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Authentic Bolognese Sauce

This delicious Authentic Bolognese Sauce or Ragu alla Bolognese is made with fresh ingredients and cooked low and slow. A true Bolognese sauce recipe takes time, but it is so worth it. For the true Italian tradition serve with fresh egg Tagliatelle or Pappardelle!

Bolognese sauce in a grey bowl.


 

I have been asked a few times for a real Bolognese Sauce and after asking some friends and family, I am happy to say this is about an Authentic Bolognese Sauce is going to get without going to Bologna.

After spending a few days in Milan last spring, my eldest daughter who is a lover of anything and everything Lasagna, decided she had to try La Lasagna Milanese, which is made with a Bolognese Sauce.

The Lasagna consists of Bolognese Sauce, Besciamella Sauce, Parmesan Cheese and Lasagna noodles. A very rich and delicious Pasta dish. And yes she loved every mouth full. Although she also said she prefers our Classic Lasagna.

What is Bolognese Meat Sauce made with

  • Olive oil
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Onion
  • Ground beef
  • Ground pork
  • Red wine
  • Tomato paste
  • Tomato Puree
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Bay Leaf
  • Milk
Pasta with sauce in a big bowl and some on a small white plate.

What is the difference between Meat Sauce (Ragu) and Bolognese?

The main difference, is the different cut of meat used in the preparation of the sauces. Bolognese sauce is made with ground meat, while meat ragù (Neapolitan) sauce is made with pieces of whole meat.

To cook a meat sauce (ragù), a mixture of cuts of beef and pork is generally used, opting for fatty meat that can withstand the long cooking times required for the preparation of this tasty sauce. Usually 6 hours is required whereas 2-3 hours is needed for Bolognese.

To obtain the best Bolognese sauce it is preferable to use tomato puree (passata). It is advised to never use canned peeled tomatoes and or fresh tomatoes because they release a lot of water during cooking and would therefore affect the intense flavor and its consistency.

According to Bolognese tradition, the tomato puree should be added to the meat at room temperature and not cold from the fridge. Whereas San Marzano tomatoes are used in the Naples ragù sauce along with a spoonful of tomato paste to strengthen the flavor. Although most Italians will use passata also for the sauce.

Bolognese sauce and pasta in a grey bowl.

How to make Bolognese Sauce

Start by chopping the carrot, celery and onion very finely, but not too fine that it turns into a pulp.

Then in a medium to large pot add the olive oil and the chopped vegetables, cook the mixture covered on low heat until the onion is transparent.

Sauteed vegetables before and after cooked.

Raise the heat to medium and add the ground beef and pork, stirring and breaking up the meat as it cooks and browns.

Add the ground beef and pork to the vegetables.

Raise the heat to high and add the red wine and cook until the wine has evaporated. The liquid should evaporate without burning the meat or veggies.

Lower the heat to medium and add the tomato paste and Tomato Puree (not stewed or pelati or fresh tomatoes), salt pepper and a whole bay leaf or two.

The passata and bay leaf added.

Bring the sauce to a boil, then gradually lower the heat to the lowest level. Cover the pot, and stir occasionally. The sauce must cook slow and low for three hours, do not boil or the sauce will burn.

During the last 15-20 minutes of cooking, raise the heat a little and cook on a slow boil, stirring often.

The sauce thickened and cooked.

After three hours remove the bay leaf and add the milk, heat the sauce thoroughly, for a couple of minutes.

Adding the milk to the sauce.

Serve over cooked pasta.

Sauce on a spoon.

Why add milk to the Bolognese Sauce?

The milk (sometimes heavy cream is used) in the Bolognese sauce is generally added if the pasta you are serving it with is a dry pasta and is added at the end of the cooking time. But if you are using a fresh egg pasta, such as tagliatelle, adding it is optional. I always add it because I like the taste and flavor it gives the sauce.

What is the best red wine to use?

A medium-bodied red wine with a moderate tannins, like a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Pinot Noir is the best to use. A wine you would drink is always the best choice.

What is the best pasta to serve with Bolognese Sauce?

