A Most Unusual Ragù

Getting prepared for Heart Shaped Lasagna!  Starts with the sauce.


Homemade sauce takes time.  And I’m talking homemade homemade, starting with fresh tomatoes roasted in the oven.

And red bell pepper.

And beets.

And wine.

Did I say wine?  Yes! Did I say beets?  Yes!  Did I say wine?  Yes!  Beets?  Yes! Wine? Yes! Beets? Yes!

A traditional Ragù is a tomato based sauce fortified with red wine, and made with beef or a combination of beef and pork.

This is unusual because it has other vegetables added for both taste and nutrition, and it uses Italian sausage as the meat base.

You can’t tell there are beets in it, not even beet haters can tell.  They function in a few different ways.  They add a rich color to the sauce, and they also add fiber which really helps to guard against that pasta crash you can sometimes get.

There I go again, talking about all the practical things that go into lasagna, which is really a labor of love.

I promise that in the next post, when we put the lasagna together, the writing will be all romantic.  Italia style.



3 lbs tomatoes ( I use at least 3 different kinds. A mix of tomatoes makes a better sauce) Cut in half and seeds removed.  Don’t worry about being perfect.

1 red bell pepper, cored and seeds removed, cut into 4 pieces

1 medium beet, peeled and cut into chunks

1 lb Italian sausage out of the casing

1/4 C diced onion

1-3 cloves garlic minced

1 anchovy slice, teeny tiny bones removed.  Just kidding! You don’t need to remove the bones.

1 C red wine

1 t sugar (optional)

olive oil

oregano, thyme


Preheat oven to 400 F.  Drizzle olive oil in a roasting pan, and place the tomatoes, pepper and beets  in the pan.  Salt and add a little more olive oil.  Cook for about 35 – 40 minutes or so, flipping the vegetables.  Pull out the tomatoes when they start breaking down, and put them in a bowl.  You can also use a baking sheet, and it will go faster.

Add about 1 T of olive oil to your dutch oven or whatever pan you long simmer a sauce in.  Add the sausage and cook over medium low heat.  This is going to take longer than you think!  You want it to totally release it’s fat and juices, and start getting brown.  Use a wooden spoon to break it up.  This is around 20 minutes, with a lot of stirring.  Add the onion, garlic, and anchovy.  Cook for a few minutes until onions are translucent.  Add the wine and deglaze the pot, scraping up any brown bits.  Bring up to a bubble, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook the wine down to about 1/2.

Once your vegetables are out of the oven and cool enough to handle, take the skins off the tomatoes and the pepper.  There should be a lot of water left over if you used a roasting pan.  Baking sheet is less water because it evaporates.  Put the vegetables (not the liquid) in a food processor or blender and make the sauce.  *tip – put the beets and peppers in first, with just enough of the tomatoes to make really smooth.  Then add the rest of the tomatoes and make it the texture you want.  Smooth or chunky.  Adding the reserved juices if necessary.

Pour the tomato sauce into the sausage mixture, add the sugar and the herbs. Simmer, stirring occasionally for at least an hour.  I truly believe the sugar helps to give a better color to the sauce and give it a deeper red color.  You can omit it if you want.  Be careful about adding salt.  It might only need a pinch.  It’s better to wait until it’s almost done before adding salt if it needs it.

Let cool down and store for making the lasagna.  It tastes really good as is, but even better the next day.


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