literary food blog, for readers with good taste.

Inspired Recipe: Hearty Guanciale and Beef Ragu

Inspired Recipe: Hearty Guanciale and Beef Ragu

Set in 17th-century Germany, The Hangman’s Daughter by German filmmaker and writer Oliver Pötzsch is a mysterious tale full of magic, darkness and humor. The story evokes sights, smells and sensations that may be quite foreign to readers curled up on cushy furniture, perhaps reading the story in the glow of a Kindle. It’s full of hardship, discomfort, scratchy clothes and simple food. So how could I evoke the heartiness and richness of a medieval German meal but update it for a modern kitchen? With an indulgent beef ragu. Substituting guanciale for a leaner pork sausage adds so much to this fall or winter dish, which can be served over pasta. If you want to keep it truly Deutsch, try spooning it over spaetzle. Pair it with a spicy merlot or malbec, or try it with a deep amber Oktoberfest beer. Prost!

Read our recommendation of The Hangman's Daughter.


What's ragu without tomato paste?




  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 carrot (diced)
  • 1 stalk celery (diced)
  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (diced)
  • 4oz guanciale (cubed)
  • 1lb lean ground beef
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/3lb thick-sliced baked ham (cubed)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 3/4 cups dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper


In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and add carrot, celery, onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

Remove the vegetables, add the guanciale and cook until slightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Remove guanciale, add the ground beef and cook until no longer pink, about 8 minutes.

Return the vegetables and guanciale to the pan, add the tomato paste, stir, and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes.

Add the ham, milk, white wine, water, chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce and cinnamon, cover and simmer the ragu over low heat for about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

Spoon over pasta or spaetzle and top with grated parmesan cheese, if desired.

So grab a copy of The Hangman's Daughter, whip up a batch of this hearty ragu and settle in on the couch with your bowl and the paperback. You'll be transported to medieval Germany in no time.


Now that you’re good and hungry — and undoubtedly feeling carnivorous — read our recommendation of the book that inspired this recipe: The Hangman's Daughter.

Eat Your Words: Juxtaposition and Ragu

Eat Your Words: Juxtaposition and Ragu

Book Recommendation: The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch

Book Recommendation: The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch