Bolognese Sauce is a pasta staple and a family pleasing recipe! A rich tomato based meat sauce with beef and pork is combined with onions, garlic, and veggies for an Italian favorite.
This recipe reheats and freezes well making it the perfect weeknight meal!
What Is Bolognese?
Ever wonder what makes Bolognese different than a typical spaghetti sauce? While it is a tomato based meat sauce made with garlic and onion, it 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.
Ingredients & Variations
Vegetables: The traditional onions, carrots and celery really should be in this dish and I prefer to keep it simple with just those. If you’d like other veggies, chop them finely and add them in.
Meat: A combo of ground pork and beef adds amazing flavor, but you can make it with just ground beef if you prefer. Ground veal is another flavorful addition.
Tomatoes: Canned whole tomatoes always tend to have a thicker consistency than diced so we always use them in this recipe. 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.
- Cook Veggies & Meat: Brown the chopped veggies and the meat, then drain off any fat.
- Add Wine/Milk: Add the wine and let it simmer away. Next, add the milk and allow that to simmer away too.
- Simmer: Add remaining ingredients (per recipe below) and allow it to simmer until thick.
While the sauce simmers, cook pasta according to directions. Add salt and pepper and parmesan, serve and enjoy!
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.)
For delicious sides there are so many options!
- A side of tasty homemade garlic bread is a must! (try this recipe for the BEST homemade garlic butter!)
- Round out the meal with an easy tossed salad or Italian Salad for a perfect Italian feast any night of the week!
- Asparagus with bacon? Why not?
- And for dessert? Why not make this yummy tiramisu? So delicious!
Storing Leftover Bolognese Sauce
According to FDA guidelines you refrigerate leftover meat dishes for up to 4 days and freeze them for 2 to 3 months. This is a great pasta sauce to make ahead and the flavors will blend even more when you eat it the next day (much like a chili recipe). Dishes with tomatoes and spices tend to need time for flavors to “meld and marry.”
- To store in the fridge, just use an airtight container or cover a dish tightly with plastic wrap.
- For freezing, leave about an inch for expansion and cover tightly. Or you could use a tightly sealed zippered freezer bag.
- Reheating is a breeze, just defrost and prepare it on the stovetop or in the microwave, stirring every 15 to 20 seconds until steaming hot and ready to eat!
You’re sure to find that this Bolognese recipe is an easy and delicious staple sauce you’ll use for lasagna, pasta, or even on homemade pizza. It’s perfecto!
More Italian Inspiration
- Penne alla Vodka – easy and quick
- Chicken Piccata – fast weeknight meal (amazing reviews)
- Chicken Cacciatore – rich, flavorful and great over spaghetti
- Spaghetti and Meatballs – family favorite
- Lasagna Roll Ups – easy twist on a classic!
- Pasta Primavera– loaded with fresh vegetables
- Easy Chicken Parmesan – reader favorite
Homemade Bolognese Sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves crushed
- 1 onion finely diced
- 1 carrot finely diced
- 1 rib celery finely diced
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 1 1/4 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
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- pappardelle or tagliatelle or another long pasta for serving
- Cook onion in oil over medium heat until it starts to soften, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, carrot and celery. Cook until softened, an additional 5 minutes.
- Add beef and pork. Brown until no pink remains. Drain fat. Add wine and simmer until evaporated, about 7-9 minutes. Add milk and simmer until evaporated, about 6-7 minutes.
- Stir in tomato paste, Italian seasoning, tomatoes with juice and bay leaf. Break tomatoes up with a spoon. Cover and simmer 30 minutes or until thickened. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups of pasta water.
- Toss pasta with sauce adding pasta water to thin out if needed.
- Serve hot with parmesan cheese.
- 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.