One of my favourite meals growing up was spaghetti bolognese, though we didn’t call it that, it was just
spaghetti for short. It is basically spaghetti pasta topped with a meat sauce which is a variation of the bolognese sauce or an Italian ragù alla bolognese. Although I am still fond of the recipe that I grew up enjoying, this is the version that I find myself making more frequently, one that I have developed over the years. At it’s base, an authentic or traditional bolognese sauce is meat (often pork), onion, celery, carrot, tomatoes, wine and milk that is slowly simmered until the sauce has thickened the meat is melt in your mouth and the flavour has had plenty of time to come out and develop.
My version of bolognese is similar to the classic bolognese in that it starts out with meat, I like a combination of pancetta (or bacon) along with ground beef (or veal) and Italian pork sausage which starts us off with a ton of flavour. I also add the onions, celery and carrots along with garlic and red pepper flakes before adding the tomatoes, in the form of diced tomatoes and pureed tomatoes. If you are cooking with alcohol then add a glass of white wine and if not then a splash of balsamic vinegar is a nice substitute. Once you have the sauce made all that’s left it to slowly simmer it for a few hours. You could, if you are in a hurry, just cook it for a few minutes and serve it right away but you would be missing out on all of the flavour that simmering it for a few hours adds. I like to add a hit of umami flavour to my bolognese by adding some dried mushrooms and mixing some parmesan cheese right into the sauce along with the milk/cream! Another thing that I like to add is a splash of fish sauce at the end adds even more flavour.
Ragù alla bolognese is amazing server over pastas like fettuccine, spaghetti, linguine, tagliatelle, penne, etc. and as an ingredient in other recipes like lasagna. This sauce only gets better the next day so, if you are going to be simmering for a few hours anyways, make an extra large batch for a second meal later on in the week or store is in the freezer for a quick meal further down the road.
Topped simply with grated parmesan cheese! Yum!
Garish with fresh basil!
An easy traditional bolognese (Italian style meat and tomato sauce) that slowly simmers to flavour perfection.
- 1 ounce dried mushrooms
- 1/2 cup just boiled water
- 4 ounces pancetta (or bacon), diced
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 2 carrots, finely diced
- 2 stalks celery, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes (to taste)
- 1 cup white wine (or 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar)
- 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 (14 ounce) can tomato puree
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon oregano (or Italian seasoning)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano (parmesan cheese), grated
- 1 pound fettuccine
- Let the mushrooms soak in the just boiled water until tender, about 15-20 minutes, before chopping finely and reserving the water.
- Meanwhile, cook the pancetta, ground beef and sausage in a large saucepan (or dutch oven), crumbling the meat as it cooks with a wooden spoon until brown all over before draining the grease and setting the meat aside.
- Heat the oil in the same pan on medium-high heat add the onions, carrots and celery and cook until tender, about 7-10 minutes.
- Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about a minute.
- Add the meats, reserved mushroom water, wine, diced tomatoes, tomato puree, bay leaves, and oregano and bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, and cook anywhere from 10 minutes to 2-3 hours.
- Add the cream and cheese, let the cheese melt into the sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- When appropriate, cook the fettuccine as directed on package and toss with the sauce or or serve with the sauce poured on top.
- Toss the spaghetti and the sauce or serve the sauce on the spaghetti and garnish with parsley and grated parmigiano reggiano.
Option: Use any combination of ground beef/veal, ground pork, Italian sausage and pancetta/bacon totaling about 2 pounds. (If you omit the sausage, add 1/4 teaspoon ground fennel seeds along with the red pepper flakes.)
Option: Omit the carrots and celery.
Option: Add diced mushrooms.
Option: Throw a parmesan rind into the sauce while it simmers, removing it before sering, to add even more umami flavour!
Option: Use your favourite pasta such as spaghetti, linguine, tagliatelle, penne, etc.
Option: Replace the heavy cream with milk.
Option: Add a pinch of nutmeg.
Option: Add a slash of fish sauce juice before removing from heat for an umami kick!
Option: Add a slash of lemon juice before removing from heat.
Tip: This sauce freezes well so make a double batch and save half for later!
Note: THe sauce tastes even better the next day!
Please be more accurate when writing recipes. You mention two stalks of celery—did you mean two ribs of celery? Thank you,
Lallie Pillay says
Best ever Bolognese sauce
To die for! So creamy n yummy
I added fish sauce ,definitely gave a yum kick.
Another yum yum recipe!
Kathy M says
Hi Kevin, just a quick question. In your narrative of the recipe you said to add a cup of white wine and in the ingredient list you have red wine-which did you use?
White wine is more traditional but red also works well!
I am making this now and I just chopped my mushrooms and reserved the water but I don’t see where you put the mushrooms back in? Or do I just use the water??? TIA
Add it to the sauce along with everything else in step 5; enjoy!
Can the mushrooms be left out? This sounds terrific except for the mushrooms. My husband just cannot eat them.
Yes they can! Enjoy!
This is a meat sauce, not a Bolognese.
would the crock pot be ok for this
Yes it would! Do steps 1-4 as called for and replace the stove top part of step 5 with the slow cooker for the simmering!
Ray Potter says
Glad to see you got it right. I did a chef’s tour with 12 corporate chefs from large restaurant operations. At the Café Bologna in Modena we asked the chef to settle an argument if milk was used in Bolognaise sauce. Yes it is and I seldom see it in other recipes. As a professional chef this is the only site I follow. Thumbs up good job.
Easiest way to get beef, pork & veal is to use pre-packaged meatloaf mix. To give it a sausage essence is to grind fennel seeds with a mortar & pestle. Fennel can be overpowering, less is more. Also, you can add a few red pepper flakes to fennel seeds to give a slight kick.
This was great. As an Italian-American, I grew up on this stuff. My mom’s recipe is very similar but I misplaced it and was in a bind! Found this one to be almost spot-on. Thanks for sharing!