Bolognese Sauce

May 3, 2022

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Our favorite homemade Bolognese Sauce recipe! It’s a beef and tomato based sauce that is simmered low and very slow until rich concentrated flavors have developed and the meat is perfectly tender. It’s one of the ultimate pasta upgrades!

Bolognese sauce tossed with pappardelle pasta.

What is Bolognese?

Bolognese is a slow cooked, thick Italian pasta sauce made up of some type of minced meat (usually beef or pork) and tomatoes. It also includes soffritto which is simply a blend of carrot, celery and onion, and here it’s used as a base to build up flavor of the sauce.

The process involves sautéing and gently simmering over the stovetop, and seasonings vary by recipe including things such as herbs, nutmeg or garlic.

Bolognese is pronounced in Italian boh-loh-nyey-zey and in English bow-luh-nayz.

Once it’s lengthy simmer is over toss it with your favorite pasta and perhaps pair it with a simple green salad to complete it.

It is one of the ultimate home cooked comfort food recipes! Tended to with care that everyone will thoroughly appreciate.

Large pot filled with homemade bolognese sauce.

Bolognese Recipe Ingredients

  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1 Tbsp pieces, divided*
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 1/4 cups peeled and finely chopped carrot
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced (1 1/2 Tbsp)
  • 2 lbs. 85% lean ground beef
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 (28 oz each) cans San Marzano tomatoes in puree, well crushed by hand
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup dry white wine, sauce as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil stems (with leaves)
  • 1 parmesan rind plus 1 cup parmesan for serving
  • Unsalted chicken stock or broth, as needed to thin sauce

Ingredients used to make bolognese sauce.

How to Make Bolognese Sauce

  1. Melt 1 1/2 Tbsp butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Saute vegetables: Add onion, carrot and celery and saute 4 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute longer. Transfer mixture to a large plate.
  3. Melt 1 1/2 Tbsp butter in now empty pot over medium-high heat.
  4. Brown beef: Dab beef dry with paper towels, then break beef into 4 large chunks into pot. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Let sear until browned on bottom, about 3 minutes.
  5. Turn and sear until browned again on opposite side, about 3 minutes longer. Then break up beef and cook through a few minutes longer.
  6. Simmer with milk: Return vegetables to pot with the beef, pour in milk and stir. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer until majority of milk has evaporated and just fat remains, about 10 – 20 minutes.
  7. Stir in tomatoes, wine, basil and parmesan rind. Bring mixture to a simmer.
  8. Reduce heat to very low (it should be at a very low simmer with just be a few bubbles over the surface, on my stovetop I have to transfer to a small burner with a low flame).
  9. Let simmer 4 hours, stirring occasionally and thinning with broth as needed. Season lightly with salt and pepper to taste as it cooks (keep in mind it will reduce and saltiness will become more concentrated so careful not to overdue it you can always add more later).
  10. Remove basil stems and parmesan rind. Stir in remaining 3 Tbsp butter until melted (or heavy cream if using instead).

Collage of six photos showing steps of making bolognese sauce.

Four photos showing how to finish the bolognese sauce recipe.

Best Type of Pasta to Serve with It

Really you can use almost any pasta with this sauce but these are some of the best options:

  • Pappardelle
  • Tagliatelle
  • Spaghetti
  • Fettuccine

Close up photo of bolognese with pasta.

How to Store Bolognese Sauce

  • Keep sauce in an airtight container.
  • Store in the fridge up to 3 days.
  • Freeze up to 3 months.

Substitute for the White Wine

Dry red wine can be used as well or you can substitute with unsalted chicken stock or broth.

Pappardelle with bolognese sauce, parmesan and parsley garnish.

