Super-fast Sicilian Beef Ragu

Estrattu (tomato paste) is a rich, concentrated tomato paste which is very important in Sicilian cooking. This meaty, as opposed to tomato-y, ragu makes the ideal filling for arancini and is perfect with pasta too. The trick is to use minced (ground) beef with a higher fat content, because you can cook it for longer and will give you a better, richer flavour, as the sauce concentrates. However, when time is short, this version is perfectly fine.

With the abundance of cheap, ripe tomatoes in Sicily during the summer, many people still make their own traditional ragu. There are mounds of it for sale in the markets. It’s wonderful in place of tomato purée and so much fresher and healthier than any store bought variety!

Serves: 4


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 250g lean minced beef
  • 4 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 50ml red wine
  • salt
  • small pinch ground cloves


Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the carrot, celery, onion and garlic over a medium heat until softened, around five minutes.

Add the minced beef and stir through for a couple of minutes, then add the tomato purée, red wine, two good pinches of salt and the ground cloves.

Cook for around 10 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to break up the meat.

Taste and adjust the seasoning, as necessary.


Recipe taken from Sicily by Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi
A visual feast of one of Italy’s most loved destinations Italy’s most seductive island, Sicily, is located in the heart of the Mediterranean. Thanks to its rich history, Sicilian food has Italian as well as Greek, Spanish, French, and Arab influences. Now Italian aficionados, Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi, head to the island to immerse themselves in its diverse food scene. Starting in the capital, Palermo, the couple come across some exciting street food that features tasty arancini (rice balls stuffed with meat sauce and cheese) to lesser know gems such as panelle (garbanzo bean fritters), and Sfincione, a thick Sicilian pizza, topped with tomatoes, onions, anchovies, and casciocavallo cheese. In Trapani they try a fish couscous and then head to Noto, where almonds dominate in some memorable desserts, including a classic semifreddo and a refreshing almond granita (served with fresh brioche, for dunking). And no Sicilian book would be complete without pasta alla Norma (pasta with tomatoes and aubergine) and the classic, ricotta-filled sweet delight cannoli.

You can purchase Sicily at

Published by Hardie Grant Books.

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