The best classic beef ragu recipe, served three ways

 Your go-to beef ragu recipe, plus clever new ways to serve it.

The basic recipe: Best classic beef ragu


1 medium onion
3 garlic cloves
2 slim carrots
1 stick celery
25g unsalted butter
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1kg good quality minced beef
200ml red wine
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 bay leaf
1 sprig rosemary
2 pinches dried oregano
1 small dried red chilli
sea salt

1. Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic. Peel, halve and thinly slice the carrots and celery. Heat the butter and oil in a medium-large saucepan over a medium heat, and fry the onion, carrot and celery for 7-10 minutes until softened, stirring frequently and adding the garlic just before the end. Add the beef, turn up the heat and fry, stirring frequently, until it changes colour. Add remaining ingredients, crumbling in the chilli, and season with salt. Bring to the boil, then simmer over a low heat for 1 hour, stirring now and again. Skim off excess fat and season to taste. The ragu can now be served as a sauce with pasta or made into a pie. 

2. For pies, simmer the ragu for an extra 15 minutes, until drier than a sauce, with nearly all the juices absorbed. Spoon into a deep ovenproof dish about 2 litre capacity, for example 30cm x 20cm x 6cm or equivalent round or oval dish. Make up any of our toppings and follow individual instructions for baking. 

With boulangere potatoes


ragu with potatoes
Chris Alack


 Peel 1kg medium-size waxy potatoes and slice thinly using the attachment on a food processor. Toss slices in a large bowl with 2 tbsp olive oil and some salt. Arrange the sliced potatoes casually and attractively on top of the prepared ragu base (no need for neat rows). Decorate with small rosemary sprigs. Cover with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 200C/180Cfan/gas 6 for 1 hour or until tender when tested with a knife. Remove the foil and return to the oven for another 30 minutes or until the potatoes on top are golden at the edges. 

With crisp rosti hash

ragu with rosti
Chris Alack


Cut up 800g (peeled weight) celeriac flesh (or you can also use waxy potatoes). Coarsely grate it using the attachment on a food processor, place in a bowl with 3 tbsp olive oil, season and toss to coat. Scatter the celeriac or potatoes over the ragu base in its dish and gently press down to level. Bake the pie in a preheated oven at 200C/180C fan/gas 6 for 50-55 minutes until golden and crispy. If wished, slice a few spring onions, toss with a little oil and scatter over 10 minutes before the end.

With cauli mash and breadcrumbs

ragu with cauli mash
Chris Alack


Place 1kg small trimmed cauli florets in a large pan with 150ml water, dot with 20g butter, add 1 tbsp olive oil, season and bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover and cook over a low heat for 25-30 minutes, stirring halfway, then drain. Purée the cauli in batches in a food processor, seasoning with a grating of nutmeg and more salt if necessary. Spread this mash over the ragu filling, sculpting the top using a spoon. Toss 30g fresh breadcrumbs with 1 tbsp oil and scatter over the mash. Bake the pie in a preheated oven at 200C/180Cfan/gas 6 for 35-40 minutes until the crumbs are lightly coloured. If wished, pop under the grill for a few minutes to crisp the crumbs further. 

Don’t forget the salad

Portobello salad bowl, £20, and wooden salad servers, £25, The White Company

EASY VINAIGRETTE A good green salad is the great all-round side – perfect with savoury pies. Or try sliced mixed varieties and colours of tomatoes. For the simplest vinaigrette dressing, whist 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar or lemon juice with a little salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil so they remain separate. Shake or whisk immediately before dressing your salad.

Recipe by Annie Bell. Food styling by Clare Lewis. Styling by Sue Radcliffe.