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!
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
- Ground beef
- Ground pork
- Red wine
- Tomato paste
- Tomato Puree
- Bay Leaf
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.
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.
Raise the heat to medium and add the ground beef and pork, stirring and breaking up the meat as it cooks and browns.
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.
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.
After three hours remove the bay leaf and add the milk, heat the sauce thoroughly, for a couple of minutes.
Serve over cooked pasta.
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 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
- Use an equal part of ground beef and pork, make sure it is not too lean, more on the fatty side.
- Be sure to cut (with a knife) the carrot, celery stalk and onion finely but not so much that it may become pulpy.
- Sautee your vegetables first on low heat then add the meat, which is cooked on a higher heat.
- True Bolognese is cooked on the lowest heat for at least two – three hours.
- 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.
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.
More Authentic Italian Recipes
Authentic Bolognese Sauce
- 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)
- 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!
Updated from September 18, 2019
PAM CLEMONS says
I followed this recipe exactly and found the taste wonderful. I even went to buy the passata that was recommended. I will definitely make this again, though next time I will salt the meat some while cooking. That was the one small distraction in eating it, we could all taste the meat’s need for a bit of salt, which for some reason the 3 hours of simmering didn’t penetrate into it. But really, this is an excellent recipe! Thank you
Hi Pam, thanks so much, so glad you enjoyed it. Take care and have a great week!
This is a fabulous authentic bolognaise.
I love that every region of Italy has a different recipe, and if you ever wish to begin a conversation (hopefully pans won’t fly!) with Italian people or chefs, ask ‘What’s the best bolognaise recipe?”
I was tempted to add dry thyme but sometimes less is more. But I popped in bacon at beginning with veg.
This recipe is pretty bona fide and very good. Thank you.
Gave a four star for two reasons: 1) no instructions in recipe to drain the meat after cooking. Figured it had to be done if you wanted to fully reduce the red wine. 2) Even after adding extra salt and pepper found the meat sauce a little bland. Added a little garlic granules to up the taste and it was perfect.
Didn’t have dry Red wine so used Red Wine Vinegar.
The meat sauce was very thick and my husband I are glad for the leftovers. Would definitely make again adding a little garlic granules.
Hi SunRae, there is no instructions for draining the meat because you don’t. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed it though.
My family loved this! It is very easy, but you must remember to start the sauce early – not a last-minute meal. This will become a recurring menu item
Hi Kristen, thanks so much, glad you and your family enjoyed it. Take care and have a great weekend!
Michaela Matar says
Hello from Prague !
Do I need to use the milk or I can just do without it ?
Hi Michaela, you can leave it out, and hello to Prague! Take care!
I’ve heard that to make “authentic” bolognese sauce that you do not use wine. One person I was talking to online said, “ If you use red wine it’s not bolognese”. I’m now conflicted. To add it or not to add it?
Hi Dave, I don’t know about that, I have never seen an Italian not add wine! 🙂
A couple of years ago I decided to stop just dumping a jar of “spaghetti sauce” over browned meat and look up an actual recipe for bolognese and do it right. That led me here, and I’m so glad. The sauce was amazing — my daughter’s face still lights up anytime she sees I’m making it again. But even more, this whole website is amazing — there are so many delicious and simple recipes in here! I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is the first place I look when thinking about what to make. I’ve used plenty of recipes that tell me something will take 20 minutes and it takes more than an hour, or it has 20 ingredients so needs a run to at least one store, maybe more. And sure, usually they taste fine, but they’re not sustainable for day in day out meals. But now, finally, I have a solid roster of go-to dishes from here, mostly quick, using basic ingredients, that take as long to make as stated, and that are reliably delicious. Cooking dinner has literally become one of my favourite parts of the day! So Rosemary, I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate it — thank you so much!
Hi Martin, oh thanks so much, you made my day (and week). I am so glad I could help you out. Nothing worse then when you can’t figure out what to make! Take care and have a great week.
Carrie Barreiro says
I have made this recipe countless times now, it is the most delicious bolognese recipe around. The only things I do is 1. Double the recipe, because we love it so much that leftovers of this does not last around here. 2. I add about 4/5 finely chopped baby Bella mushrooms, 1/2 finely chopped red pepper, around 4/5 minced garlic cloves, and 2 teaspoons of Better Than Bouillon Roasted Garlic paste dissolved in a 1/2 cup water and I reduce that when I am reducing the wine. Those additions serve to make this taste more rich, it really does deepen the flavor. It’s a home run every single time. I’m sure it’d be great as is, but I always like to personalize every recipe I make. Thank you for sharing ♥️
Hi Carrie, thanks so much, so glad you like it, and thanks for how you personalize it. Take care!
Hi, Rosemary. I enjoy your site very much and often refer to the recipes when deciding what to cook.
I have heard that there is a divide among Bolognese makers. Some say that there is hardly any tomato sauce in it and some prepare it as you have described. Have you heard any of this?
Hi Pamela, I have really only had it the way I make it. I don’t know if I would like it that much if it was drier. Might be interesting though, I will have to ask about that. Thanks. Take care and Happy New Year!
Gina Hawker says
Beautiful sauce and so easy, house fills with the aroma and loved by all.
Hi Gina, thanks so much, so glad everyone enjoyed it. Take care and Happy New Year!
Rosemary, Your the best and this is also the best as always, always one of my favorite dishes
Hi Stony, thanks so much! Happy New Year and take care!