Bolognese Sauce is an easy-to-make meat sauce perfect with any type of pasta!

A rich, zesty sauce of beef, pork, onion, garlic, and seasonings is simmered on the stove until thick and rich. Toss this with pappardelle or your favorite pasta for a delicious weeknight meal.

This recipe freezes and reheats well, making it the perfect weeknight meal!

a plate of bolognese topped with parmesan cheese

Who doesn’t love pasta with homemade meat sauce? It’s got a special taste of home that you just can’t get from a jar. From a typical marinara to this Bolognese sauce, homemade is always best!

What is Bolognese?

So, what makes Bolognese different than a typical spaghetti sauce? While both are tomato-based meat sauces made with garlic and onion, bolognese also includes the addition of celery and carrot plus a little bit of milk. It may sound unusual, but these ingredients add a distinct flavor, a bit of richness, and some sweetness.

This sauce is great over pasta, and it’s also a delicious addition to homemade lasagna or even a favorite when added to baked casseroles like ziti!

Ingredients & Variations

Vegetables: A mirepoix is a mixture of onions, carrots, and celery and is traditional in a bolognese. If you’d like other veggies, chop them finely and add them in.

Meat: A combination of ground pork and beef adds great flavor, but this recipe works with just beef or the addition of ground veal.

Tomatoes: Canned whole tomatoes have a bit of a thicker consistency than diced tomatoes so I prefer them in this recipe. San Marzano tomatoes are the best choice for flavor. If you only have canned diced tomatoes, those will work too (as will crushed tomatoes) but they may change the consistency slightly.

Wine: A dry red is great (but any red will do). I usually use a cabernet or merlot. Wine adds a lot of depth to this sauce (and the alcohol evaporates). If you cannot use wine, you can use a bit of beef broth but it will alter the flavor slightly.

Milk: An unusual but traditional ingredient in an authentic bolognese sauce.

How To Make Bolognese Sauce

This bolognese sauce takes time to make but it really is easy! Once the prep work is done this recipe just simmers away until thickened.

  1. Cook Veggies & Meat: Brown the chopped veggies and the meat, then drain off any fat.
  2. Add Wine/Milk: Add the wine and let it simmer away. Next, add the milk and allow that to simmer away too.
  3. Simmer: Add remaining ingredients (per recipe below) and allow it to simmer until thick.

While the sauce simmers, cook pasta according to the directions. Add salt and pepper and parmesan, serve and enjoy!

a dutch oven of cooked bolognese sauce

What To Serve With It

I like to serve this bolognese over pappardelle or tagliatelle, but any type of long pasta is great. If you want to offer gluten-free pasta, this sauce would work well with it. (Just be sure to check your spices and other ingredients.)

Serve this dish with the same sides you’d add to spaghetti and meatballs.

a plate of bolognese pappardelle topped with parmesan cheese

Storing Leftover Bolognese Sauce

This is a great pasta sauce to make ahead, dishes with tomatoes and spices “meld and marry.” as they sit and have even better flavor (like a chili recipe).

  • Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
  • Freeze for up to 3 months in a sealed container, leaving about an inch for expansion. A tightly sealed zippered freezer bag works as well. Thaw in the fridge overnight.
  • Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave, stirring occasionally until hot.

More Italian Inspiration

Did you enjoy this Homemade Bolognese Sauce? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below!

a plate of bolognese topped with parmesan cheese
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Homemade Bolognese Sauce

A rich sauce with beef and pork is combined with all the traditional ingredients of pasta bolognese for a flavorful weeknight meal.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 6 servings

Equipment

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Ingredients  

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 carrot finely diced
  • 1 rib celery finely diced
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • 1 ¼ cups red wine or beef broth
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 28 ounces whole tomatoes with juice
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon salt more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • pappardelle or tagliatelle or another long pasta for serving, plus 1 ½ cups of pasta water

Instructions 

  • In a large pot, cook onion in oil over medium heat until softened, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Add garlic, carrot, and celery, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add beef and pork. Break it up with a wooden spoon, until no pink remains. Drain fat.
  • Add the wine and simmer uncovered until evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add milk and simmer uncovered until evaporated, about 8 minutes.
  • Stir in tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, and bay leaf. Break tomatoes up with a spoon. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 ½ cups of pasta water.
  • Toss pasta with sauce, adding pasta water to thin it out if needed.
  • Serve hot with parmesan cheese.

