Beef ragout on polenta cakes

PersonalPoints™ per serving
Total Time
1 hr
15 min
45 min
So what's the difference between ragout and ragu, you ask? Well the former is a French-style main-dish stew while the latter is a meat-based Italian red sauce traditionally served over pasta. This Mediterranean ragout features meaty beef cubes braised in red wine with dried Mission figs that add a note of sweetness to the tomato sauce while lending a toothsome texture to the dish. Instead of serving over rice or pasta, this braised beef stew is spooned over rustic polenta cakes, which many consider the grits of Italy.


Olive oil

½ Tbsp

Uncooked onion(s)

1 small, yellow, chopped

Uncooked celery

1 rib(s), medium, chopped

Uncooked carrot(s)

1 medium, chopped

Garlic clove(s)

2 medium clove(s), chopped

Uncooked lean beef round

16 oz, beef top round steak, trimmed of all visible fat and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Red wine

8 fl oz, dry


1½ Tbsp, chopped fresh (or 1/2 tablespoon dried)

Fresh thyme

1 Tbsp, chopped, fresh (or 1 teaspoon dried)

Canned diced tomatoes

14½ oz

Canned tomato paste

1 Tbsp

Sweetened dried fig(s)

2 oz, about 9 figs

Table salt

½ tsp

Black pepper

¼ tsp, coarsely ground


1 pound(s), 1 log, plain, cut into 12 (1/2-inch) slices


  1. Heat oil in a nonstick Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion softens. Add the beef and cook until browned. Stir in the wine and cook over high heat, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the liquid is reduced by one-half, 3–4 minutes. Add the basil, thyme, and tomatoes and bring back to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer until the meat is very tender, about 35 minutes.
  2. Stir in the tomato paste, figs, salt, and pepper. Cook, uncovered, until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes longer.
  3. Meanwhile, spray a broiler rack with nonstick spray; preheat the broiler. Broil the polenta slices 5 inches from the heat until lightly browned, about 2 minutes on each side. Serve the ragout ladled over the polenta.


A Chianti would be in keeping with the dish’s roots, but any dry red wine will do. Many supermarkets stock precooked polenta logs; look in the pasta aisle or near produce, in the refrigerator section. These logs are virtually fat-free and very convenient.