Penne with Hearty Beef Ragu

in Beef, Chicken & Turkey, Lighter & Healthier, Pasta, Wine

Penne with Beef Ragu

We have very, very different ideas when it comes to pasta for dinner. I’m mostly all about fresh, lightly-sauced pasta spiked with lemon. Lots and lots of lemon. Except when it’s cold and then I want heavy cream, butter, and unhealthy amounts of gooey, melty cheese.

The Foodie Groom, on the other hand, prefers his pasta smothered in “meat sauce,” a meaty concoction where ingredients other than meat are optional. It’s an entire bowl of Y chromosomes. Total man food. It was one of the few things he cooked before we met: a little marinara sauce + 1 lb ground beef + pasta = dinner. We would have it so often that I’d gotten to the point where I absolutely cringed at the words “meat sauce.” And since I do all the cooking, we stopped eating it.

I kept our menu peppered with other pasta dishes in hopes that maybe – just maybe – I’d never hear those two words again. But as I was flipping through one of my cookbooks, he walked by just in time: “Oh, let’s make that!” “That” was Pasta with Hearty Beef Ragu. Meat sauce by any other name is still meat sauce. Yay.

I will admit that I was a big, pouty baby about the idea of making meat sauce for dinner, all the way up until the veggies hit the hot oil. And then my house kinda smelled like Thanksgiving. I was even pretty excited by the time I was plating dinner – one of the things that drove me crazy about meat sauce, besides the meat, was that no matter what I did or how long I simmered it, there was always a pool of watery sauce at the bottom of the bowl. This sauce had no such problems.

We both happily devoured our bowls of manly pasta. No one complained about watery sauce. No one whined about eating ground beef. No one batted an eye at the sauce containing celery and carrots. Everyone agreed that it would go on the menu again.

Penne with Hearty Beef Ragu


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
  • 12 oz ground beef, extra lean
  • 2/3 cup red wine (I used a Barolo)
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 2-3 inch section of Parmesan rind (optional)
  • 1 lb whole wheat penne


  1. Add the olive oil to a dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, celery and rosemary and cook until the vegetables are softened, 8-10 minutes. Add 1 to 2 Tbsp water, if needed, to keep the pan from drying out and the vegetables from browning.
  2. Add the ground beef, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and tomato paste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the alcohol has evaporated, about 4 minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and add the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cover partially and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick and aromatic, about 40 minutes. Add the Parmesan rind and cook an additional 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Before the sauce is finished, cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta. Remove the rind and add the pasta to the sauce, stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.


Yields: 4-6 servings

The Weeknight Cook (Williams-Sonoma)

Estimated time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Nutritional Information
Calories: 550.1 | Fat: 22.7 | Fiber 10.5
WW Points: 12

Make it with ground turkey:
Calories: 471.1 | Fat: 14.2 | Fiber 10.5
WW Points: 10

10 comments… add one
  • shannon abdollmohammadi

    Sounds great!! Two days ago, I was craving pasta with a homemade cream and cheese sauce with the juice of two lemons (very tart).

  • I would prefer a meaty sauce with loads of cheese. This dish looks perfect!

  • I’m not the biggest meat sauce eater either. I’d much rather have tons of veggies. Or cream sauce. I do have a soft spot for cream sauce.

    This one sounds really dressed up and flavorful though! I would definitely make an exception for it!

  • This is SO me and my husband. Ha ha. Can’t wait to try this new dish for him.

  • Such a warm, classic comfort dish. I can’t get enough of pasta in a hearty meat sauce even in the summer! This looks great!

  • mmm looks delish! i crave a good hearty beefy ragu during the winter (along with lots of cream pastas as well)! 🙂

  • I just discovered your blog and I am in love! This post made me laugh in particular because I can relate. When I say pasta I am normally thinking something tossed in a bit of olive oil and lemon. He thinks jar of tomato sauce with a half pound of italian sausage!

  • Lucretia

    made this last night but with italian sausage and added in a zucchini I needed to use up. I shredded all the veggies instead of dicing them (saves me time). It was so yummy. thanks for the recipe. Its a keeper.

  • Hahahha, what an innovative name:) I loved the recipe, and would make it as a vegetarian version:)

    I’m hosting Presto Pasta Nights event on my blog, and it’d be great if you could send this in!:)

  • The penne really looks delicious! Totally something that I would make for dinner, and save some leftovers for work the next morning. I’m going to have to put it on my list to try soon. Today I plan to make a Low Fat Tomato Pasta Salad – – I hope it’s tasty. Thanks for sharing your recipe!

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