A good ragù is one of our favorite dishes, especially served over a delicious pasta or creamy polenta. While often a ragù will have a small to moderate amount of tomato, a "white ragù" or Ragù Bianco omits the tomatoes and is often made with a lighter colored cooking liquid, like white wine or vegetable stock. Our Italian White Ragù recipe is made with a delicious combination of veal and pork along with pancetta, hot Italian sausage, a sofrito, and fresh herbs that are slowly cooked in white wine and vegetable stock. This hearty meat sauce is so flavorful and the perfect sauce tossed with your favorite pasta!
We know you will love this version of white ragu and it is a great recipe that the whole family will enjoy!
We loved the idea of making a “white ragù” the moment we tried a version in Tuscany. But when we had an absolutely delightful ragù bianco in Verona (northern Italy) we started working on this version that is full of flavor and is a great twist on traditional red ragu or Bolognese sauce.
Looking for a traditional red ragù sauce with tomatoes? Our recipe for Red Wine Slow Braised Italian Beef Ragù is one of our favorite red ragù recipes! Or check out our Pork and Shiitake Mushroom Ragù for a pork ragù with the addition of savory shiitake mushrooms.
Looking for a vegetarian ragù, you will love our Mushroom Ragù with Parmesan Polenta.
- What is white ragù?
- More Irresistible Pasta Sauces
- How to Make Italian White Ragù Sauce
- Step-by-Step Instructions for White Ragù
- Top tip
- What to make with Ragù Bianco
- Want to level up this ragù?
- What wines pair with this Italian White Ragù?
- Looking for more Italian recipes?
- Italian White Ragù with Veal and Pork (Ragù Bianco)
- Food safety
What is white ragù?
In short, a white ragù is simply a meat sauce without tomatoes. To further ensure that a ragù bianco looks like its name, meats that are not very dark are often used as well. Veal, rabbit, and pork are traditional, but turkey and chicken are good in a white ragù, as well. However, there are plenty of white ragù recipes that utilize beef and other darker meats without the addition of tomatoes or tomato paste.
The options are endless here for the types of meat to use in a white ragù, but we absolutely love this combination of veal, pork, pancetta and hot Italian sausage as the flavorful base of this Italian Ragù Bianco.
More Irresistible Pasta Sauces
Need more Italian pasta sauce inspiration? Check out some of our other sauces for pasta, like this Marsala Mushroom Sauce with Casarecce Pasta.
Or if you want a creamy pasta sauce, try our Hen of the Woods Pasta with Creamy Tarragon Sauce, or this recipe for Fettuccine with Winter Spiced Cream Cream Sauce and Rosemary Sage Meatballs.
Make this Italian White Ragù with the following ingredients:
- Pancetta: This unsmoked, cured and spiced pork belly is a vital part of the foundation of this ragù
- Ground Pork: Ground pork is one of the base proteins in this recipe
- Ground Veal: We love veal and it works well alongside the ground pork. Veal has a more delicate flavor compared to beef and is lighter in color to maintain the "white" color of the ragu.
- Hot Italian Sausage: A nice flavor bomb of high-quality Italian sausage makes this ragù stand out
- Olive Oil
- Sofrito: Onion, carrot and celery finely chopped and added to the olive oil creates a great flavor base for the ragù
- White Wine: A nice pinot grigio is a perfect addition of acid and flavor for this dish
- Vegetable Stock: We use a non-roasted homemade version that is light in color but richly flavored, but any store-bought version that is low-sodium works well here.
- Rosemary: Fresh rosemary heightens the flavor of this ragù
- Sage: Fresh sage, along with rosemary, adds a great depth of flavor
- Parsley: Fresh parsley adds another vibrant but subtle flavor to the ragù
- Salt & White or Black Pepper
- Cream: Added towards the end for body, texture and flavor
- Cornstarch: A little cornstarch slurry helps to thicken the sauce
See recipe card below for quantities.
Here are a few common substitutions for the ingredients in this recipe:
- Pancetta: Prosciutto can be used instead of pancetta if desired. Bacon is also an option, but it will add a smoky flavor to the overall dish and you may need to make an adjustment for salt content.
- Proteins: As noted in the variations, below, there are a number of protein options that can be substituted for the pork and veal. Rabbit is classic, but the flavors work well with just about any light colored protein
- Fresh herbs: We DO NOT recommend replacing the fresh herbs in this recipe. Dried herbs just don't work as well, so make sure you use fresh herbs.
