How to make Tagliatelle al Ragu like an Italian

Tagliatelle al ragu

No one does pasta better than Italy.

In Bologna, the capital of the Italian food hub of Emilia-Romagna, Tagliatelle al Ragu — flat ribbons of past smothered in a delectable meat sauce — is an iconic dish.

This authentic recipe of the pasta dish is excerpted from Lonely Planet’s new cookbook, “From the Source: Italy,” and comes from Chef Mauro Fabbri, who has been serving it at Ristorante Diana in Bologna, Italy, for years.

Follow the steps below and you’ll be able to make the mouthwatering dish in your very own kitchen.

Excerpted from “From the Source: Italy”, written by Sarah Barrell and photographed by Susan Wright © Lonely Planet 2015.

Here’s what you’ll need:

For the pasta:

  • 90 g (3 oz) per head of fresh tagliatelle or pappardelle

For the sauce:

  • 1 kg (2lbs) hanger or skirt steak (make sure to have it coarsely minced by a butcher so that the meat doesn’t lose its shape during the long cooking time)
  • 100 g (3.5 oz) fresh, unsmoked pancetta (finely chopped)
  • soffritto (mixture of two onions, 2 carrots, and 3 sticks of celery, chopped very finely so you can taste but not see it)
  • 200 ml (7 fl oz) red wine
  • 150 g (5.5 oz) tomato puree
  • half a nutmeg (grated)
  • salt and pepper
  • Parmesan (to serve)

Here’s how to make it:

Gently fry the finely chopped onions, carrots, and celery in olive oil and add in the finely chopped pancetta, until slightly browned.

Chopped onions, carrots, and celery in pot

Now add the steak.

Stir gently and cook until browned, then cover the pan with a lid and let the mixture braise gently for 40 minutes.

Add the red wine and again let the mixture simmer gently until the liquid has evaporated.

Red wine pasta sauce

Now stir in the salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg. The chef recommends using half but you might want to add to taste.

Grating nutmeg

Add the tomato puree and enough water to cover the sauce plus about 2.5 cm (1 inch) extra.

Tomato puree

Now half-cover the pan and simmer the sauce very gently (a bare simmer) for two hours, checking and stirring every so often.

Pot on stove

Shutterstock/alessio paduano

By the end, the sauce will have absorbed the liquid, leaving a fully flavored ragu. Check and adjust the seasoning.

Seasoning the sauce

Serve the ragu over the pasta with freshly grated Parmesan.

Tagliatelle al ragu
Tagliatelle Al Ragu is served at Ristorante Diana, Chef Mauro Fabbri’s restaurant in Bologna, Italy. © Lonely Planet 2015


Reheat the meat: Like all good meat and wine sauces, the flavour of the ragu will be even better the next day. Bologna may be called La Grassa but you might not relish the same name (ie ‘the fat’!). So, for the weight-conscious, skim off the layer of fat that forms on top before reheating.

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