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
Spaghetti with Butter-Stewed Tomatoes and Asparagus
This technique makes for a delicious, easy meal for the work-week.  It can be assembeled with a pot and a pan in about 30 minutes with minimal supervision.  Asparagus can be replaced by ________ [insert vegetable here] - you can make it with what you have on hand by only swapping out one ingredient in the recipe.

There is a richness and yet simplicity in this vegetarian dish.  The tomatoes become velvety as they dress the pasta.  The asparagus gives the dish some body and elegance.  The butter adds a richness that provides satiety.  A simple side salad rounds out a meal.

Spaghetti with Butter-Stewed Tomatoes and Asparagus (printable recipe)
  • 1/2 pound of spaghetti
  • 1/2 pound of asparagus, cut into 1 inch lengths
  • 1 8-ounce package of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper
Add 2 tablespoons of the butter and the olive oil to a pan over low heat and add the tomatoes, the thyme, a teaspoon of salt, and a 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper.  Simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes until the tomatoes almost completely break down.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt, and cook the spaghetti to al dente.  After cooking the tomatoes for 20 minutes, add the asparagus and the tomato paste to the pan and turn the heat up to medium. Cook until asparagus is cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Once the spaghetti is done, strain well and add it to the pan with the tomato sauce.  Add the other 2 tablespoons of butter.  Toss together and check for seasonings. Serve warm and garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Serves 2


Authordavid koch

Bow-ties with Roasted Cauliflower, Arugula, and Prosciutto
An amazing dish, we utilize roasting here to concentrate the flavors of the cauliflower and tomatoes and combine it with the richness of prosciutto.  Bold flavors make this relatively light meal taste indulgent even though it could be frozen and called a Lean Cuisine. 

If you haven't had roasted cauliflower lately, you have been missing out; it becomes sweet and nutty.  The sage rounds out the dish by adding a counterpoint to the saltiness of the prosciutto and the earthiness of the vegetables.

Although this is an easy dish to make, preparation takes about an hour so make enough for leftovers because they warm great in the microwave.


  • One head of cauliflower with the stem removed, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes
  • 12 leaves of fresh sage
  • 4-5 large cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 6 slices of prosciutto, about 4 ounces
  • 1 pound of dried pasta bow-ties
  • 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 6 ounces of baby arugula
  • olive oil
  • salt & black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.  In a food processor, blend the sage and garlic together for 6-7 pulses.  Add the prosciutto and blend a few more times until the mixture is uniformly chopped. Set aside.

Toss the cauliflower in 3 tablespoons of olive oil on a sheet pan along with with salt and pepper, and place in the hot oven.  After the cauliflower has been roasting for 5 minutes, removed from the oven, add the tomatoes to the sheet pan, stir well, and place back into oven.

After another 5 minutes in the oven, remove the cauliflower and tomatoes and toss them with the sage, garlic, and prosciutto mix.  Place the cauliflower and tomatoes back into the oven for another 5-7 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the  pasta until al dente.  Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.  Once the cauliflower and tomatoes are done, remove them from the oven.  Place the pasta back into the pot and add the vegetable and prosciutto mixture.

Add 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the arugula, and 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water, stir to combine.  Add additional pasta water if too dry.  Check for salt and pepper, add as needed.

Spoon into bowls and top with the remaining Parmesan cheese.  Enjoy.

Serves 4

AuthorAmy Koch


What a great meal for a dark and stormy night.  The mushrooms and the peas add a wholesome goodness to the body of the pasta and the chicken.  We lightened up the cream sauce a little from the original and it was still plenty umptious.  The Parmesan and the breadcrumbs add a little crunchy topping for that extra touch of texture.  

This is adapted from Giada De Laurentiis' Chicken Tetrazzini: Giada's Family Dinners.



  • 9 Tbs butter
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 4 chicken breasts on the bone with the skin
  • 2 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound sliced white mushrooms
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced well
  • 1 Tbs chopped thyme leaves, fresh
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream at room temperature
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg, freshly ground is best
  • 12 ounces linguine
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Season the chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and olive oil and roast for about 35 minutes.  Allow to cool a bit and shred with your fingers or two forks.  Put the chicken into a bowl and set aside.

Butter the inside of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. 

Add 1 Tbs each of butter and oil to a pan.  Add the mushrooms and sauté over high heat until the mushrooms soften and start to become golden, about 10 minutes. Then add the onion, garlic, and thyme, and sauté until the onion is translucent, another 8 minutes or so. Add the wine and simmer until it evaporates. Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the chicken.

Melt 3 more Tbs butter in the same pan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk for 2 minutes to make a light roux. Whisk in the milk, cream, chicken broth, nutmeg, 2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper. Increase the heat to high. Cover and bring to a boil - then simmer, uncovered, until the sauce thickens slightly.  Whisk often (about 10 minutes).

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the linguine and cook until it is tender but but not mushy, about 9 minutes. Drain water. Add the linguine, sauce, peas, and parsley to the chicken and mushroom mixture. Toss until the sauce coats everything well..

Transfer the chicken and pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish. Mix the cheese and breadcrumbs and sprinkle the over the pasta. Dot with the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Bake uncovered until golden brown on top and the sauce begins to bubble, about 25 minutes. 

AuthorAmy Koch