Bolognese Sauce Recipe (VIDEO)
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.
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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!
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Form the Sauce – Next, stir in the tomatoes along with 1-2 cups of hot water, tomato paste, parsley, and milk.
- 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.
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:
- Boil – Cook the pasta according to the package directions in a pot of boiling, salted water.
- 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.
- Serve – Toss the pasta in your bolognese sauce, then garnish with freshly grated parmesan and a sprinkle of chopped herbs, like parsley or basil.
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.
Yes, you can use canned whole tomatoes (peeled) and crush them yourself.
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.
Adding milk at the beginning of simmering is an easy trick to tenderize the beef and cut the acidity.
Absolutely. However, it takes longer to simmer (2-3 hours).
For an option that’s cooked extra slow and low, try our Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce.
Looking to turn your classic beef bolognese into a hearty family meal? Pair your pasta dinner with these easy serving ideas:
- Salad – Serve with a Garden Salad, Panzanella Salad, or a vibrant Caprese Salad.
- Bread – Homemade Focaccia or Garlic Bread is perfect for sopping up extra meat sauce.
- Vegetables – Pair with veggie sides like Roasted Broccoli or Roasted Asparagus.
- Garnishes – Fresh herbs like basil, oregano, or parsley, plus grated parmesan or pecorino cheese.
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.
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:
Bolognese Sauce Recipe
- 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
- pappardelle, or tagliatelle pasta, to serve
- Parmesan cheese, to serve
- 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.