- Heavy cream: The heavy cream added at the end gives this dish a nice rich flavor and better texture. But the cream can be omitted completely if needed and the ragù will still taste delicious!
- Vegetable stock: Chicken stock will work in this recipe as well, although the flavor will change slightly. Beef stock is a bit too dark for this dish, but it can be used if you are in a pinch.
How to Make Italian White Ragù Sauce
Like most meat sauces, this white ragù is slowly cooked to combine flavors and make a cohesive dish. We cook this recipe entirely on the stovetop, unlike other versions of ragù that slowly cook in the oven. The most important aspect of this ragù bianco is the layering of flavors.
There is really no need for special equipment for this dish. A few recommendations:
- A large, heavy, and deep vessel (a Dutch oven is perfect here like THIS one).
- A wooden spoon, preferably a flat-ended one - for scraping when deglazing (we like the one in THIS set).
Step-by-Step Instructions for White Ragù
Step 1: Render the Pancetta
- Cook the pancetta in a touch of olive oil until the fat starts to render.
Step 2: Cook down the Pork, Veal and Sausage
- The other meats are added to the pancetta and cooked down over high heat. Once cooked, remove the meats from the pan and set aside.
Step 3: Make the Sofrito
- Add the remaining olive oil to the pan with the fats and juices from the meats. The onion, carrot and celery is added and cooked to create the sofrito. The meats are then added back.
Step 4: Deglaze and Reduce
- Next, add the wine to the pot to deglaze and reduce down for flavor. Scrape the bottom of the pan to get all the delicious brown bits of flavor (the fond).
Step 5: Cook the Ragù
- The stock, rosemary, sage, parsley, salt, and pepper are added and the ragù is gently cooked for 45 minutes so the flavors can meld.
Step 6: Finish the Ragù
- Add the cream at the end followed by the cornstarch slurry to thicken the ragù. After cooking a bit longer, the Italian White Ragù is then ready to serve over your favorite pasta or polenta!
Hint: This ragù, as with many similar dishes, is even better the day after it is cooked. The flavors really meld together and become richer and more cohesive. So making this dish ahead and serving the next day is encouraged!
Many variations can be made to the dish while keeping with the spirit of a ragù bianco. Here are a few:
- Use different proteins, such as rabbit, quail, chicken, turkey or even ground beef or lamb. The darker the meat used the less “white” the ragù will be.
- Spice it up by using a little hot pepper in the ragù, like Calabrian chiles or crushed red pepper flakes.
- Experiment with different herbs. Fresh is best in this application, but thyme, marjoram, and oregano are great additions or substitutions.
- Use chicken stock for a little added richness without sacrificing the color of the dish
How to store leftovers in the fridge:
This ragù will keep for 5 days stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, although we tend to eat it way before then! Definitely give it a try the day after you make the ragù as the flavors will continue to develop overnight!
Make ahead and freeze:
White ragù sauce freezes well. Divide it into appropriate portions for your use and freeze up to 5 months without a degradation in flavor.
How to reheat:
Regardless if the ragù is refrigerated or frozen, you can slowly and patiently reheat it on the stovetop in a covered saucepan.
Increase the amount of olive oil if you are using very lean proteins. Lean proteins have less fat, so you will need to add more fat in the form of olive oil to the dish to balance it. In this version, we used pork and sausage (fattier meats) to offset the very lean ground veal.
The most common issues are a ragù that is too dry or one that is too “soupy” and thin. So here are some ways to troubleshoot these issues:
Ragù too thin? This recipe should not end up too thin and runny as the cream, cornstarch slurry, and the amount of time reducing will solve that potential issue. But if you do encounter this problem, simply continue to simmer the dish until the liquid has reduced further.
Ragù too dry? If your ragù has evaporated too quickly, simply add more stock in small (¼ to ½ cup) increments. If this happens, the heat is likely too high during shimmering. You can turn the heat down as it simmers if you encounter this issue. As always, if you need to “repair” the dish by adding more stock, be sure to correct your seasoning (salt and pepper) at the end if necessary. Additionally, you can add some of the starchy water from the large pot of salted water used to cook the pasta at the end to make the ragu a bit more saucy.
What to make with Ragù Bianco
- The classic and most obvious pairing for Italian Ragù is your favorite pasta. Pappardelle pasta or tagliatelle pasta is a classic pairing with ragu, but we love it with almost any pasta shape. As you can see in the images, wes used small pasta shells to catch all the tasty sauce!
