Ragu Sauce with Pappardelle Pasta

4.87 from 23 votes
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Homemade Ragu sauce made with chicken, mushrooms, bacon, and served up with pappardelle pasta. A hearty Italian meal that’s so good, you’re going to want to make extra, so you’ll have leftovers!

Ragu Sauce with Pappardelle Pasta

Ragu sauce is an Italian cuisine classic that turns good meals great if pulled off correctly. My family loves pasta with meat sauce, but I wanted to think beyond marinara red sauce and create something else. This hearty pasta sauce loaded with vegetables and savory bacon is the ultimate easy chicken dish.

How to make ragu sauce

Ragu is a type of hearty Italian pasta sauce made with ground or chopped meat and vegetables. I often make a beef bolognese recipe with tomato sauce that falls into this class of sauces. Typically when I think of a ragu, it’s taking less tender cuts of meat that need a lot of TLC and time to simmer and transforming it into a delicious meal.

Large pot of ragu sauce with braised chicken and spoon stirring

Meat selection

Chicken thighs are an excellent choice for ragu sauce because they don’t dry out quickly like the breast. The more active muscles used by the chicken in the thigh area require more sustainable energy from fat, which is then converted to energy by proteins to give a more dark color of the meat. Dark meat benefits from “low and slow” methods like braising and stewing. You can take a cheaper cut of meat and yield and tasty sauce!

Cooking method

Braising is a moist-heat slow cooking method that helps tenderize and develop rich flavors. The chicken thighs are first seared in fat to create new flavor compounds from Maillard browning, then simmered in just enough chicken stock to partially cover the meat. This process allows the muscle fibers and connective tissues to soften for a pleasant eating experience. The cooking time is about 30 minutes for the ragu sauce.

Pieces of seasoned braised chicken in a blue pot

Thickening agent

Flour is added to the braise to help lightly thicken the sauce. The starches in the wheat absorb liquids in the sauce and separate into starch granules. The heat from the stove, plus physical agitation (stirring) helps the sauce thicken over time.

Extra ingredients

A good sauce needs aromatic vegetables and flavor boosters to take the recipe to the next level. Layers of flavor are built with sauteed bacon, garlic, onions, and fennel. As the chicken braises, all of the flavors meld together for a rich ragu sauce.

Oh, bacon how I love thee, let me count the ways. The savory, smoky notes meld all of the ingredients into one balanced dish. The crispy bacon, onions, garlic, and fresh fennel together to create a heavenly sauce base.

Thick slices of brown mushrooms are added to give some umami flavor a soft texture to the ragu, a must in my opinion! Your house will smell fragrant and rustic. You know you have a good thing going on!

Dinner plate of chicken ragu sauce on top of pappardelle pasta noodles

Pasta noodles

Wait, we’re not done! Don’t forget to boil the nearly 1-inch thick and chewy pappardelle noodles to serve with this tasty chicken sauce. I was able to find fresh noodles at my local grocery store but dried works just as well. The large forkfuls of wide egg noodles combined with the savory chicken ragu will make your inner Italian smile.

Larger noodles mean more sauce gets soaked up and happily delivered to your rejoicing taste buds. If you’ve got a bottle of wine, now is a good time to pop it open and enjoy it with your bowl, that should be filled to the brim.

close up picture of chicken ragu with mushrooms and bacon pieces on pappardelle pasta noodles

What is a Ragu?

Ragu’s are typically meat-based sauces that utilize a braising method to cook. Braising uses a combination of dry a moist-heat cooking. For this recipe, the chicken is browned in the bacon grease (dry heat) to create color and produce flavors by Maillard browning. The chicken and vegetables are then slowly simmered in the chicken stock (moist-heat cooking). This allows the ragu to infuse the flavors from all of the ingredients in the pot, and dissolve the meat’s collagen into gelatin that helps thicken the dish and make the meat more tender over time and low temperature.

