The Big Ragu!

laverne__shirleyIf you ever watched Laverne & Shirley, then the chances are good that you’re familiar with Carmine “the Big Ragu” Ragusa, one of the recurring characters on the show portrayed by Eddie Mekka.

While I’ve learned to make a yummy Bolognese Sauce, there are times when a meat sauce — or a Ragù Carne (I’ve also seen it as Ragù di Carne — as I’m not an Italian speaker, I don’t know which is correct, or if they both are) — will do just fine, such as when making lasagna or Penne al Forno con Ragù Carne (Baked Penne with Meat Sauce).

A few months ago, I was going to be out for the day, and I wanted an easy supper. We wanted spaghetti, and so I decided to try making my meat sauce (Ragù Carne) in my slow cooker. I kept it simple: browned meat (extra lean ground turkey, ground beef, or even lean ground bulk sausage will work), onion, carrot, a tin of diced tomatoes, a tin of tomato paste, splash of Worcestershire, healthy splash of wine, and seasonings.

Peoples, it…was…YUMMY! Although not a Bolognese Sauce, it does made a lovely, thick, rich tasting sauce. This is currently my favorite way to make meat sauce!

And of course, if you like, you can add in some additional vegetables to the sauce — in making the sauce today, for example, I added in some fresh mushrooms that were reaching a “use or lose” status.

In December, I made a double batch of this sauce — a mix of ground turkey and ground bulk turkey sausage — and made two lasagnas: one for us and one as a gift for a friend.

If you don’t have time to put this sauce together in the morning, you can brown the meat the night before, put everything in your slow cooker, and put your slow cooker in the ‘fridge (or just refrigerate the browned meat and then put it all together in your slow cooker in the morning, or put the mixture all together in a separate container and refrigerate, then transfer it to your slow cooker in the morning).

TIP: To make clean-up easier, I suggest you use a slow cooker liner, lightly sprayed with cooking spray or oil. I use one even in my removable crock slow cooker.

VEGETARIANS: To make this sauce meatless, you can just leave out the meat, of course (and the Worcestershire sauce, if you want), although you might want to add in a small can (8 ounces) of tomato sauce or about 6 ounces (3/4 cup) of V-8 juice to increase the volume of sauce, or you can add in vegetables in lieu of the meat, such as a 10 ounce package of frozen spinach, diced eggplant, mushrooms, and/or diced zucchini. Because the additional vegetables will add additional liquid, you might want to double the tomato paste.

This sauce is SO EASY and yet SO YUMMY, I’m sure that Carmine “the big Ragu” would approve. 🙂


Buon Appetito! Salute!

Slow Cooker Ragù Carne (Makes enough for one pan of lasagna or approximately 6 servings over pasta) (Vegetarians: See note above)

  • 1 to 1.25 pounds extra lean (90/10 or greater) ground beef, ground turkey, or lean/reduced-fat ground bulk sausage
  • 1 can (14 – 15 ounces) diced tomatoes, UNDRAINED
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • Splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Healthy glug (1/4 to 1/3 cup) dry red wine (white wine would likely work, also) OR splash or two of red wine vinegar
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 to 1 onion, finely diced (I whiz mine up in my wee food processor)
  • 1 carrot, finely mined/diced (I whiz mine up in my wee food processor)
  • Minced garlic, if desired
  • Seasonings to taste: bay leaf (1 or 2), basil, Italian seasoning, oregano, garlic powder, red pepper flakes (for a bit of fra diavolo flavor)
  • NOTE: IF USING FRESH HERBS, stir in after sauce has cooked, UNLESS you want to add in a sprig or two of fresh rosemary, then remove the sprig after the sauce as simmered.
  1. Brown ground meat. If desired, add in some minced garlic and sauté for a minute or two once meat has browned.
  2. Stir all ingredients into slow cooker. (I recommend using a liner for easier clean-up.)
  3. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours. (NOTE: It won’t hurt the sauce if it cooks a little longer.)
  4. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.

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About MissieLee

I love tasty food prepared in a healthy way with a budget in mind.
This entry was posted in Beef, Main Dish, Pasta, Turkey, Vegetarian/Meatless and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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