Classic and cozy homemade Bolognese Sauce served over pappardelle pasta is the ultimate comfort food. Watch the video tutorial and learn how to make this Italian-inspired Bolognese recipe with tender beef in a rich tomato sauce.

If you love the vibrance of homemade Marinara Sauce, adding ground meat and simmering low and slow will produce a winning pasta sauce. Top it with parmesan cheese and serve with a fresh Caesar Salad for the perfect weeknight (or weekend) dinner.

Pappardelle pasta with bolognese sauce in a blue bowl, with a fork.

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Bolognese Recipe

Bolognese Sauce is classic comfort food. I learned how to make bolognese sauce from Chef Lidia Bastianich’s Cookbook. We make this recipe on repeat in our family, and we’ve tweaked it a little over time to suit our preferences. This adaptation is officially the gold standard of bolognese sauce in our house. 

Rich and flavorful bolognese sauce is perfect to serve warm over a bowl of pasta or baked between layers in Lasagna. This easy pasta sauce recipe is so simple and satisfying. It also keeps really well so you can make a big batch to have leftovers for later!

Bolognese sauce in a large Dutch oven with a wooden spoon.

What Is Bolognese Sauce?

Bolognese is a classic Italian meat-based sauce, often made from a mixture of ground meats which can include ground beef and pork, or veal. Fun fact on the history of Bolognese sauce – it originated in and was named after the city of Bologna, Italy. Here’s why you’ll love it:

  • Easy – this sauce comes together fairly quickly and the ingredients are simple. Once it’s in the pot, the stove does most of the work as it simmers and putters away.
  • Adaptable – Many bolognese sauces use a mixture of ground meats, but you can use only ground beef if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Kid-Friendly – Pasta bolognese is a meal that the whole family will enjoy. Who doesn’t love beefy, saucy noodles topped with plenty of freshly grated parmesan?
  • Versatile – Bolognese sauce is perfect for dressing tagliatelle or spaghetti (or any pasta you’d like), or use it to make lasagna alla bolognese. See later in the post for more ideas.
  • Make-ahead – It keeps so well in the refrigerator and freezer which is great for meal prep or easy weeknight dinners (see make-ahead tips below).

Easy Bolognese Sauce Video

Watch Natasha make the best bolognese sauce. This traditional bolognese recipe is slow-cooked on the stovetop which develops layers of irresistible, meaty flavor.

Ingredients

Below is an overview of the ingredients you’ll need to make bolognese sauce. Remember to refer to the recipe card below the post for the full recipe details.

  • Olive Oil and Butter – Just about every Italian recipe starts with good-quality EVOO (extra virgin olive oil). This one also includes unsalted butter for extra richness.
  • Onion, Celery, and Carrot – This trio of aromatics forms the flavor base for the sauce, also known as Italian sofrito, or mirepoix in French cooking. 
  • Garlic – We also mince up some fresh garlic cloves, because everything is better with garlic.
  • Ground Beef – I recommend using beef with 20% fat. You can also use a combination of ground beef and pork.
  • Wine – Use a dry white, like Pinot Grigio, which is traditional for bolognese, or a dry red wine like Merlot. If you prefer to leave out the wine, substitute it with beef broth instead.
  • Tomatoes – This recipe uses canned crushed tomatoes. San Marzano tomatoes are best, but any canned tomatoes will work in a pinch. You’ll also need tomato paste.
  • Fresh Herbs – We add finely-chopped fresh parsley or basil, to enhance the flavor and also to garnish our pasta when serving.
  • Milk – The secret to the best bolognese? Whole milk. 2% milk will also work, but whatever you do, don’t skip it.
The ingredients for homemade bolognese sauce.

Pro Tip: You’ll need your choice of pasta for serving. Bolognese is traditionally served over wide ribbons of pasta (like pappardelle or tagliatelle), but you can also dish it up over spaghetti, penne, or any other kind of pasta you prefer. Don’t forget the freshly grated parmesan cheese.

