• This classic Italian delight comes courtesy of Pretoria’s Ritrovo restaurant, and father-son team Fortunato and Giovanni Mazzone. Neapolitan ragu is one of the most famous meat sauces in Italian cooking. Hailing from Naples, this is pure comfort at its most traditionally delicious.

    Recipe by Fortunato Mazzone
    Photography by Graeme Wyllie 

    Primo: Neapolitan ragu


    • 200ml extra virgin
    • olive oil, for frying
    • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
    • 2 large onions, diced
    • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
    • 4 celery sticks, diced
    • 1kg whole sirloin
    • 4-rib lamb rack (on the bone)
    • 1 chicken (1,2kg – 1,4kg), jointed
    • 500g Italian salsiccia or good, coarse pork sausage
    • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    • 375ml (1½ cups) good red wine
    • 25ml (5 tsp) tomato paste
    • 4 x 400g tins Italian peeled tomatoes
    • handful fresh basil, torn
    • 1,2kg cooked pasta (preferably hand-broken ziti or rigatoni)
    • freshly grated Parmesan, to serve



    Add a large glug of olive oil to a saucepan over moderate heat and sauté the carrot, onion, garlic and celery until glossy, 10 minutes. Set aside.


    Place the whole sirloin, lamb rack, chicken and sausages in a very large pot with 100ml preheated olive oil. Cook slowly, turning the cuts over, until the meat is lightly browned and sealed.


    Add the sautéed vegetables to the large pot, season and stir. Slowly pour the wine into the pot, stirring constantly.


    Reduce until all the alcohol has evaporated and the sauce is starting to reach a thick, dark consistency at the base of the pot, 20 minutes.


    At this point, add the tomato paste and cook gently, stirring continuously to prevent burning, about 5 minutes.


    Place the tinned tomatoes in a bowl and pulp them by hand. Add the basil, and season to taste. Add the tomato pulp to the pot and allow to simmer slowly, 2 hours. The meat should start dissolving into the sauce, which should have thickened and browned to a rich, deep colour of good burgundy.


    Take two forks and gently pull all the meat off the bones. Shred the meat by hand and return to the sauce. Discard the bones where necessary. Check the seasoning and adjust accordingly. Simmer for a further few minutes until the meat is properly incorporated into the sauce.


    Just before serving, add a few more fresh basil leaves. Serve generous helpings of the ragu over the pasta and sprinkle with grated Parmesan