How to Make the Ultimate Meaty Red Sauce For a Tortellini or Ravioli Feast

This righteous red sauce recipe comes from two of America’s top Italian chefs.

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The tortellini ragu at Carbone in NYC.

When it comes to boiling up a big pot of tortellini or ravioli, it’s all about the sauce. Sure, it’s better to make your own pasta from scratch—if you know what you’re doing—but if you can score a couple pounds of good frozen tortellini or ravioli, we’ve got a truly great “Sunday Gravy” ragu to pour over those ricotta-filled pasta pillows.

This recipe comes courtesy of top New York City chefs Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi, whose Major Food Group runs 21 restaurants from NYC to Las Vegas and beyond, including Carbone, Parm, ZZ’s Clam Bar, Dirty French and Santina. The chefs are also avid runners who competed in Sunday’s New York City Marathon, and tapped the meaty red sauce recipe below as a favorite pre-marathon meal. “It’s equal parts protein and carbohydrates, packed into a delicious bowl,” says Chef Mario. 

They make the tortellini from scratch at elevated red sauce mecca Carbone in New York City, but the two chefs recommend that home cooks score two pounds of ricotta tortellini or ravioli from Raffetto’s (or your preferred brand) to use with the sauce below. And you don’t have to have just run a marathon to enjoy this hearty ragu. It’s just as good for anyone who wants the ultimate accompaniment for their next tortellini or ravioli feast.  

Sunday Gravy 

(Serves 10)


1/4 lb ground beef

1/4 lb ground veal

1/4 lb sweet Italian sausage

1/2 cup diced onion

1/4 cup diced celery

1/4 cup diced carrot

1/3 cup diced pancetta

1 tbsp sliced garlic

1 oz olive oil/canola oil blend (1/2 oz each, mixed together)

1 bay leaf

2 thyme sprigs (picked)

1/2 cup whole milk

1/4 cup water

1 tbsp tomato paste

1/4 cup red wine

16 oz Jersey tomatoes, freshly crushed


Brown pork, veal, beef in a large saucepot in the oil over medium-high heat. Make sure to stir and mash the meat to avoid large chunks. Remove the meat from the pan and let it drain on a plate lined with a paper towel. 

Add the garlic and pancetta and turn heat to low, cook until soft, but no color. Add onion, carrot, celery, cover with a lid and cook until soft, but no color. Add tomato paste and continue to cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until it becomes caramelized and fragrant. Add red wine and reduce to 85% of its volume. 

Add the browned meat, crushed tomatoes, bay leaf, and thyme, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, simmer for 45 minutes, adding water if necessary. 

Remove from heat, add milk and adjust seasoning, as preferred. Remove bay leaf. Serve. 

For more food-related marathon news, learn about the French marathon where runners fill up on wine and cheese.