Cook the Book: Sicilian Ground Meat Ragu with Peas

Cook the Book: Sicilian Ground Meat Ragu with Peas

Finding the perfect ragu recipe is a journey. While the two main ingredients are tomatoes and ground meat, the background flavors and texture provided by the other ingredients are what truly make the sauce. Unlike other Italian sauces, a ragu always starts out with a mirepoix, finely chopped celery, carrots, and onions, after this the meat is added, and this is where the variations start.

What type of ground meat to use? Do you add white wine, red wine, or milk? And the tomatoes? Which are the best? Chopped or pureed? And then is there is the question of sugar? To add or not to add?

There are countless ways to make a ragu, with variations all over Italy but this Sicilian Ground Meat Ragu with Peas from The Southern Italian Table by Arthur Schwartz is one of my favorite versions.

There is just something so pleasing about seeing those little green peas afloat in the sauce that makes me smile every time I make it. And to further up the cuteness factor, Sicilians are fond of serving this sauce with tiny little rings of pasta known as anneletti that can't help but conjure up childhood memories of Spaghetti-Os.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Craft of Baking to give away this week.

  • Yield:7 cups


  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely minced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large carrot, finely minced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small celery rib, finely minced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 3 cups tomato puree
  • 1 (10-once) box frozen green peas (not baby peas)


  1. 1.

    Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan or stovetop casserole over medium heat and saute the onion, carrot, and celery for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are very tender and just beginning to brown.

  2. 2.

  3. 3.

    Add the tomato puree. Rinse out the puree bottle, box, or can with 1 cup of water and add to the pot. Adjust the heat so the sauce simmers steadily but gently for 20 minutes.

  4. 4.

    Add the frozen peas. Stir well, return to the simmer, and cook 5 minutes longer, until the peas are tender but still green.

  5. 5.

    Serve hot, if using directly on pasta. Reheat if using in a baked pasta. It can be cold for filling arancini.