This recipe for ragu sauce is rich, meaty, and loaded with authentic Italian flavor. Chock full of spicy sausage, zesty garlic, tomatoes, and more, this sauce is sure to please — especially spooned over rich, creamy polenta!
This recipe for ragu sauce with creamy polenta is hearty, easy to make, and so darn delicious! Both components are traditional Italian dishes that blend beautifully with each other. The robust flavors of the meat sauce combined with the smooth creamy texture of polenta create a dish that is comforting and completely irresistible. Added grilled sausage optional!
As versatile as it is tasty, feel free to pair this ragu recipe with your favorite type of pasta or spoon leftovers onto a sausage sandwich. Plus, once you fall in love with creamy polenta, you are going to find all kinds of ways to enjoy it too! It makes an amazing side dish all by itself.
Table of Contents
- Italian Sausage – I like to use hot Italian sausage, but feel free to use mild or sweet if you prefer. Rather than breaking up all the sausage in the sauce, you might also choose to reserve half of it to serve on top of the pasta.
- Olive Oil – A high-quality olive oil is the cornerstone of any authentic Italian recipe. In a pinch, you can sub in another oil like grapeseed.
- Garlic – Fresh cloves add a sharp zestiness.
- Tomato Paste – A concentrated dose of sweet, tangy, and savory tomato flavor. However, I only like to use this for quicker recipes like this one. If you are simmering your ragu for 3-4 hours, omit the paste and let the sauce reduce and thicken on its own.
- Dry Red Wine – Optional, but gives the sauce a richer, more robust flavor. You can sub in beef or chicken stock for an alcohol-free alternative.
- Sugar – Harmonizes with a little dash of sweetness.
- Seasonings – This ragu recipe is full of flavorful herbs and spices including oregano, red pepper flakes, basil, parsley, black pepper, and salt.
- Crushed Tomatoes – I highly recommend going with San Marzano tomatoes. They grow in the rich soil at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius and boast an incredibly robust flavor with less acidity than other varieties.
- Creamy Polenta – Dry polenta, rich heavy cream, grated romano, and spices come together to create this classic Italian treat.
San Marzano tomatoes…
San Marzano tomatoes are grown in the rich volcanic soil at the base of Mount Vesuvius, which gives them a sweet flavor and low acidity and they are coveted for their firm pulp, deep red color, easy to remove skin and low seed count. Although feel free to use whatever brand you prefer. To verify that the San Marzano tomatoes you’re buying are legit is to look for two things on the label: the official Italian DOP seal and the seal of the San Marzano consortium.
- Cook the Sausage. Place a large skillet with oil over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage, using a wooden spoon to break it up as it cooks. Then, add the garlic and saute for another 2 minutes.
- Add Seasonings. Turn the heat down to medium and stir in the wine, tomato paste, sugar, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt. Mix well and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the Tomatoes. Stir in the tomatoes, then let the mixture simmer until slightly reduced — about 20 minutes. Stir in the basil during the last 10 minutes of simmering. Taste and add more salt if desired.
- Make the Polenta. While the sauce is simmering, make the polenta. Combine the water, olive oil, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Whisk the dry polenta into the boiling water, going slowly to avoid clumps. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes. The mixture will sputter so be careful.
- Add Cream & Cheese. Add the heavy cream, grated romano cheese, and black pepper and stir well to incorporate. Simmer for another 15 minutes, adding more water or chicken stock if the mixture gets too thick.
- Season & Serve. Remove the pan from heat, taste, and add seasoning as desired. Divide the polenta into bowls, top with the sauce, and sprinkle with grated cheese and fresh parsley.
Ragu can be any meat-based sauce that is slowly simmered in a braising liquid of tomato, wine, and other seasonings. We used pork sausage for this ragu recipe, but the meat could be beef, pork, or even wild game.
Bolognese sauce is a type of ragu sauce with a few specific characteristics that set it apart. The meat is usually a combination of ground pork and beef. It is intended to be a lighter, smoother sauce and is traditionally served with wide pasta noodles.
Additionally, bolognese is typically made with white wine (but not always), while ragu usually uses red.
True bolognese will use very little tomato and should not have any large vegetable chunks present. Alternatively, ragu sauce is largely tomato-based and can include as many vegetables as you’d like to add.
Polenta is a grain-based dish made from yellow, coarsely ground cornmeal. Creamy polenta, like in this ragu recipe, takes everyday polenta and transforms it into a rich, sumptuous masterpiece.
After a slow simmering process that softens the grains, the heavy cream, grated cheese, and spices are added to give the dish a luxuriously creamy texture and sweet, buttery flavor.
Store any leftover ragu sauce in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 3-5 days.
I recommend storing the ragu separately from the polenta, which will be good in the refrigerator for about 3 days.
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Ragu Sauce with Creamy Polenta
- 1 lb Hot Italian Sausages (See Note 1)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste (See Note 2)
- 1/2 cup dry red wine optional
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 28 oz crushed San Marzano tomatoes (See Note 3)
- 6 basil leaves roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp Italian parsley chopped, garnish
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over a medium high abd add sausage meat. Break up with wooden spoon and brown. Add the minced garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the wine (optional), tomato paste, sugar, dried oregano and salt and red pepper flakes, sauté for 2 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, stir and simmer until reduced slightly, about 20 minutes (Start to make the polenta). In last 10 minutes of simmering, add the basil and stir. Season the sauce with more salt to taste.
- Bring water, olive oil and salt to a boil.
- Slowly whisk in the dry polenta and to avoid lumps. Cook on low for 10 minutes. This will sputter so keep on low and watch out.
- Add the heavy cream, black pepper, grated Romano cheese. Stir to incorporate. Simmer for another 15 minutes more. If it gets too thick you can thin it out with more chicken stock or water, to your liking.
- Season to taste and take off the heat. Divide polenta in serving bowls and top with sausage gravy. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese and parsley.
- Optionally: Purchase 2 pounds hot Italian sausage and use 1 pound for ragu sauce and grill or pan fry the other pound of sausages to top each bowl as shown.
- As this recipe is written, the flavors are amazing, although if cooking this low and slow (3-4 hour simmer stovetop), I would omit the tomato paste as this will thicken on it’s own. I use the tomato paste when time is tight.
- Per The Kitchn, San Marzano tomatoes are grown in the rich volcanic soil at the base of Mount Vesuvius, which gives them a sweet flavor and low acidity and they are coveted for their firm pulp, deep red color, easy to remove skin and low seed count. Feel free to use whatever brand you prefer.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.