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Memmo’s Beef Ragu


This rich Italian sauce from The Long & Short of Pasta freezes well and can be served with pasta, polenta or roasted vegetables.

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The Long & Short of Pasta is the latest of 11 cookbooks by British cafe and cooking school owners Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi. The couple have a passion for Italian food and share dishes inspired by their travels in Italy, as well as photos, stories and anecdotes.

 “Tuscan meat ragù is rich and herby in flavour compared to its neighbouring Bolognese ragù, which usually contains no herbs or garlic,” Katie Caldesi writes in the recipe introduction.

“We always make a lot of this when we cook it as it freezes well. Giancarlo’s father, Memmo, used to make it every 14 days, and he would pour it into glass jars and store it in the fridge. Every day at 1pm he would unscrew a jar and warm it up to have with his pasta. For two weeks he had an easy lunch before he made the next batch.

“We ask our local butcher to give us a fatty cut of beef, around 15 per cent fat, and coarsely grind the meat for us. Giancarlo’s family ate this ragù with fresh fettucine or dried pasta such as spaghetti, but it is also lovely  on soft cheesy polenta or roasted vegetables.”

Memmo’s Beef Ragu

Serves 16–20


For the soffritto
200g carrots
200g celery stalks
200g red or white onions, peeled
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 sprigs of rosemary
100ml (scant ½ cup) extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground
Black pepper

For the ragù
2kg beef, coarsely minced (ground)
500ml (2¼ cups) red wine
1.2kg tinned plum tomatoes


In a large frying pan (skillet), make a soffritto with the carrots, celery, onions, garlic, rosemary, oil and seasoning, but finely chop the garlic with the other vegetables. When the soffritto is soft, remove the rosemary sprigs.

To make the ragù, add the mince to the soffritto and stir well. Cook for around 20 minutes, stirring frequently and allowing the water to evaporate from the pan.

Add the wine and let it reduce until the smell of alcohol dissipates.

Pour the tomatoes into a bowl and crush them with your hands (this is Giancarlo’s way; my way is to use a potato masher when they are in the pan –  the choice is yours!). Add the tomatoes to the pan, stir and bring to the boil.

Turn down the heat and continue to cook for around  2 hours, uncovered, over a low heat. If the heat is low, it shouldn’t catch, but do keep an eye on it and add a little hot water if it looks dry. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Use straight away or allow to cool and store in the fridge in a covered container for 1 week, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Recipe and image from The Long & Short of Pasta, by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi, published this week by Hardie Grant Books, RRP $34.99.

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