This recipe for authentic bolognese sauce the way grandma used to make it, a family recipe that was passed from my grandma to my mom and that my mom passed onto me.
Bolognese sauce, or ragù bolognese, is a sauce considered one of the “basics” of Italian cuisine.
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Like with any traditional recipe, you can find it prepared with different nuances and variations.
However, the cornerstones of the recipe remain unchanged, which involve the use of an initial chop of celery, carrot and onion, ground beef to which is added a more fatty and flavorful part that can be pancetta/bacon or Italian sausage.
The meat is blended with red wine, and cooked in tomato puree.
Fundamental to the success of an excellent Bolognese sauce is to follow all the cooking steps well, patiently and carefully, and not to be in a hurry.
In fact, long cooking is essential for the right flavor and texture.
What Is Bolognese?
Bolognese sauce is an classic italian meat-based sauce for pasta that originated in Bologna, a city in northern Italy.
In Italian, Bolognese sauce is called ragù alla bolognese.
Ragù is an Italian word for any meat sauce, derived from the French ragù, “to enliven the taste.”
Ingredients Needed – Homemade Bolognese Sauce
These are the main ingredients you need for this homemade bolognese sauce.
For the step-by-step directions and measurements, scroll down to our printable recipe card.
- Carrots, Celery, Onions: These are the ingredients that are used to make the soffritto.
Onion serves for acidity, carrot for sweetness, and celery for flavor. And they are the base for the bolognese. Chop the vegetables very finely.
The sautéed ingredients of onion, celery, and carrot will break down completely, incorporate with the tomato, and it will be the ultimate Bolognese sauce.
- Pancetta ,Minced beef: Always choose fresh ground beef, even better if it is chopped with a knife.
The cut of beef should not be too lean, but have a fatty component to enable it to withstand the long cooking time.
Choose a thick grain of meat. Bolognese soffritto includes sweet pancetta among its ingredients.
Choose a thick, well-fattened one and chop it with a knife.
- Tomato puree (passata): I use tomato passata (tomato purée) for the preparation of the ragout.
Use a rustic one, more full-bodied or san marzano tomatoes.
I do not use tomato paste, but it can be added if a more red ragù is desired.
- Bay leaves: Bay leaf is a flavor enhancer.
- Basil leaves: In the traditional bolognese sauce, basil is not present.
My family always used it and I like the flavor it gives.
- Red wine: Enriches the aroma of the sauce, You can also use a dry white wine.
- Broth (see below how to prepare it): This is also not in the official recipe for bolognese.
It gives a delicious flavor to the ragu. You can prepare it at home or use the ready-made one.
I used a veggie one but beef broth will work well.
- Salt & black pepper: They serve to provide flavor.
- Extra virgin olive oil: It cannot be missing in an Italian recipe.
How To Make Bolognese Sauce
Prepare the broth: It is always helpful to have broth on hand when making Bolognese sauce.
I make it with the scraps of onion, celery and carrot.
This will help if the meat sauce gets too dry during cooking.
Prepare the soffritto: In a large pot, sauté the pancetta over high-medium heat it releases some of its fat. Now add a drizzle of olive oil and well-chopped celery, carrot and onion.
Gently sauté everything until the vegetables are cooked through.
Add the minced beef: When the soffritto is cooked, add the minced beef and brown it on a high flame for for 5 to 10 minutes.
When the mince is browned, deglaze with red wine, and allow time for the alcohol to evaporate.
Add the passata: Now add the tomato puree, season with salt and pepper to your taste and cook on a very low flame for at least 3-4 hours.
I recommend that you salt the sauce very little because the bacon gives flavor to the preparation; you will adjust the salt at the end of cooking if there is a need.
Let it cook on a low flame: The secret to preparing a ragù bolognese to perfection is in the cooking; the sauce must have a very long cooking time at a low temperature.
How do we know that the bolognese is ready?
Ragu should never be left to its own devices; it is advisable to check from time to time that it is not too dry.
If necessary, hot water or broth can be added to adjust its density.
A good Bolognese sauce should never be too liquid.
How to serve Authentic Bolognese Sauce
You can easily add your favorite fresh pasta to this recipe.
This sauce is also the main ingredient in the classic lasagna Bolognese and many other super tasty recipes: once you prepare a good sauce, it will seem like a piece of cake to make them.
Another way to serve bolognese is over polenta.
Creamy polenta pairs perfectly with the hearty and flavorful sauce.
If you’re looking for a low-carb option, try serving bolognese over roasted spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles.
The sauce will add plenty of flavor to the veggies and make for a satisfying meal.
What is the best type of pasta to serve with Bolognese Sauce?
Pasta with meat sauce is always a safety.
Macaroni with meat sauce, lasagna Bolognese, cannelloni with bolognese sauce, alongside the legendary pappardelle.
Of course, there is no shortage of choice.
Whether it is egg pasta, fresh or dry pasta, pasta with meat sauce is the must-have dish of Italian cuisine.
Ditali, or even better, conchiglie, are perfect for making a pasta al ragù .
Moreover, the meat sauce gets inside the pasta and the result is outstanding.
Freshly grated parmesan cheese, the perfect complement to this hearty Bolognese.
How to store leftovers?
Leftover bolognese sauce can be easily stored, making it a great option for meal prep or busy weeknights.
To store your sauce, let it cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container or freezer-safe bag.
Fridge: Keep bolognese sauce in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days
Freeze: Freeze in portions for up to 3 months .
Make a big batch so you always have bolognese on hand; let it thaw at room temperature.
Authentic Bolognese Sauce: Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between ragu and Bolognese?
