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Italian Spaghetti Ragu

Slow simmered thick Italian spaghetti ragu sauce.

No more meatballs makes ragu

I can remember a couple of times when I was young, mom made a pot of spaghetti sauce with meatballs.  I helped roll the meatballs and mom fried them off.  After the marinara sauce was simmering, she dropped them into the pot to infuse the sauce and seasonings into the meatballs.  We children, there are seven of us, had some lively discussions around the dinner table about how many meatballs we each got.  I don’t know if it was the ‘warm conversations’, the extra time or the extra dishes it took.  Maybe a combination of all three converted mom to cooking ragu on a regular basis.

Ragu alla Bolognese style sauce is slow simmered and contains ground meat, vegetables, herbs and tomatoes.  Back in the day I didn’t know it was called ragu or Bolognese but I prefer it.  I enjoy the meat infused with the marinara in every bite.  Double the recipe and squirrel away some ragu in zip pouches for easy dinner days.  It’s a great Saturday or Sunday dish to simmering away while busy with other activities.  Makes the whole house smell Italian.

Recipe: Italian Spaghetti Ragu

Prep Time: 15 Minutes | Cook Time: 75 Minutes | Yield: 12 Cups | Level: Easy


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 med carrot, finely grated
  • 1/2 lb fresh chopped mushrooms, optional
  • 2 Tbsp dried sweet basil
  • 2 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 2 8 oz cans tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • spaghetti, cooked
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • parsley, chopped

1 In a large pot on medium heat, sauté onion in olive oil until transparent.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.

2 Crumble meat into the pot and brown.  Drain fat.

3 Add carrot and mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes.  Add basil and cook for 2 minutes.

4 Stir in diced, paste and sauce tomatoes, plus salt, bay, and oregano.  Simmer uncovered stirring occasionally for at least 1 hour or several hours as time permits.

5 Adjust salt.  Serve over pasta and garnish with cheese and parsley.

Carrot – Finely grated, the carrot adds natural sweetness, nutrition and is undetectable by picky eaters. Triple score.

Dish Designer

  • Exchange fresh mushrooms for 1 4-oz can of mushrooms but add with the tomatoes.
  • Make a double batch and stow away zipper packets of ragu for busy day meals.
  • Exchange spaghetti for tube type pasta such as rigatoni or penne.

Inspiration – Norma Horton, via an Italian friend
Cook with Sauces
Written by
Photographs by Helen Horton
Updated: May 16, 2012

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3 Responses to Italian Spaghetti Ragu

  1. holly April 18, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    Fun memory.

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