How to Make Bolognese Sauce

This savory bolognese sauce recipe only takes a few minutes of attention before it’s left to simmer for a couple of hours. Here’s how to make it:

  1. Saute – First, sauté diced onion in a large pot with olive oil and melted butter, Add the celery and carrot, stirring until golden, then stir in the garlic.
  2. Add Beef – Add the ground beef to the pot along with a pinch of salt and pepper to season. Break up the beef while it browns. 
  3. Add Wine – The beef will start to release its juices, and at this point, stir in wine. Bring the pot to a boil to cook off the liquid.
  4. Form the Sauce – Next, stir in the tomatoes along with 1-2 cups of hot water, tomato paste, parsley, and milk.
  5. Cook – Let the sauce come to a boil, then reduce the heat to the lowest simmer, partially cover and simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally and add water as needed to keep it from sticking to the bottom.
Photo collage showing the process for making homemade bolognese sauce.

Pro Tip: Bolognese sauce is ready when the ground meat is completely tender. Most of the liquid will have evaporated, and the meat should look suspended in a thick sauce, a bit like the consistency of Sloppy Joes. You might notice that the fat has separated from the sauce also, which is totally normal.

What’s the Best Pasta for Bolognese?

In Italy, bolognese sauce is often served with pappardelle or tagliatelle, as the broad ribbons hold up well in the thicker sauce. However, you can serve it with your preferred pasta, including spaghetti noodles for classic spaghetti bolognese. Here’s how to prepare your pasta for serving:

  1. Boil – Cook the pasta according to the package directions in a pot of boiling, salted water. 
  2. Drain – Reserve some pasta water if you want to thin the sauce later. Drain the pasta, then toss it with a bit of butter or olive oil to keep it from sticking.
  3. Serve – Toss the pasta in your bolognese sauce, then garnish with freshly grated parmesan and a sprinkle of chopped herbs, like parsley or basil. 
Close up of pappardelle pasta in a bag.

Common Questions

What is the difference between ragu and bolognese?

Good question. Bolognese sauce is a mix of meats with added milk or cream, served over pappardelle. Ragu is usually one type of meat simmered with veggies and wine, served over a variety of pasta.

Can I substitute the crushed tomatoes?

Yes, you can use canned whole tomatoes (peeled) and crush them yourself.

Can I use broth instead of water?

You can use chicken, beef, or vegetable broth or stock instead of hot water. Since the stock has more salt than water, go lighter on the added salt.

Why add milk to a bolognese sauce?

Adding milk at the beginning of simmering is an easy trick to tenderize the beef and cut the acidity.

Can I double the recipe?

Absolutely. However, it takes longer to simmer (2-3 hours).

Can I make Bolognese in the slow cooker?

For an option that’s cooked extra slow and low, try our Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce.

A large pot of pappardelle pasta bolognese, with a wooden spoon.

Serve With

Looking to turn your classic beef bolognese into a hearty family meal? Pair your pasta dinner with these easy serving ideas:

Make-Ahead

Bolognese sauce is wonderful to make ahead and refrigerate or freeze. It’s such a treat to have an extra batch waiting in the freezer for a quick meal. Here’s how to store leftovers:

  • To refrigerate: Transfer the cooled bolognese sauce to an airtight container and keep it refrigerated for up to 3-5 days. I recommend using glass Tupperware as the red sauce tends to stain plastic.
  • Freezing: Make sure that your bolognese is completely cool, then store it airtight and freeze it for up to 3 months.
  • To reheat: Reheat bolognese sauce in a saucepan on the stovetop or in the microwave until hot throughout.
Pappardelle pasta with bolognese sauce in a blue bowl, with a fork.

More Ways to use Bolognese Sauce

Bolognese is so versatile, why stop at pasta sauce? If you have leftover bolognese sauce, try using it in these other easy recipes:

  • Lasagna – Bolognese is perfect to use as a filling for Easy Skillet Lasagna or Lasagna Roll Ups.
  • Casseroles – Use this classic bolognese in Baked Ziti
  • Stuffed Shells – Beef up homemade Stuffed Shells by swapping marinara for meaty bolognese. 
  • Sloppy Joes – Fill a fluffy bun with leftover bolognese for an easy variation of a Sloppy Joe sandwich.

