Butcher's Ragu with Spaghetti

This could have easily been called Bacon Ragu, and maybe next version, I'll just kick it up a notch - bam bam bam - and call it just that.  Let me also preface this recipe with: I'm not a huge marinara fan, I'll grind it mind you, but it is usually an afterthought to what other delights are in the pasta; sausage, meatballs, mushrooms, etc.  

This Ragu, on the other hand, is an adult sauce.  Although there is a 1.5 pounds of meat in the recipe, it is so flavorful that it stretches and doesn't end up a gut bomb.  The recipe makes 8 servings so with just the two of us we got four meals out of it, and I savored it all the way through the very last bite.

This is an adaptation of Mario Batali's "Butcher's Ragu with Fusilli" in the October 2010 issue of Food and Wine (page 214).  It makes a rich and hearty pasta that develops into fantastic leftovers and would freeze well.  We paired this with a 2004 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano called Salcheto.  Amazing combination; any bold Italian red from Tuscany would work.

Here are some of our major modifications: The original recipe called for pancetta instead of bacon (which we didn't have), an additional 1/2 pound of ham (so we added another 1/4 pound of bacon), no herbs (so we added heaps of parsley), extra water (didn't have all night for it to reduce), no tomatoes (which we just didn't feel right about), and fusilli (but Chef Amy felt like having spaghetti instead).

Butcher's Ragu with Spaghetti (printable recipe)


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 rib celery, cut into 1/4 dice
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 8 ounces of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 glass white wine (for the Chef to drink)
  • 1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped fine (set aside some for garnish)
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds of spaghetti
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving


In a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil, carrots, celery, and onion along with a teaspoon each of salt and pepper and cook until soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the bacon and the ground beef and cook, breaking up the beef with a wooden spoon.  Cook until no pink remains, about 8 minutes.

Add the tomato paste, stirring well to fully combine, and cook until shiny and rust colored, about 10 minutes.  Add the parsley (reserve some for garnish), canned tomatoes, milk, and white wine - add another teaspoon each of salt and pepper, lower the heat to a simmer.  Allow this to reduce into a thick sauce, about 20-30 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water a boil and cook the spaghetti, stirring often, until al dente.  Drain and add to the sauce and stir well to cover the pasta.  Serve piping hot and garnish with a touch more of parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 8

Authordavid koch