In Italy, Ragu Bolognese is traditionally served with Tagliatelle. And preferably fresh egg Tagliatelle. Although I have been served pappardelle with the sauce. And of course, always cooked to al dente. The sauce is also used to make a very popular Lasagna alla Bolognese!

What to serve for dessert?

For dessert you are going to want a simple lighter dessert. For example a creamy Panna Cotta, a lovely Strawberry Semifreddo or how about a simple No-Churn Cappuccino Ice Cream?

Tips for making the Best Bolognese Recipe

  1. Use an equal part of ground beef and pork, make sure it is not too lean, more on the fatty side.
  2. Be sure to cut (with a knife) the carrot, celery stalk and onion finely but not so much that it may become pulpy.
  3. Sautee your vegetables first on low heat then add the meat, which is cooked on a higher heat.
  4. True Bolognese is cooked on the lowest heat for at least two – three hours.
  5. Bolognese sauce as you can see does not contain garlic, oregano or basil.

There is no such thing as a quick Bolognese Sauce, Authentic Bolognese must be slow cooked for usually three hours, nothing rushed here.

And when you try it, you’ll know it was worth every minute.

Sauce and pasta on a fork.

I love making authentic Italian recipes that I have learned from family and friends in Italy from an Authentic Cacio & Pepe to an authentic Pizza Dough to a my sister in law’s delicious White Sauce Lasagna.

Can you use White wine?

Red wine is always considered better to use with meat dishes and white with fish dishes, but if you are out of red and only have white you could definitely use it.

How to store the Bolognese sauce

Any leftover sauce should be stored in an airtight container and kept in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge. The completely cooled sauce can also be frozen. Place in a freezer safe container, it will keep for up to 3 months. Thaw the sauce overnight in the fridge.

I’m sure this sauce was the actual reason for the Italian saying “Fai la Scarpetta” or “Make the little shoe” which means grab a piece of bread and wipe up any left over sauce in your plate, that way you enjoy every last bite! Buon Appetito.

Pasta and sauce on a white plate.
Sauce and pasta in a bowl with some on a fork.

Authentic Bolognese Sauce

Rosemary Molloy
This delicious Authentic Bolognese Sauce or Ragu alla Bolognese is made with fresh ingredients and cooked low and slow.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 20 minutes
Course Main Dish, Pasta
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6 servings
Calories 335 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small/medium carrot
  • 1 small celery stalk
  • 1 small onion
  • 10 1/2 ounces ground beef (70-80%)
  • 10 1/2 ounces ground pork
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 1/4 cups tomato puree (passata)
  • 2-3 pinches salt
  • 2 dashes pepper
  • 1-2 whole bay leaves
  • 1/3 cup milk (2 % or whole milk)

Instructions
 

  • Cut the carrot, celery and onion very fine (must not too much that it becomes pulpy when cooked).
  • In a medium to large heavy pot add the olive oil and chopped vegetables, cook covered on low heat (stirring occasionally) until onion is transparent.
  • Increase the heat to medium and add the ground beef and pork. Stirring as the meat is cooking to break up the pieces. Once the meat has browned turned the heat up to high and add the wine.
  • Cook until the alcohol has evaporated (about 20-30 seconds) and the liquid has evaporated. Decrease the heat to medium/low and add the tomato paste, puree, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Gradually decrease the heat to the lowest setting cover and let simmer for three hours (the mixture should not boil). Stir occasionally.
  • After the time has passed remove the bay leaf and add the milk, heat thoroughly for a couple of minutes. Serve over cooked pasta. Enjoy!

Notes

Any leftover sauce should be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated it will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge. The completely cooled sauce can also be frozen. Place in a freezer safe container, it will keep for up to 3 months. Thaw the sauce overnight in the fridge.

Nutrition

Calories: 335kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 71mg | Sodium: 341mg | Potassium: 838mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 2632IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 4mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Please leave a comment below or pin it to your Pinterest account!

Updated from September 18, 2019

233 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Hi I made this last week for my husband and he said it was the best one I have ever made I have friends coming tomorrow, we were going out for dinner but now we have snow so I cooking the sauce tonight and turning out a Lasagne
    For dinner at home I love it so hope my guest do to.

    Many Thanks Lucia

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