Traditional Bolognese Sauce or Ragù alla Bolognese is made with simple authentic ingredients, including Italian tomatoes, ground beef, and wine. The pasta sauce cooks low and slow to create a rich and flavorful sauce. It pairs well with broad pasta noodles and makes for a hearty and satisfying weeknight or holiday dinner.
This meat-based tomato sauce originates from the Bologna region of Italy. It pairs with thick noodles, such as pappardelle or tagliatelle, or lasagna. Every bite is full of authentic Italian flavor such as buttery beef and sweet and tangy San Marzano tomatoes.
Authentic Bolognese ragù consists of soffritto, finely chopped beef, and occasionally pork. Additionally, there are liquids like milk, dry white wine, and tomatoes. The ingredients simmer low and slow for hours to thicken the sauce.
Don't feel tempted to take a shortcut and buy a jar of sauce. We highly encourage you to not buy jarred sauce and to instead make a batch of authentic bolognese sauce from scratch instead. You can control the quality ingredients, the flavors, and the consistency of the sauce. Plus, it only requires 20 minutes of prep and yields plenty of leftovers!
- Soffritto - Soffritto is the flavorful base for many Italian dishes and consists of minced onions, carrots, and celery. Soffritto comes from the word soffriggere, which means "to saute." Make soffritto by mincing with a knife and cutting board or take a shortcut and make it with a food processor.
- Ground beef - Ground beef offers a hearty richness to the bolognese sauce. The fat from the beef slowly renders and creates a buttery consistency.
- Whole milk - Whole milk maintains the beef's tenderness and makes the sauce extra rich.
- White wine - White wine works especially well with dairy. It adds depth to the sauce and brightens the flavor.
- Italian Tomatoes - Imported Italian plum tomatoes and San Marzano tomatoes have a sweeter, more intense, and less acidic tomato taste compared to domestically grown tomatoes.
- Wide and textured pasta shapes - Wide and textured pasta shapes, such as fresh tagliatelle and rigatoni pasta, have a broader surface area and more texture than a simple noodle, like spaghetti. The large surface and texture area allows the sauce to cling to the pasta so every bite has enough sauce.
- Parmigiano-reggiano cheese - Parmigiano-reggiano is an aged Italian cheese made of cow's milk. It is full of umami flavor and is the perfect topping for a beef ragù.
How to make Make Traditional Bolognese Sauce
- Heat oil and soffritto - In a large pot or dutch oven, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Stir in chopped onion, carrot, and celery and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the onion turns translucent.
- Cook ground beef chunks - Break beef into chunks and stir into the onion mixture. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Once the meat begins to brown, stir in the milk and cook until it is absorbed in the meat.
- Add white wine - Add wine and simmer until evaporated.
- Add tomatoes and juice - Add tomatoes to the pot and stir the mixture until the ingredients are covered in tomato juice. Once the sauce starts to boil, lower the heat so the sauce reaches a very low simmer and occasionally bubbles.
- Simmer the sauce - Simmer the sauce uncovered on low heat for 3 hours stirring occasionally. If the sauce dries out and is too thick, stir in a little water and then simmer some more. Add more salt and pepper to taste.
- Boil pasta and reserve water - In a separate pot, boil salted water. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook it until al dente. For fresh pasta, cook for 2-3 minutes; for dry pasta, cook as instructed (typically around 8 minutes). Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain the pasta.
- Toss pasta in sauce - Add the pasta water to the sauce and stir. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and use tongs or a pasta fork to transfer the pasta to the sauce.
- Serve with cheese - Serve in bowls and top with fresh grated parmesan cheese or Parmigiano-Reggiano.
What is the best type of pasta for Bolognese sauce?
The best type of pasta for this classic Italian sauce are wide flat noodles, such as pappardelle or tagliatelle, and wide tube pasta shapes, such as rigatoni or penne. Wide noodles with more surface area allow the sauce to cling to the pasta.
What can you serve with Bolognese sauce?
After you coat the pasta noodles with Bolognese sauce, enjoy the bolognese pasta as the primo piatto in a traditional Italian meal or enjoy with a simple arugula or romaine side salad dressed in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper.
- Whole Wheat Pasta - Replace traditional pasta with whole wheat penne pasta.
- Gluten free - Use a gluten free pasta if you are gluten intolerant. We recommend Garofalo Gluten Free pasta, which tastes like traditional wheat-based pasta.
- Zoodles - Replace the traditional pasta with noodles or a pasta made with both wheat and vegetables.
- Red wine - use red wine instead of white wine to add more body to the sauce.
- Spicy - Add red chili flakes or fresh cracked black pepper to spice up the sauce.
- Lean beef - Use a lean ground beef with lower fat content.
- Ground Pork - Use a blend of ground pork and ground beef for a milder meat flavor.
This bolognese sauce recipe requires a few kitchen essentials, all of which can be used for many other common recipes. To make this sauce, you need a knife, cutting board, medium pot or dutch oven, and wooden spoon.
Refrigerate Bolognese sauce for up to 5 days in an air-tight container. To reheat, simply place the desired amount of sauce in a small, medium, or large pot or dutch oven. Reheat the leftovers on low heat and occasionally stir until the sauce is hot.
Before serving the pasta, make sure the sauce is well mixed in with the pasta so the sauce is on each piece of pasta.
What other authentic pasta recipes can you make?
There are plenty of authentic Italian pasta recipes you can make, including:
- Nonna’s Pasta Pomodoro
- Bucatini Seafood Pasta
- Pesto Orecchiette with Rapini and Sausage
- Eggplant Pasta (Pasta alla Norma)
Traditional Bolognese Sauce (Ragù alla Bolognese)
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 medium yellow onion finely chopped
- 2 celery ribs finely chopped
- 2 medium carrots finely chopped
- 1 lb of ground beef
- 2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- Fresh cracked pepper
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ cup milk
- 1 cup white wine
- 28 oz can of San Marzano or Italian plum tomatoes crushed plus the juice
- 1 1b pasta tagliatelle, pappardelle, or rigatoni
- Grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
- In a large pot or dutch oven, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Stir in chopped onion, carrot, and celery and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the onion turns translucent.2 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoon butter, 1 medium yellow onion, 2 medium carrots, 2 celery ribs
- Break beef into chunks and stir into the onion mixture. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Once the meat begins to brown, stir in the milk and cook until it is absorbed in the meat.1 lb of ground beef, 2 teaspoon Kosher salt, Fresh cracked pepper, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, ½ cup milk
- Add wine and simmer until evaporated.1 cup white wine
- Add tomatoes to the pot and stir the mixture until the ingredients are covered in tomato juice. Once the sauce starts to boil, lower the heat so the sauce reaches a very low simmer and occasionally bubbles.28 oz can of San Marzano or Italian plum tomatoes crushed
- Allow sauce to simmer uncovered on low heat for 3 hours stirring occasionally. If the sauce dries out and is too thick, you may add a little water and stir, then simmer some more. Add more salt and pepper to taste.
- In a separate pot, boil salted water. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente. For fresh pasta, cook for 2-3 minutes; for dry pasta, cook as instructed (typically around 8 minutes). Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain the pasta.1 1b pasta
- Add the pasta water to the sauce and stir. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and use tongs or a pasta fork to transfer the pasta to the sauce. Toss the pasta until evenly coated.
- Serve in bowls and top with fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano or parmesan cheese.Grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese