Francesca Maria’s Ragu

An Italian Ragu from Le Marche Region of Italy
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Francesca Maria Gambelli was born and raised in Senigallia, a seaside city on the Adriatic coast, in the region of Le Marche, Italy.

The daughter of bakery owner, Francesca grew up dancing and helping her dad with the family business.  On sundays, the Gambelli family always shared a meal around a table together and more often than not, her nonna's ragu would be simmering on the stove for hours.   She'd serve atop pasta or traditionally in le Marche, over polenta.

In her late teens, she moved to NYC to pursue her dreams of becoming a professional dancer.  Francesca’s life reads like an 80’s dance movie of dreams finally fulfilled (believe me I want to write the screenplay). 

At 18, She came to NY to study and hit the ground running.  20 years later, a now singer song writer of international hits such as Dale Dale and the new 2016 Sony release The Bombay(to name just a few), this Italian native has choreographed for the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, MTV European Music Awards, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj, and performed with artists such as Mariah Carey, Jay-Z, Whitney Houston, Celia Cruz and more.

Her Youtube videos have reached over 3.5 million views and she’s traveled to almost every continent around the globe to share her dancing, songs and inspiration with people of all ages and backgrounds with one common love: dance.  Her style and sound is fun and infectious and she has inspired dance choreographers world wide, selling out to thousands in live performances from Indonesia to Brazil.

After cooking her grandmother’s ragu recipe, I sat down to interview her about her life, Le Marche and her memories of rage.   Watch Francesca teach me how to make this rich ragu recipe from her nonna. 


Olive Oil, as needed

¼ small yellow onion, chopped

1 medium carrot, peeled ½ chopped, ½ intact

2 celery stalks, 1 chopped, 1 intact

¾ lb. ground beef

½ lb. ground veal

½ lb. ground pork

1 thick slice pancetta, diced (about ¼ cup)

1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 14 oz. can tomato sauce

3 cloves

Splash of red wine

Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

Box of large ridged ziti, cooked to al dente in boiling water seasoned with salt


In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and make your soffrito base with onion, chopped carrot and chopped celery, cooking until translucent.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the various ground meats and season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.  Mix well with your hands.

When the soffrito is fragrant and the onions translucent but not brown, add the meat and pancetta.

Once the meat browns, add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, cloves and a splash of wine.  Incorporate the whole pcs. of celery and carrot and season the sauce with salt and pepper.  Bring to a gentle simmer and cover.

Cook at least 1 ½ hours over low heat.

Serve over al dente pasta with plenty of freshly grated Parmigiano.