Time: 1hr 15min
With autumn just around the corner, we’re preparing to cosy up with our favourite comfort food. This season is all about a warming, nourishing bowl of goodness and incredible flavour. So, we’re sailing into the cooler months with a celebration of Italian cuisine and organic living with this powerful and organic recipe, and don’t worry, if you’re a vegetarian, there’s a simple way to make this recipe meat-free! Keep reading to learn more about our inspiration behind this recipe, where it comes from, and how to use our Italian ingredients to recreate it at home.
What is ragù?
Ragù is an Italian meat-based sauce that is usually served with pasta - similar to a stew. Traditional ragù contains pieces of meat (beef, pork, and lamb are all common) that are slow-cooked and braised in tomato or wine-based liquid. The slow-cooking process leaves the meat wonderfully tender.
Where does ragù come from?
The most famous ragù alla Bolognese comes from Bologna in northern Italy, but like most dishes, you’ll find different variations as you travel across the country. For example, in Naples, you’ll enjoy ragù Napoletano, and ragù alla Barese in Puglia. The basis of all these dishes is the same, but each Italian city or town has adapted it to make it its own, with some form of unique twist that makes it memorable.
The history of ragù
Ragù dates back to the 18th century and is said to have been developed from the French ragoût. When the dish became popular in Italy, one of its very first forms was slow-cooked beef mince with onions and tomatoes, seasoned with pepper and cinnamon, and served with maccheroni. But meat and fresh egg pasta were expensive at the time and only available to the affluent few, so post-industrial revolution, these ingredients became more accessible, pasta expanded across Italy and ragù became increasingly popular, and enjoyed nationwide.
Organic Meatballs with Artichoke Ragù and Creamy Polenta Recipe
For the meatballs
450g organic minced lamb
1 large organic egg
120g organic breadcrumbs
60ml organic milk
A pinch of dried oregano
4 tbsp organic parmesan cheese
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
60g organic plain flour
3 tbsp organic olive oil (from the artichokes)
For the sauce
1 onion, finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
400g organic chopped tomatoes
A pinch of dried oregano
315ml organic chicken or vegetable broth
2 tbsp organic tomato paste
3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
A pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
For the polenta
150ml organic milk
A pinch of salt
30g organic butter
30g organic parmesan cheese
A pinch of fresh rosemary or parsley, chopped
Mix the breadcrumbs and milk together in a small bowl. Once combined, set it aside and let that rest for 5 minutes. Then, in a medium bowl, mix all the remaining meatball ingredients apart from the flour and olive oil, and use your fingers to combine everything thoroughly.
Take a piece of the meat mixture and roll it between your palms to make a meatball. Repeat with the remaining mixture to make 12 meatballs. They should be roughly the size of a golf ball. Try to keep all the meatballs are uniform as possible.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Place the flour in a separate dish and roll each meatball in it before frying for 6-8 minutes minutes. Once browned, remove the meatballs from the heat and set aside.
Return to the same frying pan, add the onions and artichokes, and cook for 5 minutes until fragrant.
Add the tomatoes, oregano, broth, tomato paste, parsley, salt and pepper, and chilli flakes (if using). Bring that to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer.
Add the meatballs back into the sauce, cover, and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In the meantime, make your creamy polenta. Boil the water and milk in a saucepan and season with a pinch of salt. Slowly sprinkle the polenta into the saucepan while whisking to avoid lumps forming.
Turn the heat right down, cover, and simmer for 25-35 minutes until thick and fluffy. Make sure you stir the polenta frequently so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
Once ready, turn off the heat and stir in the butter, cheese, and a bit more salt if needed. Serve in the centre of the plate with the meatballs and ragù on top. Garnish with some extra parmesan and fresh herbs. Buon appetito!
How to serve ragù
We’ve served our ragù with creamy polenta, a popular savoury side in Italy that’s similar to mashed potatoes. However, if you prefer, you can serve your meatballs and ragù with traditional pasta.
To drink, we recommend an indulgent red wine like the Campi Valerio Calidio Rosso. This exceptional wine is a truly hidden gem that’s full of vibrant, rich Italian flavours. Red fruits are balanced with a delicate acidity to create this medium to full-bodied ruby red wine. For an alcohol-free option, try a delicate and refreshing limonata that’ll transport you straight to the cobbled streets of Italy.
A hearty ragù is one of the most traditional Italian dishes that’s warming, comforting, and beautifully delicious. It’s a little more effort in the kitchen, but it’s worth every minute!
You can cut the cooking time down if you like by serving your ragù with fresh pasta rather than polenta, which is quicker to make.
For a meat-free version of ragù, simply opt for plant-based mince of your choice or ready-made veggie meatballs, which will also cut the cooking time down.