Pasta bolognese is one of our favorite family dinners, and nothing tops this classic recipe for rich and savory homemade bolognese sauce. Let me know what you think in the comments!

More Pasta Dinner Ideas

If you’re as crazy about pasta as our family, try these other delicious and comforting pasta recipes:

Natasha's Kitchen Cookbook

Bolognese Sauce Recipe

4.99 from 55 votes
Author: Natasha Kravchuk
Pappardelle pasta with bolognese sauce in a blue bowl, with a fork.
Our family-favorite homemade Bolognese Sauce is filled with rich savory ground beef and juicy crushed tomatoes. Serve it over pappardelle pasta for the ultimate Italian comfort food! For the full batch of sauce, you will need 1 1/2 to 2 lbs of pasta.
Cook Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients 

Servings: 8 servings
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus 2 Tbsp more to toss pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion, from 1 medium onion
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb ground beef, 20% fat, or use a mixture of beef and pork
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup dry white wine, or red wine
  • 28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water, plus more as needed
  • 2 Tbsp double-concentrated tomato paste, or 4 Tbsp regular tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped (or fresh basil), plus more to serve
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

To Serve:

  • pappardelle, or tagliatelle pasta, to serve
  • Parmesan cheese, to serve

Instructions

  • In a 6-quart Dutch oven or pot over medium heat, add oil and butter. Add onion and stir until it is softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add celery and carrots and stir until golden, another 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir for another 30 seconds.
  • Add ground beef, 1/2 tsp fine sea salt, and 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Cook the beef, breaking it up with a spatula until it’s browned and begins releasing fat and juices, about 5 minutes.
  • Add white wine, turn up the heat, and continue stirring until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes.
  • Add crushed tomatoes, 1 1/2 cups hot water, tomato paste, and parsley and stir to combine. Stir in the milk and bring to a boil then reduce the heat to the lowest simmer, partially cover and continue cooking for at least 1 1/2 hours and preferably 2 hours or until the meat is very tender, stirring occasionally. Add more hot water 1/2 cup at a time only as needed to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  • When the meat is tender and you’ve reached the consistency of sloppy joes, add more salt to taste and serve.

Notes

Nutrition Facts are for the sauce only and do not include the pasta or parmesan cheese. 

Nutrition Per Serving

287kcal Calories14g Carbs13g Protein19g Fat7g Saturated Fat1g Polyunsaturated Fat8g Monounsaturated Fat1g Trans Fat50mg Cholesterol364mg Sodium615mg Potassium3g Fiber8g Sugar1822IU Vitamin A16mg Vitamin C84mg Calcium3mg Iron
Nutrition Facts
Bolognese Sauce Recipe
Amount per Serving
Calories
287
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
19
g
29
%
Saturated Fat
 
7
g
44
%
Trans Fat
 
1
g
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
1
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
8
g
Cholesterol
 
50
mg
17
%
Sodium
 
364
mg
16
%
Potassium
 
615
mg
18
%
Carbohydrates
 
14
g
5
%
Fiber
 
3
g
13
%
Sugar
 
8
g
9
%
Protein
 
13
g
26
%
Vitamin A
 
1822
IU
36
%
Vitamin C
 
16
mg
19
%
Calcium
 
84
mg
8
%
Iron
 
3
mg
17
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: best bolognese recipe, Bolognese Sauce, Italian bolognese
Skill Level: Easy
Cost to Make: $$
Calories: 287

Natasha Kravchuk

Welcome to my kitchen! I am Natasha, the blogger behind Natasha's Kitchen (since 2009). My husband and I run this blog together and share only our best, family approved and tested recipes with YOU. Thanks for stopping by! We are so happy you're here.

