Ragù alla Marinara Sauce



(click on pic to enlarge)

There seems to be a tomato sauce and a Ragù sauce from every city in Italy, which would be a couple of different sauces for every day of the year. There are differences in each and some of them totally different. The sauces can range in a spectrum of a meat gravy to a thick paste. Some are sweet and some not so much. This dish is a sweet Ragù alla Marinara Sauce.

A Ragù is a “meat-based” tomato sauce commonly served with pasta. I have listed a Roman Ragù recipe on this blog. The Roman Ragù sauce is mostly meat gravy with vegetables (soffritto) where tomatoes are added for color to minced carrots, celery and onions. A Bolognese Ragù is a Roman Ragù with cream or milk added.

A Marinara sauce is a “thick” Italian sauce without meat. It originated in Naples, usually made with tomatoes, garlic, herbs (mostly basil), and onions. The story goes this sauce was prepared by sailors (mariners) for the sauce’s ability to resist spoilage owing to the acid in the tomato. Mostly Italian-Americans refer to the sauce as a Marinara but it is called a Napolitana sauce in other parts of the world.

A Napoletan Ragù (from Naples) has lots of onions, a soffritto and big chunks of beef that cook in the tomatoes for many hours. In this recipe I use ground beef, ground pork and a thick slice of prosciutto chopped – no soffritto. The selection of meat is not the issue as the absence of a soffritto is a noticeable departure.

So to be precise, I call this Ragù alla Marinara Sauce. To make a “thick”, sweet, red sauce I use tomato puree instead of a tomato sauce. Puree is much thicker. I pre-blend tomato paste in red wine. I cook it in a frying pan versus a sauce pan to put a larger heat area under the sauce and cook it for an hour or more on low. Periodically, I add a little stock to keep it moist but I want to serve it as thick as ketchup.


Serves 2 -4
• 1 – ¼” slice of prosciutto (diced)
• ½ Lb. ground pork
• ½ Lb. ground beef

• 2 large Roma tomatoes (peeled and mashed)
• ½ yellow onion chopped
• ½ green pepper chopped (a New Orleans thing)
• 2 garlic cloves (sliced cross ways into tiny coins)
• ½ cup of dry red wine plus a few dashes (Chianti or Burgundy)
• 1 TBSP tomato paste (mixed in the wine)
• 1 – 10 oz. can tomato puree
• ½ cup veal stock (beef or chicken stock will also work)
• Fresh basil leaves
• Salt and Pepper
• 1 TBSP brown sugar
• 1 TBSP olive oil


First, I fry the prosciutto in olive oil and then remove. BTW, that frying pan is my grandmother’s and is at least 75 years old.  Love it!


I then add the meat. I do this to create a “fond”. This is done to glaze the meat and then add some sort of fluid to de-glaze the pan. This releases the meat flavor. I remove the meat.


I add the onions, garlic and green pepper and sauté.


I add the Roma tomatoes (peeled and mashed) and ½ cup of dry red wine with the 1 TBSP tomato paste mixed in on a high heat.


I let that reduce to a point when the wine has evaporated.


I then add the 1 – 10 oz. can tomato puree, brown sugar, salt and pepper and reduce the heat to low and cook that for 30 minutes covered. I add a little veal or beef stock to keep it moist.


Now I return all the meat and fresh basil. I always add fresh herbs last to make sure the flavor is not overcooked.  I increase the heat until it starts to bubble then cover and turn to low and cook 45 minutes covered.


When done it should look like this.


I serve on thin spaghetti and then add grated Parmesan cheese and serve.


Don’t that good???

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s