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The Best Neapolitan Ragù Recipe You Will Ever Make

This Neapolitan Ragù recipe is the most delicious southern Italian meat sauce you will ever want to spend all day cooking and all week enjoying the leftovers.

Neapolitan Ragu Recipe - Pasta

Finished Sauce On Pasta

This recipe for Neapolitan Ragù Recipe (Ragù alla Napoletano) is traditional, and delicious, but you will need the better part of a day to make something this amazing. The other great benefit for this recipe is that because of the long cooking time, cheaper cuts of meat should be used which makes this both delicious and economical.

What Does Ragù Mean In Italian?

Generally speaking, when a sauce is called a Ragu (Ragù) it means that it is a meat-based sauce that is typically served with pasta. The two most famous are this Neapolitan Ragu and the Authentic Italian Bolognese Sauce Recipe, which I will describe more below.

What Is The Difference Between A Neapolitan Ragù And A Bolognese?

There are two major differences between this Neapolitan Ragu recipe (Ragù alla Napoletano) and the traditional Bolognese meat sauce,  known in Italy as Ragù alla Bolognese. The first difference is how the meat is used. With the Ragù alla Bolognese, you use ground beef that is cooked for a much shorter time than this Neapolitan Ragu. The second major difference is that there is no dairy in this Neapolitan Ragu, and traditionally, the Bolognese meat sauce does use a good amount of milk in its preparation.

Kitchen Tools And Cookware

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Pasta MakerGnocchi BoardPasta BoardRavioli Maker
Ravioli Press/StamperRicerBialetti Pasta PotBamboo Cutting Board Set of 3
Silpat Baking MatSantoku KnifeMeasuring Cups and SpoonsStainless Mixing Bowls
Dutch OvenMesh StrainersStainless ColanderStainless Steel Fry Pan

A Neapolitan Ragu Recipe Has What 4 Kinds Of Meat?

The more common meats used in this sauce are pork sausages and pork ribs. The two less common cuts are described in greater detail below, and they are the Beef Should (Chuck) and Boneless Pork Shank. These are cheaper cuts that are great for the longer cooking time necessary for this meat sauce recipe.

Santoku Knife

The Santoku style knife is my favorite when I’m cooking and Victorinox makes a great one!

How Do I Make Neapolitan Ragù More Flavorful?

This sauce has a ton of flavor that gets extracted from the cheap cuts of meat over the long cooking time. You could add some herbs at the end of the cooking time, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I would suggest that you add a stuffed and rolled meat, like a Braciole, during the last hour of cooking. This will bring a finishing flavor to the sauce that gets lost in the long cooking time.

What Is The Secret To A Good Ragu Sauce?

The most important element in cooking a great Neapolitan Ragu is: Time. The time is important because it extracts all the fat from the pork (fat is flavor in pork), and it breaks down all the connective tissue of the meats, other than the sausage. I know connective tissue isn’t a great name, but it has a ton of flavor, and when it breaks down, the meat will deliciously shred into the sauce.

Neapolitan Ragu Recipe - Cooking

Sauce Cooking For Hours

What Is Italian Gravy?

Let me know if you are reading this, and you disagree, but as I understand it, Italian Gravy  a.k.a. Sunday Gravy is typically a meat sauce recipe like this Neapolitan Ragu that is called Gravy, but mostly in New Jersey. Everywhere else, I believe, it is called: Sauce.

Neapolitan Ragu Recipe - Browning

Browning The Meat

I have a little experience with this from my very young childhood. We lived outside of NYC, near New Jersey, and at the time everyone I knew called it gravy, so I did as well. When we would visit family in other parts of New York, specifically Western NY, we were roundly laughed at because we called it Gravy, so to this day I’m a little touchy on this subject.

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Neapolitan Ragù Recipe Key Ingredients

Beef Shoulder/Chuck (Muscolo di Manzo)

The Beef Shoulder/Chuck (Muscolo di Manzo) is a cut of meat considered of little value and therefore also cheap, which is carved from the shoulder muscles. It is a very versatile cut of beef, in fact you can obtain excellent slices for steaks and rolls, stews, roasts and boiled meats. Really anything that has a long cooking time can make this meat delicious.

Boneless Pork Shank (Gallinella di Maiale)

The Boneless Pork Shank is the front forearm of the pig. This cut is tough because of how the pigs develop muscles, but it also gives the meat incredible flavor that tastes amazing, even compared to any other pork. For this recipe, the bone must be removed and the meat should fall apart during the long cooking process.

Neapolitan Ragu Recipe

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Prep Time: 15 Minutes
  • Cook: 7 Hours
  • Servings: 8 (but it depends on how you use it)
neapolitan ragù recipe - tomatoes


Neapolitan Ragù Ingredients

  • 24 ounces (650g) Pork Ribs
  • 12 ounces (300g) Pork Sausage
  • 24 ounces (650g) Beef Chuck (Shoulder)
  • 14 ounces (400g) Boneless Pork Shank
  • 5 lbs. (2.5kg) Canned Peeled Tomatoes
  • 6 ounces (150g ) Tomato Paste
  • 4 ounces (120g) Onions
  • 10 ounces (300ml) Dry Red Wine
  • 4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • Salt to taste

Cooking Instructions

  1. In a large, tall sided pot like a Dutch oven or taller, add some olive oil on medium to high heat and brown all of the pieces of meat on all sides. Do this in bunches so that you don’t overcrowd the pan. If some of the pieces stick to the bottom, don’t worry.
  2. Once all the pieces are browned, return them all to the pot and pack them tightly, Tetris-style. Now, lower the heat. 
  3. Dice up the onion and add it to the pot, and then add the wine to deglaze the pot a little bit.
  4. Once the alcohol from the wine has evaporated, which you can determine from smelling it, add some water to the tomato paste to dissolve it a little bit and add it to the pot.
  5. If you used whole peeled tomatoes, break them up a little with a fork or masher. Then add them to the pot.
  6. Lower the heat so that it slightly bubbles, which in Naples is called: “Pippiare”, which means to peep. Cover with the lid, but leave a little opening for the steam to escape.
  7. After 3 or 4 hours, add some salt. As the time goes by, add more salt, but only a little at a time while you check to make sure that it isn’t over salted as it reduces.
  8. After 6 or 7 hours, the sauce should look a little less vibrant red and a little browner and most, if not all, of the meat will have broken apart. Take it off the heat and let it cool a bit. When it is cool enough to be handled, remove any bones (from the ribs) and any chunks of fat, if there are any. The sauce is ready for use. 

Pasta Pot with Strainer

Perfect for cooking pasta, this pot can be used to cook a range of meals you will love!

Serving Suggestions For Neapolitan Ragù

As you might expect, adding this amazing sauce to pasta is where this short rib ragu really shines. The mix of sauce and chunks of meat provides a very fulfilling meal. You can also use it in a baked dish, like a Pasta Al Forno. Lastly, and this isn’t as crazy as it might sound, you can simply grab a hunk of bread and spend time dipping the bread into the sauce with a nice dry red wine. We actually went to a restaurant in Naples and had this exact lunch and it was amazing!

Neapolitan Ragu Recipe - Onions

Diced Onions

Previous Italian Recipes That Might Interest You

If you enjoyed this recipe for the best Neapolitan Ragù recipe you can find, here are some of my previous recipes that you might want to try:

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