Rigatoni with Bolognese Style Ragu and Crispy Kale

Rigatoni with Bolognese Style Ragu & Crispy Kale

Rigatoni with Bolognese Style Ragu & Crispy Kale

Can you handle another ragu recipe? So close to the last? I ate this ragu several days in a row last week, which is normally something that I am loathe to do, but this was so delicious and utterly more-ish, that I couldn’t resist it. It has a little twist too. Normally ragu is served with parmesan, but I chose something else, also intense, oven crisped kale with paprika and sea salt, for a wonderful textural and flavour contrast. It is something that I do quite often, I have blogged about it before too.

One of the things that I love about Italy is their adherence to tradition. They love their recipe rules and stick stringently to them. Very much so. Do not break the rules! They eat so well as a result. Who wouldn’t want to be Italian?

One of the good things about not being Italian is that I can come home and absorb all of the different influences and stories and concoct something new. I can make something inspired by tradition, but not wedded to it. Italians, I know you are shrieking, but without this attitude my beloved Spaghetti Corkese would never have been born. I think you might even like it! Nor would today’s dinner, with the wrong pasta shape and a Bolognese inspired ragu that was a little too wet to be Bolognese, and that I finished with cream before topping with crispy kale.  I know, cream. Cream! But you know, delicious.

The rigatoni was the wrong pasta shape but it was a lovely one from Gragnano that I bought in Italy (the best dried pasta comes from there). It was there, and it was the perfect size tube for the ragu to snuggle and hide in. The cream was my Irish and indulgent take on finishing a ragu with milk. Just a lick of cream gives each portion a decadent texture and roundness, and when cooked in, you may not even know it is there. Now that I have done it, I am fairly sure that one of my favourite Emilia Romagna trattoria ragus was finished like this.

The recipe is based on the ragu that I made with Walter in Bologna. Walter is from Lazio and we cooked a ragu based on the one that his father taught him, but adapted so that it was Bologna style. I made it a little Irish, I think, but it is still more authentic than most you will get outside Italy.

Try it. Enjoy it. Make lots and eat it all week. And make lots of the crispy kale, as you won’t be able to stop eating it. Unless you don’t like kale, of course!

As the Italian say, cook with love and passion. Which I translate as: enjoy it, give it time and patience, and be tender.

RECIPE: Rigatoni with Bolognese Style Ragu and Crispy Kale

Makes a lot of ragu – it would feed 8


2 medium carrots, peeled & finely diced
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
1 large shallot or medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp pork fat or lard (preferred) / or 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
150ml red wine
500g minced pork
500g minced beef
1 bay leaf
600ml tomato passata
200ml single / pouring cream
sea salt
white pepper, freshly ground or in a grinder (black pepper will do, but this is my ideal one based on what I ate there)

125g rigatoni per person
a handful of kale per person, removed from the stem and washed and dried with a little kitchen roll or a clean tea towel
extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp per person
sea salt and paprika, to season


Start with your sofrito or mirepoix (your aromatics – carrots, celery and onion), chopped as finely as you can and cooked in 1 tbsp of the pork fat / lard or olive oil for about 10 minutes over a medium heat, until tender.
Add and sauté the pork and beef, in two batches if necessary, as you want it to fry not stew. This will depend on the size of your pan. If doing two batches, divide the lard in two, saving the second tablespoon for the second batch of meat.
Season the meat and sofrito with a little sea salt and white pepper. Add the tomato and bay leaf and stir through.
Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and then gently add the wine and stir through.
Cover and let it bubbly gently for a 2.5 – 3 hours, depending on how much time you have.
While the ragu is cooking, preheat the oven to 200 deg C. Per person, and using a tray big enough or more than one tray, place a tbsp of extra virgin olive oil per person on an oven try. Place the kale on their and lightly toss in the oil, ensuring it is coated. Season the kale with a little sea salt and paprika before roasting. It is important that it is just a single layer of kale.
Place in the oven for approximately 5 minutes until crisp. Keep an eye on it, when it goes dark green it becomes quite bitter, so try and get it out before then, unless you really want that taste. Leave to cool on the side.
Add the cream, and let it cook through for a few more minutes. Check the seasoning and add more if required. Remove the bay leaf.
Cook the rigatoni in boiling salted water until al dente (tender but with a firm bite).
Toss the rigatoni in enough ragu with a splash of pasta cooking water. If you can, toss it with a rolling wrist action (I know, but really, try, it makes a difference!). This ensures that the pasta and sauce are mixed thoroughly. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Serve immediately with crispy kale on top.



Written by Niamh
Cooking and travelling, and sharing it all with you.