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
I love reading your recipes! Can you make this bolognese without using pork- as I don not eatthat or veal…what would be a good substitution?
Hi Gina, if you eat ground beef (adult) then you can substitute with that or even ground chicken or turkey would work also. Let me know how it goes.
Would goats milk be ok or does it have to be whole cows milk?
Hi Mark, I think goats milk would be fine, the taste might be a bit different but if you like then it’s ok. Let me know how it goes. Happy New Year.
What could I substitute the red wine for? Beef stock?
Hi Rachel, yes that would work, let me know how it goes.
Excellent recipe: simple and delicious. I only used grass-fed lamb, we can’t eat pork. I added a bunch of fresh chopped swiss chard (lots growing in the village right now), it was delicious. Served with lightly toasted baguettes topped with butter and fresh crushed garlic (to mop up the sauce). 10/10 all around our Mediterranean table in Lebanon♥️🇱🇧
Hi Tracy, hello to you in Lebanon, thanks so much, glad it worked with the lamb and the swiss chard is a perfect addition. Sounds delicious so glad you enjoyed it. Have a wonderful weekend.
Thank you- our go-to pasta sauce this winter🥰
Hi Tracy, thanks so much. Glad you like it. Happy New Year.
HI ROSEMARY ITS JOHN TRIED THE FISH SOUP REALLY DELICIOUS WILL BE DOING THIS AGAIN FOR SURE , ALSO WOULD LIKE TO TRY THE BOLOGNESE SAUCE WAS WONDERING CAN I FREEZE SOME OF IT FOR A LATER DAY , MANY THANKS JOHN IN THE UK
Hi John, thanks so much, glad you liked the soup and yes you can freeze the sauce, it will keep for up to 3 months, thaw it over night in the fridge before re heating and serving. I hope you like it.
Rocco Scibetta says
The only thing I would do differently,( purely optional) is substitute (drained )ricotta for the milk. just maybe a tablespoon. This is just a personal preference. Excellent as it stands.
Hi Rocco, thanks glad you enjoyed it. 🙂
I make this all of the time. My family goes crazy over it. Just wonderful
Hi Lori, thanks so much, so glad they like it. Take care.
Elly kizner says
I’ve made this sauce twice now. It is so tasty and my kids love it🙂
Hi Elly, thanks so much, glad you like it and especially the kids. Have a great week.
The recipe looks delicious. I love adding milk to cut the acidity. I have a question, however. I have looked high and low for a Bolognese recipe that uses spices like cinnamon, cloves and allspice. The Italian family restaurants in Montana that were so loved made a sauce with the vegetables, meat, tomato but with the different spices. have you heard of this? Thank you in advance.
Hi Carol, no I am pretty sure that was made my the restaurant. You actually can’t find allspice, at least I have never seen it here in Italy. Have a great weekend.
The meat sauce you might be looking for is Cincinnati style chili? I also make this alongside more traditional Italian meat sauce recipes. Cincinnati style includes all that you mentioned below – all spice, cinnamon etc. It’s a “chili” served with spaghetti. Nothing “italian” about it buy you can where the inspiration came from. Hope that helps a little!
Nate W says
Alton Brown has a meat sauce recipe that uses clove and anise. Basically just add those to a spice pouch and simmer it with your aromatics at first, then remove it before continuing the recipe.
Great to find such a tasty authentic recipe.
Hi John, thanks so much, so glad you enjoyed it. Have a wonderful Sunday.
I want to try this recipe this week, but I’m lactose intolerant… could I use a plant based milk instead of a dairy milk?
Hi Katie, yes that would work. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know how it goes.
Love love this recipe! I added 4 carrots and 4 celery to pump up the veggies and hide them in this amazing sauce! I also had grass-fed ground beef too. My family never complains about it because its delicious! Thank you!!
Hi Martina, thanks so much, great idea and yes grass fed is so much better. Take care.
Thank you for posting the recipe. If i use tomato sauce and not passata…will it turn out the same?
Hi Jennifer, no it probably won’t because tomato sauce has other ingredients, passata is just tomatoes. Hope that helps. 🙂
This look amazing I have never tried adding milk at the end versus the beginning, it is a great idea. One question I have always had is with the ground beef and pork do you not drain off all of the fat before adding wine and tomato sauce so the sauce is not too greasy? I always have done it that way and wondered if this was a big mistake in losing a lot of flavor ?
All the best with your new youtube channel
Hi Lancej, for Bolognese I never drain off the fat, I find it isn’t that much and yes I think it does add to the flavour also. Thanks so much, have a great week.
Vicki Amato says
First let me start by saying how much I love your recipes. I look forward to browsing every email that comes in, in fact, it’s the only email I regularly open!
My question is what kind of red wine do you use while cooking? I truly love Bolognese and want to make it great!
Thanks so much.
Hi Vicki, I usually use a dry Italian, nothing too expensive. Hope that helps.