Get ready to transport your taste buds to the sunny island of Sicily with this authentic and delicious recipe for ragù alla Siciliana. This slow-cooked meat sauce is rich, hearty, and packed with flavour. With a few key tips and tricks, you can easily recreate this traditional Italian dish in your own kitchen. So, get ready to impress your guests with this authentic Sicilian ragu recipe!




Ready In:


3h 25 min




Good For:


Sunday Lunch

About this Recipe

By: Silvana Lanzetta

Have you ever heard of Ragù alla Siciliana? If you haven’t, you’re missing out on a real treat! It’s not very well-known outside Italy, but I’m sure you’ve tasted it before without even realising it. It’s the delicious ragu used to make the mouth-watering rice arancini.

I was lucky enough to have an aunt named Luciana who was an absolute master at making the Sicilian Ragù. Every time we visited her for Sunday lunch, she would serve it up and it was always the highlight of the (very large) meal. As soon as we started eating, there was complete silence around the table – it was that good.

Aunt Luciana was a real pro when it came to this dish. She would serve the ragù with rigatoni, or she would make a Sicilian timballo with anelli pasta. No matter what she did with it, the results were always incredibly delicious.

Ragu alla siciliana
Ragu alla siciliana - Sicilian Timballo

Sicilian Timballo, made with Ragù alla Siciliana and anelli pasta


This ragù is not a Bolognese sauce with added peas – these are two completely different recipes, despite the similar long cooking method and overall appearance.
The first thing that sets the Sicilian ragu apart is the use of red wine instead of white wine, giving it a much stronger flavour. And while the Bolognese ragù has little tomato sauce and no spices, using milk and vegetable stock, the Sicilian version is the polar opposite. There’s loads of tomato, especially a particular tomato paste made in Sicily called “strattu,” that gives the ragù its delicious taste. And instead of milk and vegetable stock, the Sicilian ragù uses just water, along with nutmeg and bayleaf. All these ingredients come together to create a sunnier, bolder taste, just like the beautiful region of Sicily.
If you’ve never tried making Ragù alla Siciliana, I recommend giving it a go. It’s not hard to make, but it does require a bit of patience due to the long cooking time. The longer it cooks, the better it tastes, so you’ll be rewarded for your time and effort.
The best thing about Ragù alla Siciliana is that it’s incredibly versatile. You can serve it with many different types of pasta, such as rigatoni, anelli, or penne. You can also use it to make lasagne, parmigiana, or timballo. And, of course, Arancini. There are so many possibilities!
So, are you ready to learn how to make this delicious sauce? It’s a wonderful way to bring the flavours and aromas of Sicilian cuisine straight to your table.
Ragu alla siciliana - jar of tomato puree
Ragu alla siciliana - bowl of garden peas



While this Sicilian Ragù recipe is delicious and hearty, it is also high in calories and fat. Enjoy it in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

  • Proteins 28% 28%
  • Carbs 23% 23%
  • Fats 44% 44%
Ragu alla siciliana

The Ingredients

When it comes to making Sicilian ragù, there are no hard and fast rules about the meat. You can use beef, veal, pork, a combination of all three, or even just one kind – it’s up to you! The only thing to keep in mind is that the meat shouldn’t be minced with a machine. In fact, the traditional way is to use a butcher knife to roughly chop the meat, creating a rustic and chunky sauce. The meat cut in this way is called “u capuliatu” in Sicilian dialect.
I know that finding this type of meat might be difficult outside of Sicily, but if you’re feeling adventurous or have an understanding butcher, it’s worth giving it a try. Otherwise, opt for a coarsely ground meat that isn’t too thin. Whatever meat you choose, make sure it’s of good quality and has a decent amount of fat, so it can withstand the long cooking times.
Don’t stress too much about getting the perfect minced meat – at the end of the day, it’s the combination of all the ingredients that makes a delicious Sicilian ragù.

With the ragù alla Siciliana, the wine you choose is crucial. Red wine is the way to go, and a strong wine like Nero d’Avola is ideal. But if you can’t get your hands on Nero d’Avola, don’t worry – just look for the strongest red wine available at your local supermarket. Trust me, the wine you choose will make a big difference in the final taste of your sauce.

It might seem like a small detail, but choosing the right wine will add a special depth of flavour to your ragù that you won’t get with a weaker wine. So, don’t be afraid to go the extra mile and find that perfect bottle of red wine.

