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
Chicken Sausage and Spinach Risotto

The thing I love about risotto is that it is a blank slate in which you can add a wide array of flavors. You can just let your imagination run wild!  I love the flavor combination of sausage, peppers, and dark greens so came up with this easy recipe.

I wanted my risotto on the lighter side so I used chicken sausage, but you could use pork if that is what you prefer.  Also, don’t limit yourself to just spinach since any dark green would be great in this!  Use whatever is fresh and in season.  Enjoy!

Chicken Sausage and Spinach Risotto (printable recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4-5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 10 ounces of sweet Italian chicken sausage, casings removed
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 12 ounces arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 ounces baby spinach
  • 1/3 cup basil, chiffonade
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish
  • Salt and pepper

In a small saucepan heat chicken stock and keep warm.

In a stockpot, heat butter and olive oil on medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add in sausage and break up meat with a large spoon until crumbly and cooked through. Add in bell pepper and arborio and saute until the rice is coated with fat and slightly toasted, about 3 minutes.

Pour in white wine and bring to a simmer. Let wine reduce completely, while scraping up any sausage that is stuck on the bottom of the pan. Stir in tomato paste then ladle in warm stock so it just covers rice. Stir and let simmer. As stock reduces, keep adding liquid, about 1 cup at a time, and continue stirring.

Once rice is almost cooked through, about 10-15 minutes, fold in spinach. After the spinach has wilted and the rice is completely cooked, stir in basil and Parmesan cheese. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary. Ladle risotto into bowls, garnish with a little more Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Serves 2-4


AuthorAmy Koch

Spring Vegetable Risotto with Goat Cheese and Mint

This is a lighter, more healthful risotto featuring spring vegetables.  It doesn't take long to prepare so it is great for a weeknight meal.  The earthiness of asparagus and peas are brightened with mint.  The goat cheese rounds out the whole dish and adds some creaminess without weighing things down.

Spring Vegetable Risotto with Goat Cheese and Mint (printable recipe)

  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1 leek, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced 
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 pound arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 pound asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup peas - fresh or frozen
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/3 cup parsley, chopped 
  • 1/4 cup mint, chiffonade
  • Salt and pepper
In a small saucepan, warm stock on medium high heat. Once it comes to a simmer turn heat to low and keep warm.

In a large pot, heat olive oil with 2 tablespoons of butter on medium heat and add onion. Saute for 3-4 minutes or until translucent and then add leek and garlic. Saute for an additional 2-3 minutes. Add rice to pot and stir to coat in fat for 2 minutes. 

Pour in white wine and let it come to a simmer. Once wine has reduced, ladle in warm stock so it just covers rice. Stir and let simmer. As stock reduces, keep adding liquid (about 1 cup at a time). 

Once rice is almost cooked through, about 10-15 minutes, add asparagus and peas. Continue adding stock and stirring until rice and vegetables are all cooked through. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons butter, 3 oz of goat cheese, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, parsley, and mint. 

Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately and pass remaining goat cheese and Parmesan cheese at the table for garnish.

Serves 6



AuthorAmy Koch
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Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Crepes

My husband and I took an amazing trip to Italy a year ago where we ate and drank our way through the country. One of my favorite meals was the stuffed crepes I ordered at a small wine bar (or Enoteca) that was located next to our hotel room in Rome.

I loved it so much I went back the next day and ordered it again! Each time I go to an Italian restaurant I look for this on the menu but I am always disappointed to find it missing. Finally, I decided that I needed to recreate it myself. It wasn't identical to the Roman version but it was definitely delicious and a big hit in my household!

This dish can take some time to make so you may want to save it for the weekend. However, if you want to make it for dinner guests you can easily prepare it in advance. Just fill the crepes and keep the marinara sauce in a separate container until you are ready to bake so the crepes do not get soggy. Once the oven is preheated, ladle the sauce over, sprinkle with cheese and place in the oven.

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Crepes (printable recipe)


  • 2 eggs

  • 3/4 cups milk

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1 cup flour

  • 3 Tablespoon melted butter, plus more for cooking


Crepe Filling

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 12oz. fresh spinach

  • 3 garlic cloves

  • 1 egg

  • 15oz. package of ricotta

  • 1 cup basil, chiffonade

  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping

  • Salt and pepper


Marinara Sauce

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil

  • 1/2 cup onion, finely diced

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 28oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes

  • 8oz. can of tomato sauce

  • 1 cup basil, chiffonade

  • salt & pepper


Stuffing the Crepes


Crepes -
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend for 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides and pulse one more time to ensure that all the ingredients are incorporated. Place batter in refrigerator and let sit for at least 1 hour before using.

Once crepe batter has rested, heat an 8"-10" non-stick skillet on medium heat. Add a 1 teaspoon of butter to cover the bottom of the pan, then slowly pour a small amount of batter while rolling the pan so that it coats the bottom evenly.

Let the crepe cook until it holds together and begins to turn a light golden, about 1-2 minutes then flip and cook on the other side for an additional 1 minute. Place finished crepe on a plate and repeat with remaining batter until it the batter is all used up.

This will make 8-10 crepes. Also, don't worry if your first crepe does not turn out, this is typical, just throw it out and make the next the second one...it will come out great!

The Crepes before they get sauced

Crepe Filling -
In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat and add fresh spinach with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cook until spinach has wilted. Drain liquid from spinach, coarsely chop and add to a large bowl.

Let spinach cool slightly, then add garlic, egg, ricotta, basil, parmesan and mix together. Taste for seasoning, then add additional salt and pepper as necessary.

The Crepes right before they go into the oven

Marinara Sauce -
In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil on medium heat and add onions and cook until onions become translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and oregano and cook for an additional 1 minute.

Add in canned tomatoes and tomato sauce and bring up to a simmer while breaking up the whole tomatoes with a spoon. Alternatively, you could chop the tomatoes before adding them to the pan. Let sauce simmer on medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes, or until it sauce thickens slightly.

Add in basil then taste for seasoning adding salt and pepper as necessary.

Assemble Crepes -
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter or oil a large baking dish and ladle a thin layer of marinara sauce on the bottom. Lay crepes on a flat surface and spoon about 1/4 cup of filling into each one.

Fold in the long sides then roll up like a burrito and place in baking dish. Once baking dish is full, ladle marinara sauce on the top and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese. Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the filling is heated through and sauce is bubbly. Serve warm.

Serves 4-6

Here is a photo of the original Crepes from Rome:

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Crepes in Rome


AuthorAmy Koch
3 CommentsPost a comment