Read more posts by Natasha

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Recipe Rating




Comments

  • Kristen
    March 31, 2024

    I have made this quite a few times and love it. I always add more carrots and celery than the recipe calls for and at least double it as we love freezing some jars and giving to family and friends. When doubling or tripling, the recipe, I find that I don’t need to add proportional tomato paste or crushed tomatoes because the recipe can be too tart. I often do not use San Marzano tomatoes so sometimes the sauce can so tart due to that factor too. To balance out the recipe, I will sometimes puree carrots while the sauce is cooking and fix it to taste. Thanks Natasha for this recipe, I keep coming back to it!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      March 31, 2024

      You’re very welcome, Kristin! Thank you for sharing.

      Reply

  • Renee Stillman
    March 25, 2024

    My sauce was very tasty but very greasy.
    Wondering what might have gone wrong.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      March 25, 2024

      Hi Renee! It’s likely from the ground meat that you used. There are different fat percentages. We used 1 lb ground beef, 20% fat. You can use a leaner meat or strain some of the grease after you cook the meat.

      Reply

  • Evelyn
    March 6, 2024

    Is this safe for kids to consume? The alcohol boils out right?

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      March 6, 2024

      Hi Evelyn. I feed this to my kids. Most of the alcohol cooks off.

      Reply

  • Julie Bulson
    February 25, 2024

    Made this exact to the recipe (except I used ground round 15% fat). It turned out so good! I served it over pappardelle pasta and topped it with some shaved Parmesan.

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      February 25, 2024

      Oh so yummy! I’m so glad that you loved it!

      Reply

  • Yelena
    February 7, 2024

    Delicious! My family and I made it tonight – super easy, we just added a little bit of sugar.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      February 7, 2024

      Thank you for trying the recipe!

      Reply

  • R
    February 4, 2024

    So tasty! I’ve never made bolognese before and this recipe was so helpful in getting me comfortable with it. Making it for the third time tonight!

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      February 5, 2024

      Great to hear that you always love this recipe!

      Reply

  • Ahmed
    November 17, 2023

    Your Bolognese sauce was delicious! I loved the added flavor from the celery and carrots. I will be making it again. I love your recipe!
    By: Ahmed

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      November 17, 2023

      I’m so glad you loved it! Thank you for sharing.

      Reply

  • Tom
    November 12, 2023

    It was so good I used it in a short story. 100% should try it.

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      November 13, 2023

      Thanks, Tom. We appreciate your great feedback!

      Reply

  • Tim
    September 4, 2023

    I just made this, but saw the ghee out of the corner of my eye and used that instead of the butter. Like every other recipe I’ve tried from this site, it was excellent.

    Thanks Natasha!

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      September 4, 2023

      You’re welcome, Tim! So glad that you loved it.

      Reply

  • Kristen
    August 17, 2023

    The last bolognese recipe I followed didn’t taste special so I haven’t tried to make bolognese for years, until today! Wow, it’s so good. Always thought bolognese was tangy but your version has a great balance. I used a little extra milk with some half and half, also subbed oxtail broth for wine and used rigatoni pasta. The meal was perfect! My son, who hates marinara sauce, actually had a second helping. My husband said it was delicious. This will be in our rotation but I will need to double the recipe and freeze for convenience. Thanks Natasha!

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      August 18, 2023

      I’m so happy you enjoyed that. Thank you for sharing that with us, Kristen!

      Reply

      • Terri Calton
        September 23, 2023

        Love your recipes !!! I was wondering if I could substitute fresh tomatoes for the crushed tomatoes? I have an overwhelming amount of Amish paste tomatoes ! Thank you !!

        Reply

        • Natasha
          September 23, 2023

          Hi Terri, I haven’t tried fresh tomatoes because it would significantly increase the time it takes to cook this sauce to reach the right consistency.

          Reply

  • Pat O.
    June 29, 2023

    Truly delicious! My husband really liked my homemade meat sauce, but he likes this even better and so do I! Thank you!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      June 29, 2023

      Hi Pat! That’s great to hear. I’m so glad you found this recipe. Thank you for the feedback.

