Daniel Catalaa

Spaghetti al ragù


  • Basil, 15 leaves
  • Beef, ground, 1 lb.
  • Broth, chicken, 2 cups
  • Carrots, x4
  • Celery, stalks, x4
  • Cheese, Parmesan, grated, 1/2 cup
  • Garlic, 5 cloves
  • Mushrooms, button, 2 lb.
  • Olive oil, 1/2 cup
  • Onions, medium, x2
  • Oregano, fresh, chopped, 2 Tbs.
  • Pepper, black
  • Pepper flakes, 1 tsp.
  • Salt
  • Sausage, pork, mild, 6
  • Spaghetti, 1 lb.
  • Tomatoes, fresh, x4
  • Tomatoes, canned, large cans, (28 oz = 1 lb 12 oz) x2
  • Wine, red, 2 cups


Note: this recipe uses a layering technique where individual ingredients are cooked first separately, and then are combined to be cooked all together. Though not mentioned in the directions, salt and pepper seasoning should be done for each ingredient along the way as it is being cooked. The recipe is scaled up so that you can freeze half the sauce and eat the rest during the week.

  1. Prepare vegetables and meat: Peel and cut the garlic into slivers 1/8 inch wide. Dice the onions, carrots, and celery and place together in a bowl. Slice the mushrooms and dice the tomatoes placing each in a separate bowl. Cut the basil into a chiffonade (thin strips). Remove ground beef from packaging and break it up a little with a spoon. Remove sausage from casing, place it with the ground beef and also break it up a little.
  2. Prepare cooking liquids: In a large bowl place the canned tomatoes, the wine, the broth, and to them add the fresh diced tomatoes and the basil.
  3. Set up sieve: Set up a large sieve over an large (~8 cup) Pyrex measuring cup with a spout. This set up will be used to drain and re-use multiple times the oil as you cook ingredients separately.
  4. Infuse oil: Place oil in large deep skillet. Drop garlic into the oil together with the pepper flakes. Warm all together on a low flame for 5 minutes to infuse the oil.
  5. Brown the meat: When the garlic is just barely beginning to brown add the ground beef and sausage without the casing. Raise the flame to high and stir every so often in order to break up the clumps of meat.
  6. Reuse the oil: When all the meat has turned brown pour it out of the skillet and into the sieve. Let the oil and meat juices drain for a minute (save them!) into the bowl below.
  7. Mirepoix cooking: Pour the drained oil + meat juices back into the skillet, bring up to temperature, then add the diced celery, carrots, and onions. Cook until the onions are translucent and the celery and carrot are a little softer but still firm.
  8. Reuse the oil: Pour the mirepoix mixture into the sieve where the meat is resting and let the oil drain from it. Return the oil back to the large skillet and turn burner to the highest setting.
  9. Mushroom toasting: When the oil starts to smoke or to spit lively, add the mushrooms. Stir briefly for 20 seconds to coat the mushrooms with the oil then do not disturb. By leaving the mushrooms still, they will toast up and will caramelize slightly.
  10. Bring it all together: Once most of the mushrooms have at least one of their sides toasted up (takes 5-10 minutes), add back into the skillet the meat+mirepoix mixture from the sieve and also all the combined liquids (chicken broth, red wine, tomato sauce, fresh tomato, and basil).
  11. Cook the sauce: Bring sauce to a boil then lower the flame and simmer for ~30 minutes. Cook without the lid to reduce the sauce and make it thicker. Once desired consistency has been reached, place the lid back on to retain moisture. If it over-reduces, water can be added to stretch out the sauce for a more soupy consistency.
  12. Cook pasta: Boil 1 quart = 1 liter of water for every 1/2 lb. = 200 gr of spaghetti you will be cooking. Salt the water with 1 tsp. of salt and bring to the boil. Add the pasta and undercook it by 2-3 minutes (before the al dente stage).
  13. Marry pasta to sauce: Drain the pasta and place back into pot. Turn the burner back on to medium and ladle in as much sauce as you would like and mix everything together. The pasta will finish cooking in the sauce and will become stained by it.
  14. Adjust water: The spaghetti should reflect light overhead like slimy little worms. If they look opaque and dull, add some water until they slide off of each other and you hear a tacky/sticky noise as you mix.
  15. Garnish with cheese: Sprinkle with high quality parmesan (Parmiggiano Reggiano) and bring to the table.