The ragu napoletano doesn’t have an official recipe like the ragù alla bolognese. There are so many interpretation in Naples herself that the recipe is a matter of opinions.

What we know for sure is that the sauce is made of meats and tomatoes. The quantity, the quality and the provenience is in the hands of the cook.

The braciola, stuffed with pine nuts, raisins and more is also a staple.

The sauce requires dedication and time. Not many would go to such a length of producing a condiment for pasta. It seems too much to be considered but for the passion of Neapolitans for food and especially for pasta.

The ragu Napoletano is not for everyday as it can be imagined. It takes so much time that there were two choices: cook the day before or get up very early in the morning to get the sauce started so to enjoy it at lunch time, the main meal. And that didn’t take in account the laborious search for the right ingredients.

Most of the time the choice was clear: the day before. The day was Saturday, as the ragu Napoletano was especially reserved for Sunday, festive day of rest and indulgence.

For the Neapolitans the ragù is a reverent observation of a tradition. It is in the same line as art.

In fact, for the good outcome, the ragu requires dedication and attention to details.  When you are making the ragu you have to tend to it like you would to a baby. You can’t leave it alone. You have to hang out in the kitchen.

If you think I am exaggerating, ask a Neapolitan. You’ll hear talking with pride and respect about his ragu napoletano.


Total Time: 5+ hours

Makes 3 cups, good for 6  pasta servings


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 ounces thick bacon choppedl
  • 2 ounces thick prosciutto chopped
  • 2  medium onions chopped
  • 6 ounces pork spare ribs
  • 8  ounces eye-of-round (in one piece)
  • 8  ounces veal rump or other (one piece}
  • 2  slices of rib-eye (braciole), 6 oz each
  • 2 cloves of garlic sliced
  • a few raisins and pine nuts (about 20 each)
  • 2 ounces pecorino in small bits
  • some parsley chopped
  • 6 ounces red dry wine
  • 4 ounces tomato paste diluted in 1 cup water
  • 20 or more San Marzano pulp purée (4 cups)
  • 15 or more basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper



Use a large pot or dutch oven, about 10 inches wide and 6 inches deep.

Warm olive oil on low heat and add bacon and prosciutto. Cook a few minutes then add all the meats and onions.

Raise the heat to medium high and brown meats turning them around, about ten minutes.

Add wine and let evaporate, 5 or more minutes.

Add tomato paste diluted in water and mix gently.

Then add the 4 cups tomato purée and when boiling, lower heat to a simmering position. Meat should be almost completely submerged. Cover leaving a small gap.

Stir occasionally. Ragù must simmer for at least 4 hours. Stir occasionally.

When done ragù should have a dense composition and would have acquired a deep dark red color.

Turn heat off. Tear basil leaves into sauce and stir.


Note: llard is used, not olive oil in the true ragù napoletano. Olive oil for healthier side

More meats are contemplated for the ragù and in different proportions. I kept at a medium. Also, some chop meats. That would shorten the cooking time, but it’s not in the true Neapolitan tradition.

For braciole (rib-eye), you can use a cheaper part. The long cooking will make them tender. As long as they are lean.  They should be about 8 inches long and not too thick, as you have to roll and tie them.

Some use a mix of pecorino and parmigiano. For you to know, there was no parmigiano in the original old recipe.

More sauces for pasta

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