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Feb 21, 2013 04:22 PM

Ragu vs. Sugu?

I've recently been to 2 different Italian restaurants where I've had a lamb meat sauce served over pasta. One was referred to on the menu as a lamb ragu, the other as lamb sugu. They were very, very similar. What is the difference between a ragu and a sugu?

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  1. Sugo/sugu is just Italian for "sauce", while "ragu" refers to a sauce containing meat.

    1. This is what Wikipedia has to say, though I don't have personal insights:
      Some Italian Americans on the East Coast and around the Chicago area refer to tomato sauce as "gravy", "tomato gravy", or "Sunday gravy", especially sauces with a large quantity of meat simmered in them, similar to the Italian Neapolitan ragù. "Gravy" is an erroneous English translation from the Italian sugo which means juice, but can also mean sauce (as in sugo per pastasciutta). The expression for "gravy" in Italian is sugo d'arrosto, which is literally "juice of a roast" and is not specifically tomato sauce.[7] Sicilian Americans in communities like Buffalo and Rochester, New York use the terms "sarsa" and "succu" interchangeably for tomato sauces of all types used with pasta, and "gravy" only in reference to brown meat gravies.

      1 Reply
      1. re: sophiejj

        I have heard Sicilian Americans in Buffalo who refer to the red sauce as "gravy". But perhaps they picked it up from East Coasters, the ones I know had been in the military.

        The entire meal, though, they referred to as "sauce". First time I was invited to come over for sauce, I asked if they would have spaghetti too and they laughed.

      2. Ragù and sugo are virtually interchangeable in standard Italian, and both mean sauce, but sugo has connotations of liquidity (like tomato sauce), while ragù has connotations of solidity. It usually contains meat, but you might also find a ragù of fish or mushrooms. Bolognese is the ragù par excellence and, when made correctly in the bolognese style, can be eaten with a fork without pasta.

        1. Thanks CH's for clarifying this for me!