Ragù Vs Ragoût: What's The Difference?

Some food mix-ups are natural, chives and scallions are two different ingredients that would be difficult to tell apart no matter what, but others, like ragù and ragoût, are completely human-created problems. While we doubt the people of France and Italy have been deliberately conspiring to confuse English speakers, the origins and differences between ragù and ragoût make it hard to not see it that way.

First off, it doesn't help that not only are ragoût and ragù pronounced the same, ragù is actually just an Italian variation on the original French word ragoût, which means "to awaken or stimulate the appetite," (via La Cucina Italiana). So Italy essentially adopted the French term but changed the dish significantly, and then changed the spelling, but not the pronunciation. It can also be confusing that there are quite a few variations within these two dishes. Bolognese, for example, is a type of ragù, and that ambiguity means ragoût and ragù can have a bit of crossover in how they are prepared. But at the end of the day, these are pretty different meals.

Ragù is sauce and ragoût is stew

Ragoût is, first and foremost, a stew. It can be based on meat, fish, or vegetables, and is just as likely to be served on its own as it is to be used atop potatoes or pasta (via Food & Wine). The main unifying factor in all ragoûts is that they are slow-cooked in broth as a satisfying, homey dish that is open to a lot of interpretation from the chef. It has a real "throw it in the pot" approach that prioritizes local tastes and ingredients.

Unlike its French cousin, ragù is primarily a sauce used to top pasta and not a meal to be eaten by itself. Variations on ragù are not as disparate as ragoûts. It is usually based around minced meat like pork or beef and sometimes contains tomatoes (via Cook's Info). The defining commonality between the two dishes is their long, gentle cooking process. Like ragoûts, good ragù is dependent on the gradual melding of flavors over hours of simmering. The other thing they do have in common is that if you take your time and do them right, you'll be rewarded with some of the most hearty, comforting meals you've had in a long time.