What Is Veal Ragu?

Lee Johnson

Veal ragu is a tomato-based Italian sauce cooked with veal, which usually includes onions, garlic, carrots, and fennel. The sauce is cooked with the meat for a long period of time over a low heat so that the flavors of the veal infuse with the tomato and vegetable mixture. Pasta is often served with veal ragu, and the entire dish can be topped with Parmesan cheese to serve. Different recipes feature different supplementary ingredients, such as sausage, stock, wine, and other herbs like rosemary and sage. The process of making the ragu usually involves shallow-frying the meat and vegetables and then adding passata, or tomato puree, to simmer for around an hour.

Parmesan is a hard, aged cheese used in many dishes.
Parmesan is a hard, aged cheese used in many dishes.

A ragu is an Italian meat sauce which is usually tomato-based. Many different types of meat can be used to make a ragu; veal ragu contains veal. Veal is the meat from the calves of cows, often not allowed to exercise or move much so they produce a more tender meat. Shoulder of veal or ground veal can be used in a veal ragu, depending on the chef’s preference. Veal shoulder has to be cooked and shredded before adding it to the ragu sauce.

Veal is simmered in tomato puree to make ragu.
Veal is simmered in tomato puree to make ragu.

Ingredients commonly used in veal ragu include onions, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, and passata. Salt and pepper are usually used as seasoning, and this is occasionally accompanied by fennel, which is used to add flavor to the dish. Passata is tomato juice, strained so it is free from chunks of tomato. Chopped or crushed tomatoes can be used in place of passata in recipes for veal ragu.

Some chefs add other ingredients to veal ragu to make the dish more flavorful. Common additions include stock, wine, sausages, rosemary, and sage. Many different types of stock can be used, including beef stock, chicken stock, and vegetable stock. Either white or red wine is suitable for the dish, depending on the taste of the chef. Other herbs such as basil can also be used in veal ragu.

The process of making veal ragu begins with cooking the veal. The mince or chunks of veal shoulder are shallow-fried until cooked, and then onions, carrots and garlic are added and cooked until they have softened. Wine can be added to deglaze the pan, and then the tomatoes or passata is added along with any stock. This mixture is seasoned, and then left to cook for around an hour. The chef should stir the ragu regularly. The sauce is often served with pasta and cheese.


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