate the sugars in the paste, which will help with the acidity of the final product.

Saute Tomato Paste to Concetrate Sugars


Mix the tomato paste in with the meats and vegetables, and allow to cook for a couple minute more.

Stir Tomato Paste into Ragu 

Add the wine, porcini water and pureed tomatoes and stir.  Allow to simmer slowly for half an hour before tasting for salt, pepper and herbs.  Remember – do not over salt the sauce.  This will continue to simmer for some time, and there will be evaporation.  You can always season the finished sauce and pasta prior to service. 

Tomato Sauce Added to Meat Ragu

Allow to simmer uncovered for 1.5 hours stirring occasionally.  After that time – take the pan off of the heat and allow to cool.  Place the sauce into a container, cover place into the refrigerator. 

Cooked Meat Ragu

Refrigerating the sauce from several hours to overnight will do a couple things.  It will allow the herbs to share their flavor with the rest of the sauce.  Meanwhile, the fat in the sauce come to the top and harden.  You’ll be able to scrape most of it off prior to adding the ragu to your cooked pasta. 

Meat Ragu Coming to Room Temperature in Container 

Remember, you need to use plenty water to boil the pasta.  Also – add a good amount of salt – as if you were going to use the water to gargle.  I always taste my pasta water prior to adding the pasta.

Also – you’ll want to use a substantial pasta for this sauce.  Smaller and thinner pastas will get lost and you won’t like the end result. 

Prior to draining the pasta, save a cup of pasta water.  Use the salty and starchy water to marry the pasta with the sauce.  For more on this, please check out the end of my American Pasta Sauce post - .  Basically you’ll drain the pasta without rinsing it.  Add it back to the pot and add your ragu and heat this through.  Add some pasta water to allow the pasta and sauce to get together. When the pasta is cooked al dente, you’re ready to serve.

Cavatelli Cooking with Meat Ragu

Hearty Meat Ragu with Cavatelli


I used cavatelli pasta – which was fantastic with the sauce.  I added freshly grated Romano cheese prior to serving.  This Hearty Meat Ragu is a meal that your entire family will enjoy.