- Serve it over creamy polenta. Try out this version of Smoked Gouda and Porcini Mushroom Polenta.
- Ragù makes a great sauce option for lasagna, cannelloni, stuffed shells, or other stuffed or baked pasta dishes.
- Stuffed peppers are another great way to use up some of this rich sauce.
- For a fun Italian twist on a cottage pie or shepherd’s pie, use the ragù as the meat layer with additional veggies and mashed potatoes.
Want to level up this ragù?
Make this white ragu sauce with homemade fresh pasta or gnocchi!
What wines pair with this Italian White Ragù?
At first glance, you might think a white wine is the obvious choice here. And you wouldn’t be wrong, but it should be a nice hearty white wine that also has some acidity, like Chardonnay or Chardonnay blends. For an Italian white wine that pairs well with this dish, try a Verdicchio. Italian rosé will work well with this as well.
As for the reds, there are tons of nice options from around the world. We love Barbera as it has a great tannin/acid balance and the flavor and weight are perfect for a rich pasta dish. Barolo is another wonderful wine pairing options for this white ragù, or try out a Barbaresco for a brighter flavor profile.
Looking for more Italian recipes?
If you want more Italian recipes, you can find our versions of the classics under Classic Italian Recipes.
We also have a cookbook, Mangiamo, with 60 incredibly delicious Italian recipes, and Italian-inspired recipes.
Bolognese is a specific type of ragù made in a specific way in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy in the city of Bologna (Bolognese refers to something coming from Bologna). The traditional Bolognese sauce is a ragù but a specific red type that is not, in fact, considered a ragù bianco since there are some tomatoes in it. Although, if you search online, you can find versions of "Bolognese Bianco" recipes out there, but the authenticity of these recipes as traditional Bolognese sauces from that region is subject to debate.
A ragù is a type of sauce, but not all sauces are a ragù. A ragù will almost certainly contain copious amounts of some sort of meat. In fact, a ragù is based on the meat used. However some vegetarian ragù recipes exist in a very oxymoronic way, but if it tastes good, that’s OK by us. A “sauce” doesn’t have to contain meat and is also an extremely broad definition, from savory to sweet, thick to thin.
The main components that make this sauce a “white” sauce, or a ragù bianco, are the lack of tomatoes or tomato products, the use of white, not red wine, and, although less important, the use of a lighter colored protein.
Looking for other Classic Italian recipes like this? Try these:
Check out some of our favorite cocktails if you are serving this White Ragù for a party:
Italian White Ragù with Veal and Pork (Ragù Bianco)
- 1 heavy pot or Dutch oven
- 4 tablespoon olive oil divided
- 2 oz Pancetta small dice
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 pound ground veal
- 8 ounces hot Italian sausage
- 2 small or 1 medium yellow onion small dice
- 1 large carrot small dice
- 2 large celery stalks small dice
- ¾ cup dry white wine
- 1 quart vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage finely chopped
- 2 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
- ½ cup water
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- Fresh chopped rosemary for garnish optional
- Parmesan cheese for garnish optional
- In a large Dutch oven or similar large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until it starts to render fat, about 1 minute. Add the pork, veal, and sausage, mix well and turn the heat up to medium-high. Stirring often to break up the meat into small pieces and combine. Cook for 5-6 minutes or until the meat has cooked through then remove the meat from the pan and set aside.
- Add the remaining olive oil, onion, carrot, and celery to the Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook for a couple of minutes until the onions just begin to brown on the edges. Immediately add back all of the meat and stir to combine. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits (fond). Cook for about 5 minutes to reduce the wine.
- Add the vegetable stock, rosemary, sage, parsley, salt and pepper to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the ragù for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and making sure there is still liquid in the pot.
- After 45 minutes, add the cream and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
- Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl so it is fully incorporated. Add the mixture to the ragù, turn the heat to medium until the ragù comes to a light boil. Stir and cook for another 10 minutes.
- Taste the ragù and add kosher salt if needed. Remove from the heat and let sit for a few minutes. Serve garnished with fresh chopped rosemary and Parmesan cheese over your favorite pasta, gnocchi or polenta.
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food that previously touched raw meat.
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Always use separate cutting boards for raw meat or thoroughly clean and sanitize the cutting board before using again
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature (between 40°-140°F) for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove