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Delicious Homemade Bolognese Sauce Recipe

Bolognese Sauce is a rich and hearty Italian classic, perfect for serving over pasta or as a base for lasagna. Made with ground beef and ground pork, and a medley of aromatic vegetables, and slow-cooked to perfection, resulting in a deliciously satisfying dish that’s sure to please.

A comforting plate of pasta topped with a hearty serving of Bolognese sauce.

What is Bolognese Sauce?

Bolognese, also known as ragù alla Bolognese, is a meaty, tomato-based sauce originating in Bologna, Italy.

While Bolognese sauce requires some time to cook, its long cooking time allows the flavors to meld together and develop a depth of comforting and satisfying flavor. It is a very simple recipe to make. The ingredients are straightforward and easy to find, and the recipe is easy to follow.

Bolognese is usually served over pasta, such as spaghetti or tagliatelle, and is often topped with Parmesan cheese. It can also be used as a base for other dishes, such as lasagna, baked ziti, pizza, calzones, and meatball subs.

The Secrets to a Perfect Bolognese Sauce

Achieving the perfect balance of flavors in a homemade Bolognese sauce requires patience, attention to detail, and a few key techniques:

  1. Take your time: Bolognese sauce is not a dish that can be rushed. The flavors need time to meld and develop, so be prepared to let the sauce simmer low and slow for at least 2-3 hours (and sometimes even longer). This lengthy cooking process allows the ingredients to break down and the sauce thickens, resulting in a rich, complex flavor profile.
  2. Brown the meat: Properly browning the meat is essential for developing a deep, savory flavor in your Bolognese sauce. Be sure to cook the meat in batches if necessary, as overcrowding the pan can result in steaming rather than browning.
  3. Layer the flavors: Building the sauce in stages allows each ingredient to fully release its flavor and contribute to the overall depth of the dish. Start with the soffritto, followed by the meat, tomatoes, and liquid, and finally, the dairy and seasonings. This methodical approach ensures that each component has a chance to shine.
A close-up view of delicious homemade bolognese sauce showcasing the tender ground meat, tomatoes, and aromatic vegetables that create its signature flavor.

Ingredients for Bolognese Sauce

The foundation of any great Bolognese sauce lies in its ingredients. While variations exist, the following elements are generally considered essential to an authentic Bolognese sauce:

  • Meat: A combination of ground beef and pork is most commonly used in Bolognese sauce, providing a rich and flavorful base. Some recipes may also include pancetta, veal, or even chicken livers for added depth of flavor.
  • Soffritto: This mixture of finely chopped onion, carrot, and celery is the backbone of many Italian sauces, including Bolognese. It is gently sautéed in olive oil or butter until softened and aromatic, providing a flavorful base for the sauce.
  • Tomatoes: While tomatoes are not the star of Bolognese sauce, they play a crucial supporting role in providing acidity and balance to the dish. Authentic recipes typically call for a small amount of tomato paste or canned tomatoes, ensuring that the focus remains on the meat and other flavors.
  • Liquid: Red or white wine and broth (usually beef or chicken) are used to deglaze the pan and provide moisture for the sauce as it simmers. The wine adds complexity and depth to the sauce, while the broth helps to create a rich, velvety texture.
  • Dairy: Whole milk or heavy cream is often added to Bolognese sauce, lending a subtle richness and silky mouthfeel to the finished dish. Some recipes may also include a touch of butter for added indulgence.
  • Herbs and Seasonings Aromatic herbs and spices, such as bay leaves, oregano (or thyme) are used to enhance the flavors of the sauce. Salt and pepper are added to taste, and a hint of sugar may be used to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.

How to Make Homemade Bolognese Sauce

  1. Saute: Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery, and saute until the vegetables are softened and slightly golden. Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant.
  2. Add the ground beef and pork to the pot, breaking the meat apart with a wooden spoon. 
  3. Season with salt and pepper until the meat is browned and cooked.
  4. Pour in the milk and allow it to simmer, stirring occasionally until it evaporates.
  5. Add the red wine to the pot and let it simmer, allowing the alcohol to cook off and the flavors to meld.
  6. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaves, and oregano. Bring the sauce to a boil and lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover the pot with a lid, leaving a small gap for steam to escape.
  7. Simmer the sauce on low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened and the flavors have deepened. 
  8. Add cheese: Once the cooking time has elapsed, remove the bay leaf and stir in the grated Parmesan cheese. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with additional salt and pepper, if needed.
  9. Serve the Bolognese sauce over cooked pasta, such as spaghetti or pappardelle, and garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

Bolognese Variations

  • Vegetarian Bolognese: To make a vegetarian version of Bolognese sauce, you can replace the meat with a plant-based protein such as lentils, mushrooms, or soy crumbles. The other ingredients can remain the same.
  • Spicy Bolognese: For those who like their food with a little kick, adding red pepper flakes or chili powder to the sauce can create a spicy version of Bolognese. 
  • Seafood Bolognese: For a lighter version of Bolognese, you can replace the meat with seafood such as shrimp, scallops, or clams. You can make the sauce with a tomato base or a white wine and cream base.
A steaming bowl of homemade Bolognese sauce, garnished with parsley

Storing Leftover Bolognese Sauce

  • Refrigeration: Bolognese sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. 
  • Freezing: If you have a lot of leftover Bolognese sauce, you can freeze it for up to 3 months. Allow the sauce to cool completely before transferring to a freezer-safe container or freezer bag.
  • Reheating: To thaw, place the container in the refrigerator overnight or thaw the sauce in the microwave. You can reheat Bolognese sauce on the stovetop over low heat or microwave. Be sure to stir the sauce occasionally to ensure it heats evenly.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What type of pasta is best to serve with Bolognese sauce?