They are both 2 ragùs. The first and main difference is related to the different cut of meat used in the preparation.
Another delicious ragu recipe, besides the Bolognese one, is the Neapolitan recipe, where whole pieces of meat are used in the preparation
How to thicken Bolognese sauce
Bolognese sauce must shrink naturally, no flour added. Continue to cook the bolognese over very low heat.
What Meat for Bolognese Sauce?
I recommend using a fatty cut for preparation, and of course pancetta.
How long should you simmer bolognese?
Bolognese sauce should remain on the stove for about 3 hours, should be turned occasionally, and should absolutely be cooked over very low heat.
What gives bolognese its flavor?
Slow cooking brings together the flavor of all the ingredients. I additionally use basil, which is not in the registered recipe.
Do you cover bolognese when simmering?
Yes, leaving a small opening so that it barely vents,
Why is this bolognese sauce recipe so good?
The first thing is because it is cooked with love!
This recipe is the family recipe and I still remember my mom when she used to prepare it, and I loved watching her cook. Love and patience in cooking is one of the important things for the success of the dish
Do you put wine in Bolognese sauce?
Wine is much more important than you might think, because it enriches the aroma of the sauce, fats present in the seasonings are partly dissolved by the wine, which creates a creaminess capable of giving smoothness to the dish.
In addition, the acidity of the wine balances the full-bodied flavor of the fats.
I use red, but a dry white wine can also work well.
Can I make bolognese without wine?
Yes you can also leave out the wine, but I always recommend adding it. The alcohol in the wine evaporates.
Tips on How To Make A Good Bolognese
Meat: Always choose fresh ground meat, even better if it is chopped with a knife. Choose a thick grain of meat that is not too lean.
Cutting vegetables: Very finely chop the vegetables.
The sautéed ingredients of onion, celery, and carrot will fall apart completely, incorporate with the tomato, and it will be the perfect Bolognese sauce.
Onion serves for acidity, carrot for sweetness, and celery for flavor.
The basil: Basil is not included in the traditional recipe, but I always recommend adding it to make the sauce slightly more aromatic.
Don’t rush it: It should cook at least 3 hours after adding the tomato sauce. Just worry about turning it occasionally or adding a little broth if it dries out.
Use the right pot: Use a pot that allows you to cook evenly.
For example, terracotta, cast iron or a good steel pot. The pot should be nice and wide so that the juices evaporate well.
Traditional Bolognese Sauce: Mamma’s Recipe
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- 2 Carrots, finely chopped
- 1 White onion, finely chopped
- 3 Celery stalks, finely chopped
- 1 Cup of pancetta/bacon (150 grams)
- 2.20 Pounds of ground beef (1 KG)
- 4 Cups of tomato puree (1 litre)
- 2 Bay leaf
- 5 Basil leaves
- 1 Cup of red wine
- 2 Cups of vegetable broth
- 3 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- Salt & black pepper
- Wash the celery and carrot stalks, peel them, and peel the onion.
- Prepare the broth, with the scraps of onion, carrot and celery.
- Put them in a pot with about half a litre of water and boil over medium heat, when it starts to boil turn the heat down to low.
- Finely chop the carrot, celery and onion and set aside.
- In a large pot, cook over high heat the pork bacon previously diced and then shredded with the use of a knife, until it releases some of its fat.
- Next add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the finely chopped carrot, celery and onion and wilt them over low heat, for about 10 minutes
- Add the ground beef, mix well, and flavoring with one or two Bay leaf, sauté until it begins to sizzle.
- Deglaze with red wine and stir gently until the alcoholic part of the wine evaporates. This stage is very important because the flavor compounds that make the sauce good are formed and because no trace of alcohol should remain, which would give the sauce an unpleasant taste.
- Pour the passata into the pot as well, mix, cover with the lid leaving a crack, and cook on low heat for about 3 hours, At this point it is necessary to transfer the pot to a small fire relative to its size and get to lower the flame little by little until it cooks slowly, barely simmering.
- Stirring every 20 minutes or so, adding a few tablespoons of broth if necessary and a little at a time.
- When almost cooked, adjust salt if necessary.
- And add a pinch of pepper.
- The end result must be a dry, but at the same time creamy mixture!
Do you need to brown mince for Bolognese?
Yes, the meat needs to caramelize and should be done over a high flame. It is used to give flavor, then after caramelizing with the mince with the wine we will go to deglaze the whole thing.
What to do if the Ragu is a little acidic?
You can add a tablespoon of milk to the meat sauce but never, never cream!
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 588Total Fat: 38gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 21gCholesterol: 129mgSodium: 487mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 3gSugar: 8gProtein: 39g
Nutrition is automatically calculated by Nutritionix - please verify all nutrition information independently and consult with a doctor or nutritionist for any and all medical and diet advice.
Bolognese Slow Cooker/ Instant Pot Method
If you’re looking for a way to simplify the cooking process of Bolognese sauce while still getting authentic Italian flavors, the slow cooker method may be the solution for you.
While the traditional stovetop method requires frequent stirring and attention, the slow cooker allows you to set it and forget it, letting the flavors mingle and deepen over time.
To use the slow cooker method, simply brown your meats and onions in a skillet before transferring them to the slow cooker.
Add the other ingredient and set the cooker to low for 6-8 hours
More Authentic Italian Recipes
- Pasta With Broccoli, this is such an easy pasta dish that is so hearty and comforting.
- Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca, super easy to make with a unique taste.
- Spaghetti Alla Nerano, you only need a handful of ingredients to make an incredibly flavorful dish.