      Reply

  • Judie
    June 25, 2023

    Double the recipe and add 1 lb Ground beef and 1 LB sweet Italian sausage.

    Reply

  • Elena Marie Howland
    June 20, 2023

    OMG, this recipe is outstanding! My husband was skeptical, but I won him over when I made it. I’ve made so many of your recipes and I will also order your cookbook so please keep them coming!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      June 20, 2023

      Hi Elena! I’m so glad to hear that. Thank you for sharing and I appreciate your love and support.

      Reply

  • Cecilia
    June 3, 2023

    Can I use almond milk instead of whole milk?
    I’m lactose intolerant but I’d like to try the recipe for my family. I’m sure they’ll love it.

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      June 3, 2023

      Hi Cecilia, The secret to the best bolognese is the milk. Whatever you do, don’t skip it. I haven’t tried this with almond or another milk alternative to advise on the outcome, but if you experiment, let me know how you liked the recipe.

      Reply

      • Sheila
        February 4, 2024

        Cecilia, buy the lactose free milk, its great, can not tell the difference from regular milk in taste but your digestive system will thank you

        Reply

  • Doreen
    June 1, 2023

    Hi! Can I halve this recipe? If not, can I freeze? Thank you!

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      June 1, 2023

      Hi Doreen, You sure can! I recommend clicking “Jump to recipe” at the top of the post, it will take you to our printable recipe where you’ll have the option to change the number of servings. Hover over the number of servings highlighted in red and slide it to how many servings you would like to make. I hope that helps!

      Reply

  • Victoria
    May 24, 2023

    Great Sauce, but it sweet, I add some pepper flakes, but any ideas what else I could add?
    Thank you

    Reply

    • Natasha
      May 25, 2023

      Hi Victoria, it shouldn’t really be sweet – did you possibly add sugar instead of salt? There isn’t anything here that would make it sweet except maybe the carrot? Also, it may just need more salt to balance out the natural sweetness of tomato?

      Reply

  • Lee Ann
    April 25, 2023

    This is so delicious that I don’t know if I can go back to jarred sauce ever again!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      April 25, 2023

      That’s great, Lee Ann! Thank you for the wonderful feedback. 🙂

      Reply

  • Fiona Anderson
    April 23, 2023

    Loved this! Our family loves bolognese! I usually alternate between Marcella Hazan’s recipe (which we call “forever bolognese” because it takes at least 6 hours to really be at its best) and a simpler English recipe that’s done in about an hour but just doesn’t have the depth of flavor that Hazan’s recipe has. This recipe is a nice compromise between the two, and I will definitely be making it again! I used beef stock instead of water and threw in about a tsp of Penzey’s Italian Herb Mix as I didn’t have any fresh herbs. Otherwise followed the recipe. It has made a delightfully rich, thick bolognese with wonderful flavor!

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      April 23, 2023

      Hello Fiona, that’s really beautiful feedback. Thanks a lot for sharing that with us, we’re so glad that you enjoyed our recipe!

      Reply

  • Patty
    April 23, 2023

    Hi Natasha, I made your bolognese meat sauce for dinner last night and it was superb! My husband loved it and said “do not lose this recipe”. The only change, was I used large rigatoni pasta because that’s what I had. I served it with garlic bread, salad and topped the pasta with mixed Italian cheese and it was delicious. Thank you again for another great recipe that I will make over and over again.

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      April 23, 2023

      You’re so welcome, Patty. Its my pleasure, I’m so glad that it was a hit!

      Reply

  • Patty
    April 23, 2023

    Hi Natasha, I made your bolognese sauce for dinner last night and it was superb. My husband loved it and said “don’t lose this recipe”. The only change was I used rigatoni pasta, as that’s what I had, the meat sauce went inside the pasta which was great. Topped it with some mixed Italian cheese which was delicious. Thanks again for a wonderfully delicious recipe, which I’ll be making over and over.

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      April 23, 2023

      Wow, that’s lovely! Thanks for sharing that with us, it’s always inspiring to see this type of feedback here.

      Reply

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