A long time ago I worked in south Brooklyn (Sheepshead Bay) in the back of a charity, in a small room that barely fit me and Theresa, a hardcore Italian-American. She was a great person, but had a harsh (typical Brooklyn) personality; she had a raspy voice and didn’t take BS from anyone; especially about “gravy” vs. “sauce”. If you’re thinking “gravy” is something brown you pour over steak, move on, you’re not ready for this.

Theresa explained that a tomato-based sauce without meat in it (like marinara), is “sauce.” If it contains meat, then it is not a “sauce” it’s “gravy.” So what is the premier gravy? Ragu.  (p.s. I do not agree with her assessment, this is sauce).  Also, this is another checkpoint, if you think I might be referring to the bottled sauce, you are on the wrong web site.

Seriuos Ragu 1

Ragu really refers to any type of meat sauce.  In Italy, there tends to be the southern, Neapolitan style, which is chunkier (whole meat pieces) and enriched in ways beyond just meat fat and cream (including, nuts, fruit, etc.); and the northern, Bolognese style, which typically has ground meat and may include cream.  My ragu is halfway between, it’s super rich, yet doesn’t include cream; it starts with whole pork bones, and finishes with ground meat.

Candele are Huge

We bought some incredible noodles in Astoria at an Italian market.  They’re called Candele, made by De Cecco.  They’re a super long (about 2.5 feet), hollow noodle, about 3/4-inch in diameter.  Originally we were planning to use them for the Vodka Sauce (last week), but Candele is meant to be served with a meat sauce, so we saved it for a hefty ragu. Both of us thought that it might just end up tasting like ziti because it’s a similar shape, but it doesn’t. The wider hole makes a pretty significant difference in bounce-back when you bite through. The pasta itself seems thicker too.

Candele Round End

A few tips for success with this insane pasta: it’s incredibly long. We didn’t even fit 60% into our tallest pot.  It’s just an impractical shape.  We were advised to break it up, but what fun would that be?  I cooked it about a minute on one side, then rotated it and started the other side.  I then slowly pushed the pieces in to the water as they softened.  It took about five minutes.  Most of the pieces didn’t break, but it was difficult.  Also, it’s a hearty noodle, so make sure to use a lot of salt in the water. Once it’s cooked, make sure to drain very carefully. These long straw-shaped (looks kind like bubble tea straws) noodles can potentially store a ton of water inside each tube.

Lon’s Ragu
~8 servings


  • 2 tbsp. Vegetable Oil
  • 2.35 lb. Pork Bones (two bones, I think femurs, cut into pieces)
  • 2 large Yellow Onions, sliced
  • 1 lb. Ground Beef (85% lean)
  • 6.5 oz Sweet Italian Sausage (two links, casing removed)
  • 1 bulb Garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 tsp. Red Pepper
  • 1 tsp. Hot Hungarian Paprika
  • 1 (12 oz) can Tomato Paste
  • 1/2 cup Red Wine (we used Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 1 (28 oz) can Peeled Tomatoes with Basil
  • 1 (28 oz) can Crushed Tomatoes with Basil
  • fresh or dried herbs (parsley, oregano, basil) to taste (optional)
  • extra virgin olive oil to drizzle (optional)
  • Kosher Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper


1. In a large dutch oven, heat vegetable oil and brown pork bones over medium-low heat, at least 20 minutes.  Add onions and season liberally with kosher salt.  Continue cooking for at least another 10 minutes, until onions are brown and soft.  Remove bones and onions to a bowl and set aside.

2. Increase heat to medium-high and add beef and sausage, season with kosher salt and plenty of black pepper.  Break up the meat into small pieces as it sautes.  Add garlic, red pepper, and paprika, and continue to cook until no pink is visible.  Remove to the bowl with bones and onions. Set aside.

3. Reduce heat to medium-low and add tomato paste.  Caramelize until paste turns dark red, almost brown (like a dark brick).  Keep stirring to avoid burning.  Deglaze the pot with wine, stirring and scraping fond from bottom of pot.  Add crushed tomatoes and peeled tomatoes (I like to hand crush the peeled tomatoes as they fall in).  Stir to combine everything well.  Return all reserved meat, bones, onions, etc. to the pot.  Stir again.  Cover loosely (to allow heat to escape) and set over lowest heat.

4. Simmer for two hours, stirring every 20 minutes to avoid burning.

Candele with Serious Ragu

5. Check seasoning. Add herbs to taste.  Serve with a hearty noodle. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

posted by Lon at 02:34 PM Filed under Italian, Recipes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.