Ragù Napoletano (Neapolitan-style ragù sauce for pasta)

Ragù Napoletano (Neapolitan-style ragù sauce for pasta)
Fortunato Mazzone’s Ragù Napoletano (Neapolitan-style ragù sauce for pasta). (Photo by Forti | collage by Tony Jackman)

In this series, I explore Italy’s cucina povera, the food of the country’s poor people, which is very much in vogue. In this edition, I share my recipe for Neapolitan-style ragù.

Napoletano ragù, from Naples, is one of the two styles of this meat sauce in Italy, the other being ragù Bolognese, from Bologna. Essentially, it is a meat and tomato sauce cooked on a low heat for a long time.

The cucina povera, or poor people’s food, is absolutely in vogue in Italy and around the world at the moment. Even Michelin-starred chefs have seized upon these centuries-old traditional foods served on the tables of the common people in rural Italy and turned them into fashionable food served in restaurants. 

Fortunato Mazzone in his Italian realm, centre, with (left) his pesce in cartoccio and, right, his Pasta e Fazul, also coming up in this series. (Photos supplied; collage by Tony Jackman)

Fortunato Mazzone in his Italian realm, centre, with (left) his pesce in cartoccio and, right, his Pasta e Fazul, previously published in this series. (Photos supplied; collage by Tony Jackman)

These dishes are not only delicious and wholesome but often very cheap to make. Perfect for contemporary South Africa.

This sauce freezes fantastically, so you can make it weeks before you need it and use it when you need big flavour.

The emphasis must be on a gentle cooking process with respect for your ingredients. I serve the ragu with paccheri pasta, chunky tubes from the Campania region of Italy. Never overcook the pasta; 100g dry pasta per person is a good portion size.

(Serves 6)


100ml good virgin olive oil

4 x 400g cans of chopped, peeled Italian tomatoes

2 large Tbsp tomato paste

half a bottle of good robust red wine such as cabernet sauvignon or chianti

1 large diced onion

2 celery stalks, diced

1 large carrot, diced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

300g chuck steak, cut into chunks

6 Italian salsicce or good coarse pork sausage

half a fresh chicken on the bone, cut into coarse chunks

handful of fresh basil

sea salt and black pepper


In your largest pot, and using lots of oil (at least 100ml), braise the diced carrots, onion, garlic and celery on a modest heat until glossy. It is important that they do not burn.

Add the chuck and chicken in large pieces with the sausage and cook slowly, turning over, until lightly browned.

Add the wine slowly into the pot in drops, stirring and reducing until all the alcohol has evaporated and the sauce is reaching a nice thick consistency at the base of the pot.

At this point, add the tomato paste and stir in. Cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring continuously to prevent any burning.

Add the peeled tomato and the basil and season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.

Allow to simmer slowly for two to three hours. The meat should now be dissolving into the sauce, which should have thickened and browned.

Serve with paccheri pasta prepared in lots of rapidly boiling salted water and served al dente, meaning with some good bite left to the pasta. DM

Fortunato Mazzone is the boss at the Forti Group of restaurants.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Brian Hutton says:

    Ah, the taste real taste of Italy. Looking forward to this. Thank you for sharing your recipes.

  • John Patson says:

    Check the tomato tins: some have lots of salt in them, and if you add salt it will swamp other flavours. The Chinese have moved into “Italian” tomatoes, so be careful.
    It is South Africa’s tomato season, better to find (or grow) decent tomatoes. Roma are best for cooking, (dry long tomatoes with slightly acid bias.)

  • Sam Venter says:

    Do you pick out the chicken bones before serving? I can get the addition of flavour, but not keen to pick bones out of my pasta dish

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