Rich and meaty Bolognese Sauce is perfect to serve over your favorite pasta. Bolognese Sauce is a meat based Italian sauce made with vegetables, wine, milk, and a combination beef and pork. This classic sauce takes a couple of hours to prepare but worth every single minute put into it. For easy weeknight dinner, prepare this sauce ahead of time and freeze it in portions.
My family still asks “what is Bolognese sauce, again?” almost every time I make it. Simply put, Bolognese is an Italian meat sauce often served with thick, flat pasta like fettuccine. Many people also know it as “ragù” or “ragù bolognese.”
This sauce originated in the Bologna region of Italy and over time, as it became popular in other parts of the world, it became more known as Bolognese sauce. The Bolognese Sauce we are more familiar with has a thicker tomato base than the original ragù but is still packed with meats, traditional vegetables, and milk.
Bolognese is not a quick sauce you can whip up on a Monday night, it does demand a couple of hours of slow cooking to be the best. Even though it will take a while to cook, I guarantee that every minute of effort put into the sauce is worth it. It will become your favorite way to eat pasta after the first bite.
Great news is that you can make the sauce ahead of time and freeze some of it to use later in the week or on a busy day.
WHAT GOES INTO BOLOGNESE SAUCE
Meats – Use a combination of ground beef and ground pork in the Bolognese sauce. Pick ground beef that has a little fat content in it, like the 85/15 meat to fat ratio. I do not drain off the liquid as the meat cooks because that liquid has so much flavor in it.
Vegetables – Bolognese sauce starts with what’s called “soffritto,” which is a trio of onions, celery, and carrots that is at the base of many sauces and soups.
Tomatoes – Even though original ragù had a light amount of tomato sauce, Bolognese sauce that we know today has a heavy base of tomatoes and tomato paste. Use both crushed tomatoes and tomato paste to give a deep tomato flavor, acidity, and some sweetness.
Wine – To compliment the beef, I prefer to use red wine in this sauce. White wine can easily be substituted as well and to be honest, the flavor difference is so fine, many people won’t even notice the substitution.
Milk – I recommend using milk over cream because it is not added to make the sauce creamy but rather give it a different texture and help tenderize the meat.
Herbs – Classic Italian cuisine herbs gives this sauce amazing flavor. Add garlic, oregano, parsley, and some fresh basil to finish the sauce.
HOW TO MAKE BOLOGNESE
Bolognese sauce is made through a combination of sauteing, sweating, and slow cooking and it will take a couple of hours to cook. I recommend using a Dutch oven for better and even cooking.
Start by sauteing onions, carrots, and celery until it’s soft and add the meats. Break down all the clumps as meat cooks. Once meat is mostly browned, add red wine and let it simmer for a few minutes.
Add beef stock, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper to the meat and mix it all well. Bring it to a simmer and lower the heat to low. Close the lid and let is slow cook for about an hour.
After an hour, add milk and basil, close the lid and cook for another 45 minutes to an hour.
IS BOLOGNESE SAUCE GLUTEN FREE?
Yes, this Bolognese sauce is completely gluten free. You can serve it with gluten free pasta, zucchini noodles, or spaghetti squash.
WHAT PASTA TO USE WITH BOLOGNESE SAUCE
Traditionally, this sauce is served with thick, flat pasta like fettuccine or tagliatelle. Of course, you can choose your own pasta based on personal favorites and what your kids will agree to try. I’ve made Bolognese sauce with rotini on many occasions because I like the way the twisted pasta catches the meat sauce.
Try this meat sauce over tortellini and ravioli for the extra cheesy bite.
For healthier options, serve Bolognese sauce with zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash.
HOW LONG WILL BOLOGNESE SAUCE LAST IN THE FRIDGE?
Store sauce in a glass jar (or two jars) with a lid, in the refrigerator for 4-7 days.
Food spoils faster when bacteria is introduced. To lower chances of bacteria getting in, do not put spoons or anything else in when getting sauce out, but pour some sauce out of the jar instead. Keep the lid on and open the jar as little as possible.
It’s better to divide the sauce among two jars so that the same jar is not opened several times for different recipes.
You can also freeze half of the sauce and save for later.
HOW TO FREEZE BOLOGNESE SAUCE
It’s always best to cool foods as quickly as possible before freezing. The faster it cools and freezes, the less chance for developing bacteria and subsequently, longer shelf life.
The best way to cool the sauce is to place the pot into a larger container filled with ice. To help it cool faster and evenly, make sure to stir the sauce often as it cools.
Once it’s cooled, you can portion sauce into several freezer bags or freezer containers with air-tight lid. Get all the air out and close completely. Label the bag or the container with date and name.
Place the bags flat on a cutting board and plate it in the freezer. Cutting board will help keep bags flat and straight as the sauce freezes.
Once sauce it frozen, you can remove the cutting board and stack the bags.
If using freezer containers, don’t stack them until the sauce it frozen to make sure each container freezes evenly.
To thaw sauce, pull out individual bags or container out of the freezer and into the refrigerator. Slow-thaw in the refrigerator overnight or for several hours.
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- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 Vidalia onion
- 2 medium carrots
- 2 celery ribs
- 1 lb ground beef 85/15 meat to fat ratio
- 0.5 lb ground pork
- 6 garlic cloves
- 8 oz tomato paste
- 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 cup beef stock
- 2 tsp oregano
- 2 tbsp dried parsley
- fresh ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 2 tbsp minced fresh basil
- Preheat Dutch oven over medium heat and add olive oil.
- Saute onions, carrots, and celery until softened.
- Add beef and pork and break down all the lumps as meat cooks.
- Once meat is mostly browned, add red wine and let it simmer for a few minutes.
- Add beef stock, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper to the meat and mix it all well. Bring it to a simmer and lower the heat to low. Close the lid and let is slow cook for about an hour.
- After an hour, add milk and basil, close the lid and cook for another 45 minutes to an hour.