I love this ragu sauce. It is soft, but has a lovely punch when compared to a typical sauce. I use a variation of it in Cottage Pie, and while it can be made on the stove top, it is better made in the oven a day before you wish to use it.

Serves 6

The Ragù:

  • 24 oz (700 g) minced beef
  • 2 x 100g packs pancetta or six slices of smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 fat cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 400g tins Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 6 level tablespoons tomato purée
  • 6 fl oz (175 ml) red wine
  • whole nutmeg
  • salt and freshly milled black pepper
  • 1 x 15 g pack fresh basil


  1. Pre heat the oven to gas mark 1, 275°F (140°C).
  2. Take a casserole dish, and fry the onion until soft, about ten minutes. Stir it occasionally to prevent it burning. Add the chopped bacon and minced cloves of garlic and keep cooking for another five minutes, then  put this mixture onto a plate for later.
  3. Turn the heat up to the highest point and add the beef and brown the lot, then put the fried onion mixture into the meat and give it a good stir. Add both tins of tomatoes, the 6 tablespoons of puree, glass of wine, quarter of grated nutmeg and seasoning. Stir the lot again and let it bubble to its simmering point.
  4. Tear off half the basil, add to the pot, give it another good stir and shove in the oven – centre shelf – for about 4 hours giving a good stir every so often. Make sure it doesn’t go too dry but most of the liquid should go, leaving  a nice, rich concentrated sauce. When that is done tear the rest of the basil leaves and add the to pot. Stir.

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