Many ragus require hours of simmering. Not this one. Here we take the express lane, opting for ground meat, which gives you a head start on tenderness, and combining it with flavor-packed ingredients like double-concentrated tomato paste and heavy cream. Together they make for a sauce that’s just as satisfying as one that’s cooked all day. You can use pretty much any ground meat in this speedy meat sauce, but this is not the time to seek out extra-lean cuts. If you’re buying chicken or turkey, try to find ground dark meat, which is less prone to drying out.
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Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
lb. ground pork, turkey, beef, or chicken
medium onion, finely chopped
garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Calabrian chiles in oil, finely chopped, or 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
cup double-concentrated tomato paste
cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
oz. gemelli or other short pasta
oz. Parmesan, finely grated, plus more for serving
Basil leaves (for serving)
Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a medium Dutch oven or large skillet over medium-high. Add pork in 8–10 pieces, spacing evenly, and season with salt. Let cook, undisturbed, until deeply browned underneath, about 3 minutes. Turn over and cook until deeply browned on opposite side, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate (it won’t be cooked through and that’s okay).
Reduce heat to medium and add remaining 2 Tbsp. oil to pot. Cook onion, stirring often, until softened and just beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add chiles and tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until paste is slightly darkened in color, about 3 minutes. Return pork to pot and break up into small pieces. Add cream and 1½ cups water. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat, and simmer gently until liquid is reduced by one third and flavors have come together, 15–20 minutes. Season ragù with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
Add pasta to ragù along with ½ cup pasta cooking liquid and 1 oz. Parmesan. Cook, stirring and adding more pasta cooking liquid if needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes.
Divide pasta among shallow bowls and top with basil and more Parmesan.