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Off to Venice… Venetian Ragu



Unfortunately I´m not exactly in Venice, not physically at least, but all the more in my mind. For two weeks now I have been writing a novel taking place in Venice. When I´m not working, I´m looking at old photos from Venice, watching all the movies I can get hold of which take place in Venice, reading fiction and non-fiction – I´m sure you can guess the setting. I missed out a bit on the food, but today I cooked a hearty ragu, Venician, of course.

It wasn´t much laborious. Yesterday I mixed the marinade, put in the beef, left it overnight to infuse and today it simmered slowly until done. The recipe is adapted from a beautiful cookbook about Venetian heritage cooking, unfortunately it is only available in German: Genießen mit Vivaldi. But over the next few weeks I am going to cook some recipes from this book and share them with you.

Venetian Ragu

Adapted from Genießen mit Vivaldi, Eva G. Baur

Serves 4


1 kg beef

100 g bacon


3 onions

4 cloves of garlic

2 stakes of celery

4 Tbsp. olive oil

6 bay leafs

8 cloves

sage (I took 15 rather big leafs)

1 Tbsp. juniper berries

1,5  Tbsp. chopped thyme (if you are using dried thyme, take half the amount)

1,5 Tbsp chopped rosemary (if you are using dried, take half the amount)

2-3 small cinnamon sticks

1 bottle full-bodied red wine (I used South African Merlot)

1/3 cup good red wine vinegar

Salt, Pepper

1 tsp. sugar (or a bit more after your liking)

1 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp flour (skip it if you want the ragu gluten free)



1. Mix red wine, vinegar, salt, spices and herbs in a bowl.

2. Cut the beef into cubes. I like them a little larger, I think it looks nice and the beef will be more tender this way. Chop onions and garlic roughly, put everything  into the marinade, cover and let sit for about 24 hours, at least 5-6 hours. I made the preparations for the ragu rather late in the evening, after my work was done.

3. The next day, about 3 hours before you like to eat the ragu, dice the bacon, melt the butter with the olive oil in a dutch oven or a deep big skillet and fry the bacon until golden brown.

4. Take the beef out of the marinade and put it dry. Dust it with the flour, then fry it in the butter-oil mixture. It should get really dark brown on all sides, but not scorch.

5. Add bacon, marinade and sugar. Cover and let simmer for about 2 hours. (If you like to cook the stew in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C and let the ragu stew for 2 hours.)

6. Taste, add a bit more sugar, if you like it sweeter. Remove bay leafs, cinnamon sticks and juniper berries.


The ragu is perfect with polenta. My daughter insisted on pasta today, and it was delicious, though.

Next time I will try a half cup of raisins instead of the sugar.

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