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If you’re looking to make the ultimate Sicilian ragù, fresh peas straight from the pod are the way to go. There’s really nothing quite like the taste of fresh vegetables, and peas are no exception. However, if you can’t find fresh peas, frozen peas are a perfectly acceptable substitute. Just be sure to thaw them out before adding them to the ragù.
In Italy, we tend to cook peas for a long time until they become soft and sweet. This is an important step in the ragù-making process, so don’t rush it! Adding the peas at the beginning of the cooking time will allow them to fully develop their flavour and texture.
Whatever you do, avoid canned peas if possible. They tend to be too salty and can throw off the balance of flavours in your dish.
Tomato Sauce
Tomato sauce is a big deal in this recipe! The meat needs to slowly cook in the tomato, infusing it with all its wonderful juices. As the tomato sauce cooks, it becomes thicker and richer, releasing all the special flavours that make this ragu so irresistible.
The secret ingredient in this recipe is the tomato paste, but not just any tomato paste – a special kind called strattu. This homemade paste is dense and flavourful, made by sun-drying cooked and peeled tomatoes for several days. If you’re lucky enough to live in a sunny part of the world, you can give it a try yourself. But for the rest of us, a good quality tomato paste from the supermarket will do the trick.
If you’re committed to authenticity, you can try hunting down strattu in Italian delis or online.
Remember, the tomato sauce is the backbone of this dish, so don’t skimp on quality – go for the best you can find, such as san marzano tomatoes.
Herbs & Spices

When it comes to seasoning your Sicilian ragu, less is definitely more. All you need is a good pinch of nutmeg, a few bay leaves, and some black pepper. Trust the natural flavours of your ingredients and resist the urge to go overboard with the seasoning. Remember, simplicity is key when it comes to creating the perfect ragu.

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Ragu alla siciliana

Ragù alla Siciliana

  • Author: Silvana
  • Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: 10 portions 1x


Introducing the ultimate comfort food: Sicilian ragu! Sicilian ragu -or ragu alla siciliana- is a slow-cooked, tomato-based meat sauce that is a staple in the Italian region of Sicily.


Units Scale
  • 700 grams of minced beef
  • 300 grams of minced pork
  • 250 grams of carrots
  • 250 grams of onions
  • 250 grams of celery
  • 400 ml of red wine (Nero d’Avola)
  • 500 ml of water
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 700 grams of tomato puree
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 250 grams of peas
  • 1 pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and Black Pepper to taste
  • 46 tablespoons of extra virgin olive


  1. Finely chop the carrot, celery, and onion. The smaller the better, as they will need to disappear when cooked. You can use a mixer to make this step easier.

  2. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped vegetables and fry for about ten minutes until they are softened.

  3. Add the mixed ground beef and pork and let it brown, stirring continuously. Season with salt, black pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.

  4.  Pour in the red wine and let it simmer until the alcohol has evaporated.

  5. Add the peas and let them cook for a few minutes. Stir in the tomato concentrate and tomato puree.

  6. Add half a litre of water to the saucepan and mix everything. The water should bring the liquid level in line with the meat. Raise the heat and bring to boil.

  7. As soon as it starts to boil, lower the heat and add a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. When the reaction is over, add the bay leaves.

  8. Cover with the lid and let it cook on low flame for 150-180 minutes. If it gets too dry, add more water.

  9. Remove the lid and check the consistency. If it’s too thick, add water. Otherwise, let it thicken over medium-high heat for a few more minutes.

  10. Serve hot with your favourite pasta or bread.


For this recipe, traditional meats include beef and pork, but feel free to use whichever meat you prefer. However, it’s recommended to avoid chicken and turkey as they can be too bland for this particular dish.

To achieve the most flavorful sauce, it’s recommended to cook it for an extended period of time. The longer the sauce simmers, the better it will taste. For even more enhanced flavour, consider making the sauce a day in advance and allowing it to meld overnight. This will give the flavours ample time to blend together, resulting in a truly delicious ragu.

Once prepared, this sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Simply reheat it on the stovetop as needed.

If you have leftover sauce, it can be frozen in convenient single portions and thawed when needed. The sauce can be stored in the freezer for up to three months. When you’re ready to use it, simply thaw it in the refrigerator overnight.


  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: slow cooking
  • Cuisine: Italian
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