Ziti al Ragù Napoletano

February 3, 2016



I think I said it a thousandth times.


There are a gazillion recipes for Ragù. All of them Italian, all of them "real".

All of them different, according to your taste and what you have at hand.


In Tuscany and in Emilia Romagna people had enough money and resources so they could use beef, and add a pork sausage to the sauce, in Tuscany mostly people would use duck or rabbit, mixing it with sausages.


In southern Italy it was loads of tomatoes and veggies, occasionally they would use all the left over meats and obtain every last bit of flavour from it by boiling it for E V E R. 


Grilled pork ribs, sausages, odd bits of roasts and of steaks? All will go into the pan.


Most probably, this was the only way for the poorer ones that were working at rich people's homes as cooks or maids, to bring meat to their tables, by reusing the scraps and the left overs of their masters.. The meats would be served later as a main dish.. this was a Sunday meal on one pot.


Ziti are a long tubolar pasta that is impossible to roll on a fork. You have to break it. Why was it successful? I have no idea, but it was... I have eaten a mountain of it, when I was a child and went visiting my Napolitan family.


Smooth pasta, such as smooth penne or ziti are very uncommon here, in Tuscany, here people eat the rimmed one. People like my neighbours just find that smooth surface "funny"... Like a 5 years old child that say that he doesn't want to eat "funny veggies"... oh wait, that was a customer at a cooking class.. Anyway, here people is not used to it...Here is how you prepare them for cooking



To me it brings back memories.

When I was a child and my Nonna would put all of us kids to work to break the ziti -I have loads of cousins down there and on Sunday we were ALL eating at Nonna...we would play and work along with her... yell and discuss at times, Granma will fake being upset at us and would chase us around the table with a wooden spoon...at the end we felt like we had contributed to that glorious plate of pasta. 


Kitchen has always been a way for inclusion and partecipation, sharing food was and still is important. Everyone can help, everyone is useful, noone is unwanted in a kitchen... 


So this is my beautiful Nonna Gianna Ragù, well, sort of... at least as my mom does it and how I remember it...


You'll need, for 6 to 8 people

  • 2 pounds of cubed beef, such as muscle, or something that is suited for long cooking stews.

  • 4 pork sausages (NO FREAKING FENNEL!)

  • I have added meat rolls, and if you have them, you can use grilled pork ribs aslong as they are not too much aromatized, left over roast beef and all you have at hand.

  • 3 medium onions 

  • half a glass of EVOO

  • 2 80gr/28oz of good quality canned tomatoes, hand crushed or in pieces

  • 2 glasses of wine

  • Salt 


First of all, I have started with the meat rolls, which you don't have to add if you do not want to, but if you do, this is how I do it.


4 thin slices of beef, 4 thin slices of mortadella, a couple of tablespoons of grated grana or parmigiano, and fresh parsley, so, you want to see how it is done? check this out...

 As you can see, you lay the meat, sprinkle a little salt, put in half a slice of mortadella (my slices were large)a teaspoon of parmigiano or grana and a generous amount of parsley. Close the rolls with a toothpick.


Chop or slice the onions, put them in a large enough pan with the EVOO, and let them cook very slowly, it will take about 10/15 min, until the onions become translucent.

Add all the meats, raise the flame to medium, let the meats brown on both sides. Do not add salt at this time.


This will produce a lot of juice, you got to be patient and let the juice reduce slowly, until the onions have almost melt and the juice have reduced to a thick sauce at the bottom of the pan. Add the wine and let it evaporate.


Once the wine has evaporated and you are back to a thick sauce, you can add the crushed tomatoes.




You have to be patient now, lower the flame to a minimum and wait.... and wait... and wait... Minimum is a couple of hours, the more, the better.


The trick is to obtain the slowest simmer ever. So, slowest flame, smallest fire.


Rushing this slow process is not only unnecessary, but will damage your sauce, you would end up with a super concentrated and strong sauce. 


Adjust the salt. Turn off.


The look with be fresh and the color still bright, the constinstency soft, the flavor will be deep and not harsh.


You will cook the ziti exactly as all the other pasta, one minute less than what it is written in the package, drain and toss them togheter with a couple of ladles of sauce in a bowl.


Plate, add more sauce, sprinkle with grana or parmigiano. Eat.


Ciao Nonna.  

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