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
Great recipe except, the type of meat mentioned is not used in an authentic ragù alla Bolognese. Pieces of cut meat should be used.
Hi Christina, no that is not Bolognese with cut meat, that is Neapolitan Ragu. 🙂
Karen Kaltwasser says
Can the authentic bolognese sauce be made in a slow cooker or pressure cooker?
Hi karen, maybe a slow cooker but not a pressure cooker. It needs to go slow and low. Try it with a slow cooker. I really don’t use one, so I can’t say exactly how long. Let me know if you try it. Take care.
Nancy Miller says
Thank you for this recipe! Also known as, ragù alla Bolognese, the Bolognese sauce is a paste made of meat found in Bologna in Italy (Root 94). The recipe for this unique meat sauce was first documented in the 18th century in Bologna. In 1982 the Italian Academy of Cuisine ‘Accademia Italiana Della Cucina’, recorded and set down a formula for ‘typical Bolognese ragù’ You can view more facts about bolognese sauce: https://ivypanda.com/essays/bolognese-sauce-and-italian-gastronomic-tradition/
I’m on the first hour of simmering/ cooking very low… house smells amazing!!! One question for future batches does it freeze well?
Hi Jenna, thanks, and yes it can be frozen. It will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer. I hope you enjoy it! Take care.
Karen Kaltwasser says
Hi there, I’ve just started to prepare the veggies and discovered that I’m out of red wine can I substitute white wine?
Hi Karen, sure that would work. Let me know how it goes. 🙂
Tracey Kosasih says
Hi, can I do heavy cream instead of milk? And which is a better substitute for the dry wine: dry vermouth or beef stock?
Hi Tracey, sure add 3 tablespoons of cream and 2 tablespoons of water (mix together). You could probably substitute with either. Let me know how it goes.
Simmering as I type. After all but the milk is added this sauce holds a LOT of promise.
My change was I love the fruitiness of tomatoes so instead of generic red wine, I opted for dry vermouth. Dry vermouth has a lovely white wine dryness with a magnificent bouquet of fruit.
This sauce will be used over mushroom and black truffle gnocchi.
BTW, the house smells sooo amazingly delicious. I love Bolognese and this sauce recipe is staying in my collection.
Hi Kynthia, thanks so much, great idea with the vermouth. Take care and have a wonderful weekend!
How many servings does this make?
Hi Peggi it should serve 6. 🙂
Really good, my go to recipe for bolognese
Hi Liesbeth, thanks so much so glad you like it. Have a great week, take care.
Outstanding!!! Thank you for sharing!
Thanks so much, glad you enjoyed it. Take care!
No seasoning or herbs or garlic!! Is that correct??
Hi Patsy, that’s correct, just a listed in the recipe. 🙂
It is correct, authentic Italian Bolognese does not have garlic or herbs in it
Hi Nat, that’s correct it doesn’t. 🙂
So you never drain the grease that comes out of tge ground beef and pork?
Hi Nancy, no don’t drain it. I hope you enjoy it. Take care!
Hi Guillaume, thanks so much, glad you enjoyed it. Take care!
STEPHANIE DAWN SCHEID says
Can I just skip the milk?
Hi Stephanie, yes you can, I hope you enjoy it. Take care.
I lived in Italy in the 70’s and nutmeg was very important to a good bolognese, has that changed?
Hi Dan, yes some add it, I don’t because I’m not crazy about it. But you can if you want. Take care.