Okay, I love to make a homemade ragù. And mine is the best. However, this is one of those pesky Italian problems that I absolutely adore! Because I can tell you right now, if my brother-in-law (who was raised in southern Italy) read this above statement, he would tell me - in detail - what's wrong with my ragù, and why his mom's is the best. Of course, I bet her mother-in-law would have taken offense to such a declaration and insisted her own was the best.
And so it goes in Italy. They are a proud people and when it comes to food, they are a bit secretive with their recipes, and highly opinionated about exactly whose is 'the best'.
It's actually a French word - ragout - which means "a stewed dish containing meat." Whatever the entomology of the word, Italians were making a ragù before the name became common.
And y'all, the nonnas (grandmas) spouted that their sauce was better than everyone else's for so long, that to this day, folks get into a heated debate of the proper history of the sauce. For example, Bologna and Naples both claim to be the birthplace and have the proper recipe to prove it.
If you want to read more about the intense history of the ragù, you will find many article online.
The tall and short of it is this: This was one of those meals that came from poverty. They used the least expensive cuts of meat which would require a long time to cook in order to tenderize it. So this was a perfect Sunday meal, where preparation started early in the morning and the sauce sat at a low simmer for at least 6 hours until it became a thick and creamy sauce.
So that stuff on the grocery shelves here in the states called 'Ragu'...my friends, it's 100% definitely NOT the real thing, or even close.
But making the real thing is actually not that hard. Here's a recipe that most closely resembles the one I make. It's from Bon Appetit:
I make a few adjustments: 1) For the meat, I use what's on hand. Sometimes it's ground beef, sometimes I've used stew meat. 2) This recipe calls for 1 cup of milk. I use about 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream.
I didn't realize when I set out to talk about ragù that things would get so...in depth.