Traditionally, Bolognese sauce is served with tagliatelle, a long, flat pasta noodle. However, you can also serve it with other types of pasta, such as spaghetti, fettuccine, or rigatoni.

  • Can Bolognese sauce be made in advance?

Yes, you can make Bolognese sauce in advance and store it in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use. In fact, allowing the sauce to sit overnight can enhance the flavors.

  • Can I use ground turkey or chicken instead of beef in Bolognese sauce?

Yes, you can use ground turkey or chicken instead of beef to make a lighter version of Bolognese sauce.

  • Do You Simmer Bolognese With the Lid On Or Off?

We recommended simmering Bolognese sauce with the lid partially on, leaving a small opening for steam to escape. This allows the sauce to reduce and thicken while preventing it from boiling over. It is important to watch the sauce and stir it occasionally to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom or burn. 

  • How Do You Thicken Bolognese Sauce?

One of the easiest ways to thicken Bolognese sauce is to let it simmer for longer, allowing the sauce to reduce and thicken naturally. You can also add more tomato paste.

  • What is the difference between ragu and bolognese?

Ragù is a meat-based sauce simmered with vegetables and tomato sauce, while Bolognese is a specific type of ragù made with ground beef, pancetta, onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, and red wine.

  • Can I double the recipe?

Yes, you can double the recipe for Bolognese sauce if you want to make a larger batch. However, when doubling the recipe, use a larger pot to accommodate the extra ingredients, adjust the cooking time, and taste and adjust the seasoning.

Helpful Tips

  1. For added depth, combine ground veal, pork, and beef in the sauce. You can add a few chopped sun-dried tomatoes to the sauce for a slightly tangy flavor.
  2. For an even richer flavor, add a few slices of chopped pancetta or bacon to the pot with the ground meats.
  3. If you prefer a smoother sauce, use an immersion blender to puree the sauce to your desired consistency.
  4. This sauce freezes well, making it perfect for meal prep. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  5. If the sauce becomes too thick, add some water or chicken broth to thin it out.

What To Serve With It

Bolognese sauce is a versatile sauce that you can serve with various dishes.

Pasta: Serve with tagliatelle pasta, fettuccine, spaghetti, or linguine. You can also serve it on polenta, potato gnocchi, lasagna, crostini, Bread Loaf, No-Knead Garlic Pull-Apart Bread, focaccia, Garlic bread, zucchini, eggplant, or bell peppers.

More Authentic Sauce and Pasta Recipes

A comforting plate of pasta topped with a hearty serving of Bolognese sauce.

The Ultimate Rich and Flavorful Bolognese Sauce

Get ready to indulge your taste buds with this rich and savory flavors sauce with its hearty meat sauce and aromatic herbs. Bolognese sauce is a dish that will transport you straight to the heart of Italy with every delicious bite.
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 832.5kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 pound ground beef 85% lean
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 can 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can 14.5 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Instructions

  • Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery, and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and slightly golden.
  • Add the minded garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
  • Next, add the ground beef and pork to the pot, breaking the meat apart with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browned and cooked through.
  • Pour in the milk and allow it to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it has mostly evaporated.
  • Add the red wine to the pot and let it simmer for another 5 minutes, allowing the alcohol to cook off and the flavors to meld.
  • Stir in the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaves and oregano. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover the pot with a lid, leaving a small gap for steam to escape.
  • Simmer the sauce on low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened and the flavors have deepened. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a bit of water or chicken broth to thin it out.
  • Once the cooking time has elapsed, remove the bay leaf and stir in the grated Parmesan cheese. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with additional salt and pepper, if needed.
  • Serve the Bolognese sauce over cooked pasta, such as spaghetti or pappardelle, and garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

Notes

  • For added depth, combine ground veal, pork, and beef in the sauce. You can add a few chopped sun-dried tomatoes to the sauce for a slightly tangy flavor.
  • For an even richer flavor, add a few slices of chopped pancetta or bacon to the pot with the ground meats.
  • If you prefer a smoother sauce, use an immersion blender to puree the sauce to your desired consistency.
  • This sauce freezes well, making it perfect for meal prep. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • If the sauce becomes too thick, add some water or chicken broth to thin it out.

Nutrition

Calories: 832.5kcal | Carbohydrates: 15.7g | Protein: 45.7g | Fat: 59.9g | Saturated Fat: 21.7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3.9g | Monounsaturated Fat: 27.3g | Trans Fat: 1.4g | Cholesterol: 180.4mg | Sodium: 1344.7mg | Potassium: 1052.9mg | Fiber: 2.3g | Sugar: 7.6g | Vitamin A: 5456.5IU | Vitamin C: 8.2mg | Calcium: 266.2mg | Iron: 4.2mg

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