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Chicken Ragu Sauce Over Orecchiette


This is absolutely one of my favorite pasta sauces.  I make a traditional bolognese or ragu sauce frequently from ground beef and pork, but this sauce is very different.  I make it from chicken thighs, which I braise, remove from the pot and then shred, removing the meat from the bone.  The meat is then placed back into the sauce to cook further. It has a very full, rich flavor from the vegetables, broth, wine and the addition of tomato paste (I used my homemade estratto from this fall).  You can serve this over any pasta.  I like orecchiette ("little ears" in Italian) because it holds the sauce so well.  This is also great over homemade gnocchi.


Chicken Ragu Sauce Over Orecchiette

serves 4

for a printable recipe, click here


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 5 chicken thighs, skin removed
  • 1/3 cup finely diced carrot
  • 1/3 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/3 cup finely diced onion
  • large pinch of kosher or sea salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 large can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (or to taste)
  • ground fresh black pepper
  • 12 ounces dried orecchiette pasta (or any kind you like)
  • grated parmesan cheese 



In a heavy bottom pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the chicken thighs.  Let them brown for a few minutes and turn when nicely golden.  Let brown on the other side.  Remove and set aside.  Add the carrot, celery and onion and the large pinch of salt.  Stir together and let cook for about 5 minutes.  Do not brown, lower heat a little if you have to.  Add the garlic and saute for one minute.  Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the wine and cook for another two minutes.  Add the chicken broth and tomatoes. Break up the tomatoes with a spoon or your hands (I use my hands and crush them).  Add the bay leaves, thyme and oregano and stir.  

Return the thighs to the pot, cover, and let simmer on low for about an hour.  

Remove the thighs from the pot and place on a cutting board.  With two forks, shred the meat off the bones and return the meat to the pot.  Add the salt and pepper.  Cook, uncovered, for about another 15 minutes. Taste the seasoning, adding more salt if necessary.  Continue to cook, uncovered, until you like the thickness of the sauce.  

Boil the pasta in plenty of boiling, salted water until al dente.  Remove the pasta with a strainer and place right into the sauce.  Stir together and serve right away with grated cheese.

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Reader Comments (30)

This is very similar to a sauce my Nonna used to make with rabbit. I will definitely make this Grazie!
xoxo pattie

February 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPattie

Very nice, and looking at this dish, wouldn't it also be great with pork shredded?

February 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngela@Spinachtiger

This looks perfect! I will be trying it, great recipe!

February 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Looks good. Will for sure give it a try.

February 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl

Beautiful pictures and setup! I actually have not cooked with orecchiette, but I should now!

February 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNoelle

Yum - kind of looks like a cross between chicken cacciatore and a pasta dish. I learned to make orecchiette by hand on my last cooking tour trip to Puglia - man was that hard!

February 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCooking with Michele

Everytime I read one of your recipes, it takes me back 'home' . La mia zia would make this with chicken and shredded pork or beef! I could 'taste' it when I read your recipe; and it brought a big smile to my face. Thank you for these wonderful moments. Grazie mille.

February 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAllison

chicken, pork, lamb, beef - it's ALL good. i made this last weekend using only italian sausage because it's what i had... this kind of recipe is just the perfect thing for anytime, anything, any season. everyone loves it - it's easy, classic and a must have in the repertoire. i'm glad you wrote about it. it's a must cook.

and such a beautiful post... love the pics!

February 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterclaudia @ ceF

Great recipe...and beautiful photos!

February 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpaula

Looks like a winner. You just keep getting better! Congratulations.

February 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie M

Love your photos-the ingredients just jump off the page, I recently made a turkey bolognese (trying to go lower fat) and it was delicious, I like the idea of the chicken better) - definitely a keeper!

February 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

I haven't made a chicken ragu sauce in such a long time. I love the flavors of this and I can smell the sofritto cooking! Beautiful blog.. I look forward to seeing more of your recipes. :) Ciao..

February 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie

Can I come eat at your house??? Everynight? :-)

February 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCorri Havlicek

Looks delicious!

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkitchenroach

I thought I commented on this post! Well anyway, You know I love your food and would be happy to be a guest at your table any old day!

March 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermarie

This was yummy! Love your blog.

March 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjana

i recently discovered your blog, it's great! this is the first recipe of yours that i've made and it turned out beautifully! my husband was very impressed - so thank you!

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterrachel

Made this last night and it was absolutely awesome! I only had 3 chicken thighs and there was enough to go around for my family of 4. Also I omitted the re wine since we don't drink much. Very good, even for picky eaters :D

April 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterClifford

I just made this sauce and ate it with linguine w/ parmigiana. Since you called for a large can of tomatoes (marzano, 32 oz), I used 3/4 cup each carrots, celery, and onion, w/ 1 cup merlot and 18 oz chicken stock and 5 cloves of garlic, pressed. I followed the rest of the recipe to the letter. It is sooo delicious (I'm soo pleased) and I didn't have to add more salt than the large pinch at the beginning (the cheeze adds more). A great recipe and really fun to make.

July 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterC. Weibel

Good God this recipe is amazing!! I found your blog by way of the Proud Italian Cook, and your are the only other food blog I have on my homepage. I've actually had you on my homepage for coming up on a year now, and I think this is my first post. I just had to tell you how wonderful I think this recipe is! It is seriously one of my favorite things to eat. It has such a fantastic, homey flavor that just stays on the palette. I always eat too much when I make it! When I bring leftovers of it in to work and it hits the microwave, everyone's mouth gets to watering. By the way, I love your photos! I am a bit of a photographer as well, so that really stands out to me. You always have such lovely images of your prep and your food. Thanks so much!!!

September 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDarien Chin

I'm always looking for good italian recipes, as I have a husband who loves to eat italian food. I would love to have plenty of recipes that beat out Olive Garden on any day of the week. I'll have to try this recipe. I'm sure hubby will be pleased. Thanks for sharing!

Budget Recipes and Crafts

February 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHope

I made this dish yesterday evening and it was one of the best dishes I've ever made!!!! My boyfriend (very spoiled eater ;) said that it was better than in a restaurant :) Thank you very much fpr this post, it will be a defenitely keeper!!

From The Italian Dish:

Ramona: You made my day! Thank you.

June 9, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

This is a superb blog. I love your blog very much and will definitely try out the recipes.

August 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMel

I just saw Rachel Ray make a Chicken Ragu but I like your recipe! Can't wait to try it!

Thank you so much for this recipe! I made this tonight and my husband said it was one of the best dinners he's ever had. Just delicious.

February 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBecca

I've made this incredible dish a few times in the past year. The layers of flavor are phenomenal! I stocked up De Cecco pasta from Amazon and the rest of the ingredients are regulars in the pantry. Now I'm dying to try it with a stewed beef of some kind. What cut of meat would you recommend?

February 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

From The Italian Dish:

Stephanie: I would recommend a beef chuck roast, cut into cubes. As it cooks, it will get very tender and then you can shred the meat.

February 16, 2015 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

This was excellent. I used chicken breaststroke as I always have some on hand, and it was wonderful! Thank you.

May 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJane

This recipe is awesome! I didn't have red wine, so I sub with dry sherry (it was so good). I also used chicken breast instead of thighs because my family prefers the taste. (I have also used thighs, both are good!)

November 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEmma

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