Bolognese Sauce is a hearty sauce made with ground beef, vegetables, and crushed tomatoes served with wide, flat pasta. (Or your pasta of choice.) It is a new family favorite around here! I also have a Homemade Spaghetti with Meat Sauce you might love.
What is Bolognese Sauce?
Bolognese Sauce is an Italian meat sauce that originated in Bologna, Italy. It starts with onions, celery, and carrots that are cooked in olive oil until softened. Then, ground beef is added to the mixture, followed by milk (for a little creaminess), beef broth, and crushed tomatoes. It is most popular when paired with pasta, but can also be used in other pasta dishes from lasagna to Cheesy Meatball Casserole.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Vegetables: Adding onions, celery, and carrots are one of the ways that bolognese sauce is different from spaghetti sauce. The combination of vegetables cooked in olive oil is Italian Soffritto, used in many dishes from soups to stews to sauces.
Meat: I used ground beef in this recipe. Some bolognese recipes use pancetta, bacon, or ground pork.
Dairy: Add whole milk to the sauce to make it a bit thicker and creamier. In a pinch, you can use 2% milk.
Beef Broth: Since this is a beef-based recipe, I used beef broth. You could also use chicken stock, red wine, or dry white wine.
Tomatoes: Tomatoes are not the main ingredient in bolognese, but a can of crushed tomatoes is added for some extra texture and flavor to the sauce.
Pasta: I paired the bolognese with pappardelle, a broad, flat pasta. It is a little wider than fettuccine. Tagliatelle would be another great choice of pasta. However, you could use any noodles you have on hand. I even like tubular noodles to hold in all of the delicious sauce!
Pasta Water: Be sure to reserve about a half cup of pasta water. This can be added to the sauce to reach your desired consistency. The starch from the pasta water also helps bind the sauce and pasta together rather than simply coating the noodles. This gives you a full-flavored taste in every bite!
What is the Difference Between Bolognese and Spaghetti Sauce?
Although sometimes thought to be used interchangeably, bolognese and spaghetti sauce are different from one another. Spaghetti sauce is more tomato-based and thinner. In addition, spaghetti sauce will often have added garlic, basil, parsley, and oregano. Bolognese usually starts with Italian Soffritto, the combination of onions, celery, and carrots sauteed in olive oil, and has a brighter taste than spaghetti sauce.
How to Store
Bolognese sauce can be stored in an airtight container, in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.
Can I Freeze Bolognese Sauce?
Sure! This sauce freezes nicely for up to 3 months. First, let the sauce cool completely. Then, store it in freezer-safe containers (I like zipped plastic bags for easy storage), labeled and dated. When ready to enjoy, let the sauce thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
More Dinner Ideas
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, very finely diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 stalk celery, very finely diced (about ¼ cup)
- ½ medium carrot, very finely diced (about ¼ cup)
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ cup (122.5 g) whole milk
- ¾ cup (180 g) beef broth
- 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
- 16 ounces tagliatelle or pappardelle noodles, or your favorite pasta, cooked al dente according to package directions, reserving about ½ cup pasta water
- shaved parmesan, for garnish
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add the butter and oil.
- Once the butter has melted and the oil is hot, add onion, celery, and carrot. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until softened.
- Add ground beef, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up the meat as you go, for about 8-10 minutes, or until the meat is no longer pink.
- Pour in the milk and bring the mixture to a simmer. Continue simmering, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes, or until the milk has mostly evaporated.
- Increase heat to medium-high and pour in the beef broth. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 8-10 minutes, or until the broth has mostly evaporated.
- Stir in the crushed tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a simmer again, stirring occasionally, for 30-35 minutes, or until thickened. Near the end of your sauce cook time, prepare your pasta.
- In a large pot, cook the pasta al dente according to the package directions. Using tongs, transfer the pasta directly from the pot to the bolognese sauce, tossing to coat.
- Add reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, as necessary to reach your desired consistency. (You may not need to add the pasta water.)
- Serve immediately, garnished with parsley and shaved parmesan cheese as desired.
Did you make this recipe?
You can tag me at @iamhomesteader.
I always end up coming back to your recipes. In a noodle making mindset lately, so can’t wait to try this recipe.
The one I just used (not yours) wasn’t so good.
Incredibly easy, flavorful, and a great hearty sauce!
Growing up in an Italian household, we learned how ordinary flavors, when paired together, can become something extraordinary. This Bolognese sauce is one of those fine examples. Thank you for offering alternatives and substitutions. Sometimes I use a little red wine and a little beef stock. (I always use whole milk). And I’ve made it with ground veal and even pork as well as ground beef. Other times I’ll render some pancetta fat to cook the vegetables and then add it as well. It’s all good! Happy Cooking!