Spaghetti al Ragu is a classic Bolognese sauce, and it is a household favorite. You had to know that I would post this recipe eventually. I think every Italian and Maltese family has their own version of this meal. This dish is my favorite food of all time, especially at this time of the year. While I love to eat lite, and mostly I eat seafood in the summer, after a full day swimming, I always crave spaghetti al Ragu.
Growing up, I had a swimming pool in my backyard. I would spend all day swimming. In the evening, my mom would make me dry off and come in. Having been in the hot sun all day , entering the air conditioned house in my wet bathing suit was no fun. Freezing, I would quickly dry off and change into warm pajamas and go to the kitchen where the smell of Spaghetti al Ragu filled the air. After a day of exercise, this hardy dish hit the spot.
After I graduated from my university and moved into my first apartment, my obsession with trying to make this sauce began. My first apartment was 14 hours away from my mom’s house. This meant that if I wanted to eat the food I was raised on, it was time to start learning how to cook. I thought to myself “how hard could that sauce be to reproduce.” After years of trying and many failed attempts at replicated my mothers sauce, I finally got pretty close but I did put my own twist on it. The difference is that my mothers sauce simmers for hours (practically the entire day) and mine had to be faster. I have been able to get the taste pretty spot on with only having to simmer the sauce for 30 minutes. My sauce also uses ground turkey instead of beef. You can still make this recipe and use the traditional beef. You may want to drain the beef after cooking it to reduce the grease.
For our anniversary, my husband and I went to a restaurant called Rafael located in St. Julians, Malta. After 3 weeks of eating apparently everything in Malta except red meat, we were both craving it. Someone sitting next to us ordered a plate of Spaghetti al Ragu and both my husband and I had to have it. For the 3 weeks we were in Malta (during this trip), we made sure we always ordered different items so that we could eat everything. No way was it going to happen this time. When the food came and we both took our first bite, we both entered food heaven.
Now you may be wondering which was better, my mom’s sauce or the sauce at Rafael. I would say that it is that same recipe. It is Bolognese perfection. They may do it in a different way, but in the end they taste the same, it is Spaghetti al Ragu heaven.
So here is my version of the sauce, made faster.
First you will slice or chop 6 cloves of fresh garlic. Yes, six. No less. You have to use fresh garlic. Garlic powder will not cut it for this dish to be a success.
Suttee garlic in olive oil with half of a chopped onion.
When you’re reached a translucent consistency, add your meat. I used ground turkey this time. In my home, we limit our red meat consumption to only once or twice a month, so I substitute ground turkey often and the taste is not lacking anything. Be sure to salt and pepper at this point.
After you brown the meat you are ready for the tomatoes. Start with 28 oz of pureed tomatoes.
You will then add 14 oz of diced tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Combine the meat with the tomatoes and it will come to this consistency. Add fresh basil, about 1/4 cup. I also used some dried oregano. You can absolutely use fresh.
Now for the ingredient that makes this all come together, one cup of red wine.
Ok. It is now time to simmer. This takes between 20-30 minutes. Taste along the way. You will know when it is ready. In the meantime, boil your water for the pasta. Please be sure to salt your water. Salting the water gets flavor out of the pasta. Without salt the pasta will be bland.
If you live in the USA, my favorite pasta brand to use is Barilla. (No this is not sponsored). When choosing my pasta for this dish it really depends on my mood. Most often I use spaghetti, thus the name of the recipe. However a short rigatoni would also be lovely. If you want to stick to long pasta though, you can also use Fettuccini Rigate ( which will have ridges) or another favorite of mine, Collezione bucatini (spaghetti like pasta with hole in the center). All of these will hold the sauce nicely.
When your pasta is cooked to al dente (firm to the bite). Remove it and drain out the water. Then place the pasta back in the pot. Here is my trick! To prevent your pasta from sticking and to drain it properly always return your pasta to the hot empty pot. Put the pasta over low heat and quickly toss. This will eliminate any extra liquid. Now in this case I don’t do this all of the way because I want some of the starchy pasta water to blend into my sauce and help make it adhere to my pasta.
Now some like to mix the sauce and the pasta together in the pot and others like to ladle the sauce on top. For me it depends on the sauce. For Ragu al Spaghetti, I like to ladle it on. Top it with your favorite shredded Parmesan cheese.