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The Ultimate Ragù: Beef Lovers’ Most Versatile Recipe

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You’re having friends over and don’t want to spend all day in the kitchen. You got home from work hangry and are agonizing over whether you’ll eat the food in your fridge or the delivery charge on your app. You want to be about that #mealpreplife but also want something that actually tastes decent reheated.

Sounds like you’re in need of beef ragù.

Beef Ragù: The Original Awesomesauce

A hearty, robust, tomato-based sauce starring ground beef, beef ragù (beef Bolognese, or “Mother Ragù”) is packed with flavor and easy to chill, freeze, and reheat. While it’s traditionally served with wide pastas like pappardelle, fettuccine, and tagliatelle, beef ragù is endlessly customizable. This mother sauce kicks dozens of dishes up a notch, from spaghetti and zoodles to Cincinnati beef chili and shakshuka (we’ll get to those in a second).

But first, a little history lesson.

The origins of beef ragù are, as the Economist notes, a bit tangled. While associated with Italy, the term ragù actually comes from France. “Ragout” (pronounced the same as ragù) refers to any dish stewed with minced or diced meat or just vegetables. Somehow, the term made it to Italy, where Naples and Bologna have been fighting over who started the dish ever since. Regardless of who owns it, “ragù” has come to broadly describe sauces that include ground or minced meat, resulting in the abundance of variations we see today.

Based on the name, the one that seems to have won is Bologna (don’t tell Naples we said that), but Naples does have its own variation on ragù—Ragù Neapolitan, featuring pieces of whole meat rather than minced.

Why beef? It just hits different.

Like countless other food pairings, tomatoes and beef just go together. Not only does beef ragú fill you up more than meatless tomato sauce, but it also adds delicious flavor and plenty of protein and nutrients. If that’s not enough to convince you, perfecting beef ragú expands your culinary skills and can help you impress your dinner guests—and maybe even your Italian grandmother. Plus, it’s pretty painless, especially when following this recipe for beef Bolognese.

Here are a few ways to use beef ragù next time you’re craving Italian or want to whip up some flavorful, satisfying eats.

1. Beefitarian Spaghetti Bolognese: Chef’s Kiss

spaghetti bolognese

Beef Bolognese is classic for a reason and takes spaghetti with marinara up a notch. Savory, tomatoey, and a good cure for hanger, spaghetti Bolognese is perfect for a casual meal with friends or to make and eat yourself over the course of a week (or a day). Show your friends you understood the assignment with Beefitarian Spaghetti Bolognese or get crafty and use the sauce as a base in Cincinnati Beef Chili.

2. Shakshuka That Slaps

Shakshuka. Spicy, savory, and satisfying. Delicious for breakfast, dinner, or anything in-between. And, like many of the other listed dishes here, made even better with beef.

Packed with rich, flavorful ingredients, this popular Middle Eastern dish is quickly becoming a global go-to meal. Shakshuka features eggs baked in a tomato sauce with onions, veggies, and spices like paprika, cumin, and chili powder. Like beef ragù, shakshuka has endless variations—and it’s easy to make (it’s a one-pan dish).

shakshuka with beef

Beef ragù speeds up the already-easy cooking process and adds flavor and satiety. To prep beef shakshuka, choose and sauté your veggies (peppers, tomatoes, and onions are the most common, but eggplant and zucchini are also delicious). Then, add the ragù, any spices, and six cracked eggs to the pan. You’ll be on your way to delicious beefy shakshuka in no time.

3. Bye Bye Bye Basic Tacos

beef ragu tacos

Put away your taco mix and reach for the ragù. With onions, tomatoes, and, of course, beef, beef Bolognese pairs with plenty of classic taco toppings, from guacamole to cotija. It also works with both corn and flour tortillas, so mix and match to find your preference or choose your favorite. Top with peppers, queso fresco, black beans, and avocado for a robust, yet balanced flavor.

4. Zucchini Boats: If You Know, You Know.

Healthy, tasty, and versatile, zucchini boats are the new pasta, bread, chips, and everything in between. Whether you want a fresh take on garlic bread or a veggie hoagie for your Philly Cheesesteak, zucchini boats are your friend. And, no surprise, they’re especially flavorful when topped with ragù, making perfect appetizers or even a main dish. Just halve the zucchinis, carve out the middle, and top with beef ragù, mozzarella, and some parsley and bake.

5. The Greatest Make-Your-Own Pizza of All Time

(Okay, along with Italian beef and cheesesteak pizza). Ground beef has long been a supreme topping for Beefitarians and meat lovers, and it happens to be the hero of beef ragù. Beef ragù offers robust sauce and delicious toppings all in one, making prep easy and the pizza delicious. Just add cheese and any other toppings you might like (we recommend bell peppers, tomatoes, and banana peppers) for the best personal pan or shareable pizza, period.

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