In Italian cuisine, a ragù (pronounced [raˈɡuː]) is a meat-based sauce, which is commonly served with pasta. In Italy, ragùs are many and varied. The Italian gastronomic society l'Accademia Italiana Della Cucina has documented 14 ragùs. The commonalities among the recipes are all are meat-based and all are to be used as sauces for pasta. Typical Italian ragùs include ragù alla bolognese (Bolognese sauce), ragù alla napoletana (Neapolitan ragù), and ragù alla Barese (sometimes made with horse meat).
In the northern Italian regions, a ragù is typically a sauce of meat, often minced, chopped or ground, and cooked with sauteed vegetables in a liquid. The meats are varied and may include separately or in mixtures of beef, chicken, pork, duck, goose, lamb, mutton, veal, or game, as well as offal from any of the same. The liquids can be broth, stock, water, wine, milk, cream, or tomato, and often includes combinations of these. If tomatoes are included, they are typically limited in quantity relative to the meat. Characteristically, a ragù is a sauce of braised or stewed meat that may be flavoured with tomato, to distinguish it from a tomato sauce that is flavoured with the addition of meat.
In southern Italian regions, especially Campania, ragùs are often prepared from substantial quantities of large, whole cuts of beef and pork, and possibly regional sausages, cooked with vegetables and tomatoes. After a long braise (or simmer), the meats are then removed and may be served as a separate course without pasta. Examples of these styles of ragùs are the well-known ragù alla Napoletana (Neapolitan ragù) and carne a ragù.
Origin and history 
Ragùs as pasta sauces in Italian cuisine likely arose from the influence and status of French ragoûts in the region of Emilia-Romagna in the late 18th century, following Napoleon's 1796 invasion and possession of the northern regions of what is now Italy. Prior to that time, the cuisine of the Italian peninsula had a long history of meat stews going back to the Renaissance period. However, they were neither known as ragùs nor is there any record they were ever paired with pasta. Since the 16th century, it was not uncommon for pastas to be cooked in and served with a meat broth, often like a simple soup, from which the meat was removed and served separately if eaten at all. The first documented recipe for a meat sauce in which the cooked meat was an integral part of the sauce served with pasta dates to the end of the 18th century. That first ragù as a sauce, ragù for maccheroni, was prepared and recorded by Alberto Alvisi, the cook to the Cardinal of Imola (at the time maccheroni was a general term for pasta, both dried and fresh). The recipe has been replicated and published as The Cardinal's Ragù.
After the early 1830s, recipes for ragùs appear frequently in cookbooks from the Emilia-Romagna region. By the late 19th century, the use of heavy meat sauces on pasta was common on both feast days and Sundays with the wealthier classes of the newly unified Italy.
Research by both Kasper and Zanini De Vita indicates while ragùs with pasta gained popularity through the 19th century, they were largely eaten by the wealthy until the industrial revolution made flour for pasta more affordable for the less affluent in the very late 19th century. The adoption of pasta by the common classes further expanded in the period of economic prosperity that followed the end of World War II. Zanini De Vita notes that prior to World War II, 80% of the Italian rural population ate a diet based on plants; pasta was reserved for special feast days and was then often served in a legume soup.
See also 
- http://www.accademiaitalianacucina.it/index.php , searched March 01, 2012
- Accademia Italiana della Cuisine, La Cucina - The Regional Cooking of Italy (English translation), 2009, Rizzoli, ISBN 978-0-8478-3147-0
- Kasper, Lynne Rossetto, The Spendid Table, Morrow, ISBN 0-688-08963-1
- Zanini De Vita, Oretta, Encyclopedia of Pasta, University of California Press, ISBN 978052025227
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