Helpful Tips for the Best Bolognese

  • Look for canned tomatoes in puree rather than juice for a thicker more tomatoey sauce.
  • If you’d like you can also mince the onion, carrot and celery in a food processor rather than doing it by hand to save time.
  • Remember that a low simmer is key here. If it’s not simmering low enough the sauce will just burn along the bottom of the pot and impart an off flavor, plus sauce will reduce too quickly. If your gas stove doesn’t have a smaller flame option you will likely need a flame tamer.
  • Be careful not to add too much salt in the beginning as the sauce will become more concentrated therefor the salt flavor will as well. You can always add more later on but can’t take it away.
  • Don’t forget to stir the sauce occasionally (a timer is a helpful reminder). I recommend at least every 30 minutes.
  • When tossing the sauce with pasta I like to add a splash or two of pasta water to thin it out a little.
  • You can use other blends of meat here if you’d like. Something like 2/3 lb. beef, 2/3 lb. veal, 2/3 lb. pork.
  • Here you have the option to use just butter or butter and cream for a slightly creamy sauce (see notes in recipe below).

White enameled cast iron pot with bolognese sauce shown from overhead.

More Italian Favorites to Try

Bolognese sauce tossed with pappardelle pasta.
5 from 3 votes

Bolognese

An Italian beef and tomato based sauce that is simmered low and very slow until rich concentrated flavors have developed and the meat is perfectly tender. It's one of the ultimate pasta upgrades!
Servings: 12
Prep20 minutes
Cook4 hours 30 minutes
Ready in: 4 hours 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 6 Tbsp butter, cut into 1 Tbsp pieces, divided*
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 1/4 cups peeled and finely chopped carrot
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 2 lbs. 85% lean ground beef
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 (28 oz each) cans San Marzano tomatoes in puree, well crushed by hand (such as Cento)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil stems (with leaves)
  • 1 parmesan rind
  • 1 cup parmesan for serving, or more to taste
  • Unsalted chicken stock or broth, as needed to thin sauce

Instructions

  • Melt 1 1/2 Tbsp butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  • Add onion, carrot and celery and saute 4 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute longer. Transfer mixture to a large plate.
  • Melt 1 1/2 Tbsp butter in now empty pot over medium-high heat. Dab beef dry with paper towels, then break beef into 4 large chunks into pot.
  • Season lightly with salt and pepper. Let sear until browned on bottom, about 3 minutes, turn and sear until browned again on opposite side, about 3 minutes longer. Then break up beef and cook through a few minutes longer.
  • Return vegetables to pot with the beef, pour in milk and stir. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer until majority of milk has evaporated and just fat remains, about 10 - 20 minutes.
  • Stir in tomatoes, wine, basil and parmesan rind. Bring mixture to a simmer.
  • Reduce heat to very low (it should be at a very low simmer with just be a few bubbles over the surface, on my stovetop I have to transfer to a small burner with a low flame).
  • Let simmer 4 hours, stirring occasionally and thinning with broth as needed. Season lightly with salt and pepper to taste as it cooks (keep in mind it will reduce and saltiness will become more concentrated so careful not to overdue it you can always add more later).
  • Remove basil stems and parmesan rind. Stir in remaining 3 Tbsp butter until melted (or heavy cream if using instead).
  • Toss sauce with cooked pasta of choice (tagliatelle, pappardelle, spaghetti, or fettuccine are great choices), thin with some of the pasta cooking water.

Notes

  • *This is also delicious with heavy cream. If you opt to use heavy cream only use 3 Tbsp of butter (1.5 Tbsp for vegetables and 1.5 Tbsp for beef). Then at the end instead of stirring in remaining 3 Tbsp butter stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream.
  • Yields about 9 cups sauce.
Nutrition Facts
Bolognese
Amount Per Serving
Calories 321 Calories from Fat 180
% Daily Value*
Fat 20g31%
Saturated Fat 10g63%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 7g
Cholesterol 74mg25%
Sodium 426mg19%
Potassium 720mg21%
Carbohydrates 14g5%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 8g9%
Protein 19g38%
Vitamin A 4632IU93%
Vitamin C 17mg21%
Calcium 189mg19%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.