Recipe | Home cooked Italian food | Ragu sauce inspired by Tony Soprano

20 Feb

when Tony wasn’t dealing with waste management, he was shoveling spoonfuls of his ma’s baked ziti into his gut

Over Christmas I treated myself to The Sopranos complete boxset. All 7 glorious seasons of it. My other half and I have been religiously working through each season and we’re currently up to season 4. Aside from the gratuitous violence and my romantic affection for New Jersey, the other thing that keeps me glued to the screen is the food. The glorious dishes of Baked Ziti, Quail Sinatra-Style, Minestra, heaving helpings of Sunday Gravy and the obligatory marinara sauce makes my mouth water, and I remember once again why Italian is my absolute favourite genre of food.

Inspired by one of my favourite food bloggers I decided to try my hand at Ragu with Gremolata. This was my weekend project planned about a week in advance.

I spent a good amount of time researching recipes to decide which was the best guide. I favoured Delia, my all-time favourite food blogger Helen Graves and for good measure, a random recipe I stumbled across online. I concluded that I would combine all three.

Early on a Saturday I took myself to my local butcher and bought the core ingredient – a cut of shin of beef. Delia’s recipe recommends mince meat however I had never cooked shin of beef and Helen had used it. Her description of how the meat falls apart whilst cooking for 4 hours won me over. All the ingredients for this recipe were extremely easy to source from various cash and carry stores. Depending on the area in which you live, the availability of pappardelle will vary. In East London, I found the best place to buy was Waitrose where they sold fresh pappardelle as well as dried variations.

Enough meat to give you the sweats for weeks

…and here’s some ingredients I lovingly prepped earlier…


  • 800g shin of beef
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 225g tub chicken livers
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves chopped
  • 150g pancetta or streaky bacon, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • x2 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 tube concentrated tomato puree
  • 1/2 bottle or 2 cups of red wine
  • 25g fresh basil
  • 1/2 whole nutmeg, grated
  • 2 large carrots, finely diced
  • 2 large sticks celery, finely diced
  • salt and pepper to season

*This will make a huge saucepan vat which, when split into four portions, will each feed two!

Slightly heat olive oil in a large (the biggest you own!) saucepan and add the onions, celery, carrots, bay leaves and garlic. Sweat with the lid on for 10-15 minutes. Add bacon for around 5 minutes, then remove all from the pan and set aside.

Sweat the veg with bay leaves for about 10-15 mins until softened

Rinse and dry the chicken livers, brown in the saucepan and then remove.

make sure you wash and pat the chicken livers dry before browning

brown the chicken livers and set aside

Season your beef shin with salt and pepper, add to the empty saucepan and follow up with everything else (carrot and celery mixture, chicken livers, tinned and concentrate tomatoes, herbs, nutmeg, red wine and anything else listed above in the ingredients!)

throw in everything bar the pasta to your saucepan

Bring the mixture to a boil making sure everything is evenly mixed through and covered.

**Now – you can do one of two things here – I opted for Delia’s instruction of covering the dish and putting in the oven for four hours however after making this recipe I noticed that the meat had not fallen apart as described in Helen Grave’s recipe. I had to rectify this by taking out the meat and slicing, placing back in the saucepan and cooking for a further hour (total 5 hours). This worked well and tasted great. As an alternative which will probably be more effective, leave on the hob (covered) for four hours as I think the differences between Delia and Helen’s recipe is that Delia used mince whereas Helen used shin of beef and this will obviously make a difference to the consistency of the dish.**

I placed my dish in the oven for four hours…

my ragu is ready for a four hour rest in the oven

5 hours later (4 plus 1 extra following meat chopping session), my ragu is ready to be served with pappardelle and gremolata (don’t forget to remove the bay leaves before serving!)

Perfect to be served with my ragu (and most meaty tomato based dishes) is gremolata, which I only discovered last month!

You’ll need a handful of parsley leaves, 2 cloves of garlic and the zest of unwaxed lemons (about 2 small ones or 1 large). Chop finely.

Heat your pasta for the required time.

Layer a serving of pasta, a generous ladle of ragu, sprinkle a healthy serving of gremolata onto your dish. After that, you’re good to go! Feel free to enjoy the other half of wine that you opened to use in the dish with your meal 😉

gremolata is such a fresh, vibrant addition to a good italian dish

rich meaty italian depth. my ragu dish

After 5 hours of making such a wondrous dish, it’s a pleasure to know I have three more double helpings in the freezer for post work evening indulgence.


2 Responses to “Recipe | Home cooked Italian food | Ragu sauce inspired by Tony Soprano”

  1. kazuyasasa February 22, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    Mafia inspired food haha. The final plate looks really really good 🙂

  2. Rowbs March 10, 2011 at 11:42 pm #

    WC, pasta looks good! I wanna see more sausage meals on here though!

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