“O Ragu’ “: The Sunday Ritual

The Ragu

It’s not Sunday without the Ragu. First of all don’t call it “a sauce”! It is not a simple sauce, it is not just a dish. The Ragu is the proof of how important the food culture is  in Italy. When you prepare it you are not just preparing food. Preparing it for  Sunday lunch is a ritual which requires passion. There are specific processes and steps to be done. Please, let us introduce “o ragu’ “.


The term Ragu comes from the French Ragout which refers to a slow cooking style for meat and vegetables. But a story like that has no flavor, no taste. That’s why people start to create their own story adding extra ingredients, some spices to make everything more interesting.

The Ragu
The Ragu
Therefore, following the legend, the name Ragu'(RAU’)  comes form the name of a child Rau’, son of a man who was considered an evil enemy of everyone. One day, the wife tried to make something special for him: a dish of pasta with sauce. But due to the cruelty of the man the sauce became blood. That prodigious made the man change behavior. The wife prepared again the sauce with so much passion and love that when the man tasted it, he gave it the name “Rau’ ” like his son.

The Ragu
The Ragu

It is so important in the Italian culture that the Ragu has been the muse for many poets.

Edoardo De Filippo ( a famous Neapolitan poet) in his poem exalted the flavour of the ragu; especially the one that his mother used to made.

The Ragu (E. De Filippo)

The ragu that I like,
only my mom used to make it.
Since I’ve been married to you,
we are speaking for the sake of it,
I’m not a fussy eater but,
let’s take off this Sunday ritual.

Ok, as you want.
What…are we going to fight now?
What do you say..that this is ragu?
I will eat it for the sake of it.

But, can you let me say one thing,
This is meat with sauce!

Now, that is something that every woman who wants to date an Italian man should know: the mother’s food is unbeatable,  it is the best. But, no worries women, the day you have a son you will be honoured and admired that your child will always think that your food is the best.


The movie Saturday, Sunday & Monday (1990, Lina Wertmuller) features the preparation of the ragu, which is a long process that starts with the butcher visit on Saturday.

The Rag - the butcher grocery
The Ragu

Like Sophia Loren in the movie, on Saturday morning we went to our trusted butcher Anthony at Nino’s & Joe’s in Brunswick.

Saturday – The butcher visit.

The Ragu
The Ragu

Every family has its own ragu recipe. The choice of the meat is a very important and delicate part. It is not a minced meat. Every single specific cut of meat (beef & pork) you are going to use will give something to the sauce: flavor, aroma, consistence.

You need:

  1. a nice piece of “coperta di costata” (brisket) opened and flat like a libro (like a book).
  2. 4-5 puntine di maiale ( pork ribs, the ones with a little bit of fat)
  3. some muscle with nerves in it

The rest you need is

-Parsley and Basil,
-EVO oil,
-Parmigiano and Pecorino cheese,
-Tomato sauce,

The choice of the pasta is simple: Ziti. A tube shaped pasta that absorbs all the flavor of the sauce.

The Ragu

They have to be broken by hand. It’s part of the ritual. And remember: for a good ragu you must not skip any of the steps!



Once you have all the ingredients you can start the preparation of the ragu. There are two ways: some people (and with people we mean mothers) start to cook it on Saturday night for a couple of hours, leave it rest the night, and finishing it on Sunday for other four hours; others cook it for six hours on Sunday morning (which means you have to wake up very early).

Sunday – The preparation

First of all you have to start with the brisket (“coperta di costata”). Lay it down on the bench and cut it in wide strings between 10-15 cm. Spread on a little bit of salt, pepper, parsley, parmigiano cheese and some pieces of pecorino, as well as chopped garlic.

The ragu
The Ragu - le braciole

Roll them along the length and tie with a string.


Chop in half the pork ribs,  and dice the muscle roughly.

Now be ready to cry. Chop an onion really thin. 

The Ragu - The onion
The Ragu - The onion

In a pot add some olive oil and sauté the onion to get a golden brown color.

Add the braciole (the brisket rolls) and brown them.

The Ragu
The Ragu

Add the rest of the meat, a glass of red wine and let it simmer.

Add the tomato sauce and stir  gently with a wooden spoon (we said wooden, not plastic, or steel…wooden!). Reduce the fire, put a lid on the top and let the Ragu do its thinking.

What do you mean: let the ragu do its thinking?”

Ok. Let’s make a coffee and we’ll explain to you what we mean.

The Ragu
The Ragu

The Ragu has to think now. It is like when you are trying to create something and your brain is thinking so much that it is almost boiling. The same is for the ragu. You have to let it bubble which in Neapolitan dialect is “pippiare” (that reminds you of the sound of the sauce bubbling ).

The Ragu
The Ragu


It has to think a lot. At least six hours. The more it thinks, the more it absorbs the flavor of the meat which in the end will be so tender that it will melt in your mouth.

If you don’t respect all of these steps, and don’t do all of them with love, as the poet said it will be just meat with sauce.



When the sauce has thought enough and has become very thick, it is time to cook the pasta ( as always, in a big pot with boiling water).

The Ragu
The Ragu

While the pasta is cooking and you are mouthwatering you can have an early taste. Cut the end of a bread ciabatta or pane di casa. We call it “cuzztiell”.

Dip it in the sauce directly from the pot.  Taste it. And now tell me: is it not a poem?

When the pasta is ready move to a big bowl,

The Ragu
The Ragu
pour the sauce (attention: the sauce, not the meat, only the sauce!) on it, mix and serve.  Serve with parmigiano or pecorino and basil on top if you like. Enjoy with your family or friends. Because that’s the magic of the ragu: it brings everyone together.

After the pasta (to be more precise after a couple of servings of pasta), after you’ve cleaned your plate with the “scarpetta” (little shoes – it is a piece of bread) from the leftover salsa, let’s have the meat!

The Ragu
The Ragu

Monday – the leftover day

On Moday you will probably have some salsa or meat leftover, so you don’t need to cook.  You already have your lunch!

Related Posts

Nomad Salt&Pepper Goat Nomad Salt&Pepper Goat August 11, 2016
Minestrone Minestrone: not just a plain soup May 29, 2018


  • sdf
    February 2, 2016 at 12:22 pm — Reply

    Heya! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone 4!
    Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog
    and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the great work!

    • James (Author)
      February 2, 2016 at 9:58 pm — Reply

      Thanks a lot!

Leave a Reply