Ragù Napoletano is all about beef and tomatoes. Combining these two creates umami, one of the five tastes, because the tomatoes contain amino acid glutamate and the beef inosinate.
Whereas Ragù Bolognese is made with finely chopped meat, Ragù Napoletano is prepared with whole cuts of beef, seasoned and rolled up. Best is to use Blade Steak (or Top Blade), Rump Cap or Top Rump. Our butcher suggested using Knuckle Side Roast (or Knuckle Plate Muscle) which is rather lean so a touch dry after simmering for many hours. On the other hand, it kept its structure and flavours very well. Best is to ask your butcher for advice.
Many recipes suggest adding pork ribs to the dish, but we wanted to focus on the combination of beef and tomato. We did however add a bit of fatty bacon.
Tomato-wise you need lots of tomatoes: fresh ones, passata, puree and/or canned.
Best to prepare one day ahead.
A red, full bodied wine from Italy made with Sangiovese grapes will be a great accompaniment for both the starter and the main dish. We opened a bottle of Les Petits Rigolos, a red wine from the Tolosan region in south western France made with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. A round wine with notes of strawberry and blackcurrant. A touch spicy, which worked very well with the rich flavours of the Ragù Napoletano.
What You Need
- For the Beef
- 2 slices of Beef
- Parmesan Cheese
- Fresh Parsley
- Fresh Oregano
- 1 small Garlic Clove
- Optional: Pine Nuts
- Olive Oil
- For the Sauce
- Small Onion or Shallot
- Olive Oil
- Bacon (or better: Lardo)
- 250 ml of White Wine
- Fresh Tomatoes
- Tomato puree
- ½ can of Tomatoes
- For the Starter
- Parmesan Cheese
- For the Main Course
What You Do
Soak the raisins in water for an hour. Drain. Chop parsley, oregano, raisins and garlic. In a bowl, combine raisins, garlic, oregano, parsley and freshly grated cheese. Flatten the meat if it’s difficult to roll up. Scatter the mixture over the meat, roll the meat up and tie with two strings of kitchen twine.
If using fresh tomatoes, peel and seed them. Chop coarsely. Chop the onion and slice the bacon. Heat a large saucepan, add olive oil, add onion and bacon. Leave on low heat for some 10 minutes or until the onion is glazed. Add the two rolls and fry them on all sides until evenly golden brown. Take you time to do this. Add the wine, let the alcohol evaporate and reduce. Add the tomatoes, the passata and the puree. Leave the stew on low heat and turn the meat occasionally. This stage is about stewing the meat as gently as possible and reducing the sauce. If you feel it’s going too fast, then put a lid on the pan, but only partially.
Once the meat is ready (this may take 4+ hours) remove the meat from the sauce, keep it warm (an oven at 50 °C or 120 °F will be perfect) and allow the sauce to reduce even more, as slowly as possible. Wait for the sauce to become dark and shiny.
For the first course: serve the sauce with pasta and freshly grated Parmesan cheese (we used Rigatoni because of the ridges).
For the second course: warm the meat in the remaining sauce, slice it and serve with sauce and vegetables.
We would probably be kicked out of Naples (and Italy) with our version of Ragù Napoletano (oregano? French wine?). It is, however, a very tasty two course meal with lots of umami, as expected.