Ragu Napoletano is a hearty meat sauce made with beef, pork, and Italian sausage that’s slowly simmered with tomatoes, herbs, and seasonings, creating a rich and flavorful meat sauce that the whole family will love.
Typical of slow-cooked family recipes, my Ragu Napoletano makes a large batch of meat sauce that’s easily frozen and will provide extra meals for those days you don’t feel like cooking.
There isn’t much work involved in creating this classic Neopolitan meat sauce. Once it’s prepped, and on the stovetop, all you need to do is let it simmer until all the meats are fork tender and the sauce is a rich, hearty masterpiece.
It’s the perfect dish to start on a Sunday morning, filling the house with a delicious aroma as it simmers. You can be sure everyone will be home for this Sunday Dinner!
Ingredients to make Ragu Napoletano
Let’s start by gathering the ingredients we need to make Ragu Napoletano. In Chef Spea,k this is called the “Mise en Place” which translates to “Everything in its Place”.
Not only does setting your ingredients up ahead of time speed up the cooking process, it also helps ensure you have everything you need to make the dish.
- olive oil
- pork ribs (pork shoulder can be substituted for ribs)
- beef chuck
- sweet Italian sausages
- small dice
- red pepper flakes
- dried oregano
- black pepper
- red wine
- whole tomatoes in juice – San Marzano (crushed by hand or with a food processor)
- tomato paste
- fresh basil
- romano cheese or parmesan cheese for serving
- Italian parsley – garnish
How to make Ragu Napoletano
- Pat dry the spare ribs and beef chuck with paper towels.
- Season the ribs and chuck with salt and black pepper.
- Place a large skillet or large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to the hot pan.
- Carefully place the spare ribs in the pan and allow them to sear on each side for 3-4 minutes. After searing both sides remove the ribs from the pot and set them aside until needed.
- Add the beef chuck pieces and sausage meat to the pan and sear on both sides for 3-4 minutes. Break up the sausage using a wire whip or spoon.
- Add the onions, carrots and garlic to the pan and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the red wine to the pan to deglaze the pan and loosen all the tasty bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan.
- Add the ribs back to the pan, along with the tomatoes and seasonings. Mix together enough to mix the seasonings into the sauce and cover all the meat.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 2-3 minutes. Reduce the heat to simmer and cover. Continue simmering for 3-4 hours depending upon how much time you have. Stir the mixture occasionally during the simmering process, but don’t disturb or open the pot often.
- Remove the ribs from the pot and after allowing them to cool slightly, remove the bones, cartilage and any other items that don’t belong in the sauce and return the meat to the pot.
- Add the basil to the sauce and mix it into the sauce. Taste the sauce and reseason as needed with salt and pepper.
*Simmering the sauce for 3-4 hours is what creates a rich tomato sauce. Make sure to plan out the day you’re going to make this sauce, giving enough time for the slow simmer.
- Serve the ragu over pappardelle, tagliatelle or rigitoni.
- Garnish with fresh chopped parsley or fresh chopped basil. Serve the pasta with grated romano or parmesan cheese.
In Southern Italy, the types of meat used in a Neopolitan Ragu can vary depending upon what is readily available when making the sauce. So feel free to adapt it to your taste preferences. This is one of my favorite Neopolitan Ragu recipes and the one I make at home.
The main difference between a bolognese and a ragu is the use of dairy (milk, cream and grated cheese) in the bolognese sauce. The other is that a bolognese sauce will always be made with ground meat and a ragu can be made with ground meat or whole pieces of meat that break apart during the cooking process.
A lot of the differences in a ragu sauce will come down to the region of Italy where the sauce is made.
Bolognese sauce always uses ground meat to make the sauce, while a Neopolitan Ragu uses whole meats and more tomato in the sauce. Neopolitan ragu also does not contain dairy products, whereas dairy is used heavily in a bolognese ragu.