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Traditional Bolognese Sauce

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Traditional Bolognese Sauce is meat sauce made with finely chopped vegetables, tomatoes, white wine, milk, and spices, and left to simmer for maximum tenderness! Serve this over pasta noodles or vegetables for the perfect cozy meal.

Try some other delicious Italian food next, like Classic Chicken Parmesan, an easy Baked Feta Pasta with Spinach, or the Ultimate Lasagna Recipe!

A stock pot of bolognese with a soup ladle.

Bolognese

Comfort food alert!

It’s not often that I prepare pasta anymore. Never mind all the mac and cheese and noodles and butter that I served the boys when they were little. Now, it seems, we’re all watching those carbs. So when it’s pasta night, it’s pretty special around here.

This one however, has a to-die-for sauce that’s made with finely chopped vegetables, three types of meat, crushed tomatoes, white wine, and milk (yes milk!) that simmers for an extended time. As the sauce cooks, the flavors grow – and let me tell you about the smells that permeate the house during this process. My boys kept asking what I was cooking. Even the dog sat in the kitchen longer, looking up at me with those “feed me” eyes. 🙂

Two bowls of fettuccini with bolognese sauce.

What is bolognese sauce? 

Bolognese Sauce is a slowly cooked meat based sauce, originating from Bologna, Italy. It incorporates several types of meat, white wine, milk (or cream), and a small amount of tomatoes. It differs from a ragu sauce, that incorporates more of a tomato base.

My boys were ALL IN on this bolognese. They loved the meaty flavor, and I definitely need to have it on our menu more often.

Bolognese Sauce Ingredients:

Let’s talk about your grocery list. To make this sauce, you’ll need:

  • Veggies – carrots, celery, and onions (the mirepoix) plus garlic
  • Meat – ground beef, ground sausage, and pancetta
  • Seasonings – Italian Seasoning, oregano, red pepper flakes, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper
  • The sauce – crushed tomatoes, tomato paste plus broth (or water), white wine, and milk
  • The finishing touch – bay leaves

Let’s make bolognese sauce!

Step 1
Crisp the pancetta. In a large stock pot, cook the pancetta until crispy. Remove from pan.

Step 2
Cook the veggies. Add olive oil, celery, carrots, and onions. Cook until slightly softened, and then add garlic for about 30 seconds.

Step 3
Brown the meat. Add the ground beef and sausage to pot, along with the seasonings. Cook until browned, and add pancetta back to pan.

Step 4
Add the wine. Add the wine to pot, and cook until reduced, approximately 20-25 minutes.

Step 5
Add the milk. Then add the milk, and reduce again, about 20 minutes.

Step 6
Add remaining ingredients. Finally, add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, broth (or water), and bay leaves – and reduce heat to simmer, cooking for about an hour, even longer if you like.

Pro-Tip: If you have time to simmer this sauce for a couple of hours or more, I recommend it! Just turn the heat down so it just barely bubbles (simmering), and add broth or water every so often to keep it from getting too thick. The flavors get better and better as you go!

Step 7
Serve. Enjoy this sauce over some Fettuccini noodles or pasta of your choice. You can also serve it over spaghetti squash or other veggies for a low-carb option.

Side shot of a pot of bolognese sauce.

Expert Tips

  • The sauce is complete in around two hours, unless you choose to simmer it for longer. Add additional broth/water if the sauce becomes too thick.
  • You could make the bolognese sauce one day, store it in the refrigerator overnight, and then pour it into a crockpot to cook all day on low. You would need to add some extra liquid in this case.
  • The wine and milk are key to giving this sauce that extra flavor. Don’t skip it. However, if you are opposed to cooking with wine, you could use broth in it’s place.

What to serve WITH this bolognese sauce?

A bowl of pasta with a slice of bread.

Kitchen Tools Used: (affiliate links)

Make this pasta recipe next: Broccoli Pasta with Bacon

xoxo ~Sue

A stockpot of bolognese sauce.

Traditional Bolognese Sauce

Traditional Bolognese Sauce is meat sauce made with finely chopped vegetables, tomatoes, white wine, milk, and spices, and left to simmer for maximum tenderness! Serve this over pasta noodles or vegetables for the perfect cozy meal.
4.73 from 11 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Servings: 8 (one-cup servings)
Calories: 513kcal
Author: Sue Ringsdorf

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. pancetta
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup onions – minced
  • 1 cup carrots – minced
  • 1 cup celery – minced
  • 3 cloves garlic – minced
  • 1 pound ground beef – 85% lean
  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup white wine – something you would drink
  • 1 cup 2% milk – or heavy cream
  • 28 oz. crushed tomatoes
  • 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1-2 cups broth – or water
  • 3 whole bay leaves
  • fresh basil or cilantro – to serve
  • grated parmesan cheese – to serve
  • pasta noodles (I used fettuccini noodles) or spaghetti squash – your choice

Instructions

  • In a large stock pot, heat to medium high heat, and add diced pancetta. Cook until crispy, approximately five minutes. Remove pancetta to a plate.
  • In same pot, heat olive oil and add onions, carrots, and celery, and cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
  • Then add ground beef, Italian sausage, and seasonings (Italian Seasoning, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper) and cook until browned, stirring frequently. Add pancetta back to the pan.
  • When meat is browned, drain some of the grease off. Then add white wine, and simmer until the wine is absorbed.
  • Add milk, and simmer again until reduced, approximately 30-45 minutes.
  • Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and water (or broth). Simmer until reduced, approximately 30 minutes. 
  • Simmer on low for another 1-2 hours. You can also transfer to a slow cooker, and let it cook on low all day long. This will make the sauce more tender and more delicious.
  • Serve over pasta (or any vegetable of your choice). Garnish with basil or cilantro, and parmesan cheese.

Video

Notes

  • The sauce is complete in around two hours, unless you choose to simmer it for longer. You could add additional water, if the sauce becomes too thick.
  • You could make the bolognese sauce one day, store it in the refrigerator overnight, and then pour it into a crockpot to cook all day on low. You would need to add some extra water in this case.
  • The wine and milk are key to giving this sauce that extra flavor. Don’t skip it. However, if you are opposed to cooking with wine, you could use chicken broth in it’s place.
  • This sauce freezes well.

Nutrition

Calories: 513kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 38g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 95mg | Sodium: 1059mg | Potassium: 873mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 3178IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 126mg | Iron: 4mg
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12 Comments

  1. Amazing recipe! I’ve made it so many times. I’ve also tried variations where I replaced certain ingredients – ground turkey instead of ground beef; bacon instead of pancetta – it always turns out amazing! Definitely my favorite meat sauce recipe!

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Hi Roshni! I’m so happy that you’ve enjoyed the bolognese sauce. Thanks so much for letting me know! 🙂

  2. Amazing Bolognese! I made this and froze two thirds of it. I thawed as needed and was truly sad to use the last of it. Also, served it for a dinner party after being frozen and got several complements! I opted out of the pancetta and used almond milk due to food sensitivities.

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Thank you so much, Angela! I appreciate your feedback and am so happy you enjoyed the bolognese. 🙂

  3. By far the best Bolognese I ever tasted and I’ve been making them for about 40 years now.

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Wow! Thank you so much, Michael! I really appreciate your feedback. 🙂

  4. Recipe is great, but I would put the 3 bay leaves after you put in tomato sauce an pasta and let it simmer for 1-2 hours and take out before serving.

    Probably the only change I would make.

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Are you saying you would let it simmer longer? Not sure I understand.

  5. This recipe is amazing. I love it!

  6. What an awesome recipe!

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