Video

Notes

Tomatoes: Whole tomatoes provide a bit of a thicker consistency, break them up with a spoon or with your hands before simmering. If possible, San Marzano tomatoesSan Marzano tomatoes have the best flavor.
Wine: When using wine in cooking, use a wine you would drink (not cooking wine). 
Reserve some pasta water when draining the pasta. Not only can it be used to adjust the consistency of the sauce, adding a little to the sauce also helps it adhere to the pasta better. Be sure not to rinse the pasta after cooking.
For a thicker sauce, simmer a bit longer. For a thinner sauce, add pasta water.
  • Fridge – store in an airtight container or cover with plastic wrap for up to 4 days. 
  • Freezer – store in an airtight container, leaving about an inch for expansion, or in a zippered freezer bag for 2 – 3 months. 
To Reheat –  Defrost in the fridge. Heat it on the stovetop or in the microwave, stirring every 15 to 20 seconds, until heated through. 
4.97 from 653 votes

Nutrition Information

Calories: 359 | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 78mg | Sodium: 571mg | Potassium: 929mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 2112IU | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 126mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.

Course Pasta, Sauce
Cuisine American, Italian
bowl of Homemade Bolognese Sauce with a title
Homemade Bolognese Sauce on pasta in a bowl with a title
close up of Homemade Bolognese Sauce with writing
Homemade Bolognese Sauce cooked in the pot and on pasta with writing

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Holly Nilsson is the creator of Spend With Pennies, where she creates easy, comforting recipes made for real life. With a passion for nostalgic flavors and simplified techniques, Holly helps busy home cooks create delicious meals that always work. She is also the author of “Everyday Comfort,” which promises to inspire even more hearty, home-cooked meals.
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Comments

  1. Excellent recipe. Made it with all beef and very pleased with the results. Similar but easier and saucier than Marcella Hazan’s famous Bolognese recipe!5 stars

    1. Hi Meira, other readers have replaced the whole milk with broth but it won’t be as creamy. You should be able to use a dairy free milk substitute in this recipe though.

    1. This recipe is just for the pasta sauce. You can make any pasta you prefer to serve with it. The average serving is 2 ounces, so I would make 12-16 ounces of pasta depending on how large you want your servings to be.

  2. Delish! And so simple. I had no beef broth so I used a combo of red wine and chicken broth. Perfetto!5 stars

  3. Great recipe. We don’t eat pork so I use more beef and I always add some fresh basil from my garden. Makes fantastic lasagna.5 stars

  4. I fell in love Pappardelle at what is now my go to restaurant (Storico Forza in Atlanta) for Italian pasta. So i wanted to try asking at home because the hubs love it as well, and I must say it was a hit. Sub Italian sausage and heavy cream, the hubs is already saying we don’t have to go back to Storico Forza because this one is better. Thanks thanks for this, now if i can make the focaccia he loves they will lose a customer.5 stars

  5. I am making this tonight. My only question is can I make this and then throw it in the crockpot for the rest of the day or should I leave it in the Dutch oven to simmer?

    With our schedule at home, sometimes easier to start dinner earlier in a day.

    Thank you for sharing.

  6. Very, very tasty. I chose to use a sweet red wine. Did not need to use any pasta water. Consistency was perfect without it. The prep time (for me) was much longer than 20 minutes though. Will definitely make this again.5 stars

  7. The first time I made this the response was resounding meh, but I tried again… replacing the pork with sweet Italian sausage. we have a winner!4 stars

  8. This is so delicious! We were recently in Italy and wanted to learn how to make this. It did not disappoint! Only change was not to drain the fat, as it’s full of flavor. I have made it several times, and it’s always a hit!

  9. Delicious. Increased the salt (and we don’t usually cook with a lot of salt) added 1tsp of nutmeg and crushed chilis for a bit of a kick. Will make again.

  10. I had a pack of impossible meat, a can of san marzano tomatoes, and a near empty refrigerator. This recipe kept me from going out to eat and tastes amazing. Thank you again!5 stars

  11. Made it today. As a total beginner I’m still stunned how good it turned out.
    Thank you!
    Followed the recipe almost exactly since I am……..the Jon Snow of cooking