Ragu Sauce with Pappardelle Pasta

Homemade Ragu sauce made with chicken, mushrooms, bacon, and served up with pappardelle pasta.
4.87 from 23 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time1 hour 45 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine Italian

Ingredients  

  • 6 ounces bacon, cut into ¼-inch strips (about 6 strips)
  • 2 cups yellow onion, ¼-inch dice
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced (2 tablespoons)
  • 2 cups fennel bulb, ¼-inch dice
  • 8 ounces brown mushrooms, cut into ¼-inch slices (about 3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ pounds chicken thighs, boneless skinless, fat trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon thyme, chopped fresh
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups unsalted chicken stock
  • ¼ cup basil, thinly sliced for garnish
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, shaved for garnish
  • 8 ounces pappardelle noodles, fresh or dried

Instructions 

  • In a large dutch oven or heavy pot with a lid, cook the bacon over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, occasionally stirring until the fat has rendered out and the bacon is crispy.
  • Drain grease and reserve, adding 2 tablespoons back to the pan.
  • Stir in the onion, garlic, and fennel until coated with oil. Cook over medium heat for 8 minutes or until soft and glistening.
  • Add the mushrooms and cook for 4 minutes until tender. Transfer cooked vegetables to a medium-sized bowl.
  • Turn the heat to medium-high and add 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  • Sear the chicken thigh pieces in the hot oil for 3 minutes, flip and cook 2 minutes. Add the vegetables back to the pot and the fresh thyme.
  • Stir in the flour until combined with the vegetables and chicken. Pour in the chicken stock, bring to a boil and then lower to medium-low heat to a simmer.
  • Partially cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes or until the chicken is very tender.
  • Remove the chicken from the pot and transfer to a medium-sized bowl. Using two forks to shred the chicken and add back to the pot.
  • Cook the pappardelle noodles according to manufacturer's direction. Divide the pasta amongst 4 bowls. Top with chicken ragu and garnish with basil and shaved parmesan cheese.

Notes

  • Make 16 ounces of pasta if you want a larger noodle serving per person.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 4 servings
Calories 805kcal (40%)Carbohydrates 87g (29%)Protein 49g (98%)Fat 29g (45%)Saturated Fat 11g (55%)Polyunsaturated Fat 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat 1gCholesterol 136mg (45%)Sodium 877mg (37%)Potassium 428mg (12%)Fiber 6g (24%)Sugar 5g (6%)Vitamin A 1200IU (24%)Vitamin C 27.2mg (33%)Calcium 230mg (23%)Iron 5.8mg (32%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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13 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Judy says

    Hi Jessica,

    I cannot wait to give this a try. It looks delicious and then the big noodles like that are perfect with this sauce.

    I enjoy reading your recipes start to finish and getting all the details and descriptions which make my mouth water.

    Your beef bolognese recipe is our favorite and the only red sauce recipe I use anymore.

    Thanks and have a happy day,
    Judy

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I know you are going to LOVE this recipe Judy! Thank you so much for reading the posts and learning as you go. So thrilled to hear that you guys are enjoying the bolognese sauce 🙂

  2. Kelcie says

    I just made this for dinner, soooo good! The only thing I changed was to brown the mushrooms separately in butter and then add them back in with the rest of the veg.
    I’ll definitely be adding this into the regular rotation, thanks for such a good recipe!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you! I like the idea of sauteeing the mushrooms in butter, yum! You are so welcome 🙂

  3. George Baker says

    Hi. Great recipe, thanks! Interesting to see a white ragu, quite non-traditional. I would additionally (gently) recommend adding half the garlic later in cooking, to add to the final flavor. I would also consider finishing the dish with a stick blender, to cream the texture and improve the mouth feel.

  4. Art W says

    Hi Jessica,
    I’m looking forward to trying this recipe soon! Just wanted to know, if the ragu can be made the day before?
    Thank you, Art