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My last meal in Naples was a simple pasta lunch at a little family run restaurant down near the docks. A seemingly long week of never ending wine and superb food had left the palate and body somewhat jaded and tired, so I didn’t pay much attention to the dish let along photograph it (as I would normally), but I do recall how tasty the sauce was. I also thought at the time how little meat and sauce was served over the pasta. At home I would have smothered some penne with plenty of mince and lashings of tomato laden sauce but here it was spartan, but rather delicious in it simplicity and, I expect, glorious in its peasant origins.

This recipe, Ragù alla Napolenta, isn’t the dish I had in the nameless restaurant but is pretty close to a dish from the region. If I read my scribbled notes correctly, the pasta should be dressed with the sauce as a first course with the meat served after, with just a little more sauce, as the next course.

Beef Brisket

The joint of beef used was a rolled beef brisket, one of Waitrose’s forgotten cuts that just happen to be several pounds cheaper than regular joints. This method of cooking left the meat wonderfully moist and superbly tasty. There was plenty of sauce remaining and, liquidised, made for a flavour packed base for a minced beef sauce.

Ragù alla Napolenta Recipe

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours, 00 minute

Ragù alla Napolenta Recipe

The sauce is generally served over pasta as a first course with the meat itself served seperatly as a second course with a little more sauce.


  • 1 Rolled and tied Beef Brisket
  • A handful of cubed pancetta
  • Garlic clove chopped
  • Large carrot thickly sliced
  • 2 small onions cut into quarters
  • Stalk of celery sliced
  • Large cupful of red wine
  • 300 ml beef stock
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • Bay leaf, Italian dried herbs, seasoning


  1. Stud brisket down the centre with the pancetta pieces. Season with a little salt (I used Steenbergs Organic Mediterranean Salt that comes mixed with chervil, chives, parsley and tarragon). Heat a good amount of olive oil in a casserole dish and brown the brisket all over. Remove from the casserole pan and fry all the vegetables gently until softened and lightly browned.
  2. Return the meat to the dish and pour over the red wine. Bring to a gentle simmer and let evaporate for a few minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, bay leaf and beef stock. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for at least 3 hours. Remove the lid to thicken the sauce for the last hour or so.


Serves about 6 people. Any left over sauce can be liquidised and used as a base sauce for another dish.

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  1. Gary says:

    It would never had occured to me to serve the sauce and meat as separate courses.

  2. ilva says:

    I see what you mean, the raw meat photo looks great – fresh and appetizing!

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