Ragú is the Italian term for long-simmered, mellow meat sauce that dresses pasta or polenta. It varies from region to region, sometimes prepared with large chunks of meat, sometimes with ground, or more properly, finely minced meat.
I’ve sampled ragú of duck, rabbit, mixed meats, and sausages and have never encountered one that failed to satisfy my appetite. Arguably the most renowned of Italian meat sauces is ragú alla bolognese from the storied food city of Bologna. It is classically prepared with a combination of chopped beef, veal, or pork, and, in the good old days, was finished with heavy cream. Milk is now more often used.
Ragú alla bolognese is not as tomatoey as the meat sauces of the south that influenced Italian American sauces. The tomato acidity in a bolognese is balanced by the sweetness of the sautéed aromatic vegetables—the soffrito, or flavor base.
It’s essential to cook the soffrito slowly to lightly caramelize the vegetables without browning them. I like to remove the soffrito from the pot so the meats can brown without the steam created by the veggies.