A slow simmered, full bodied Italian meat sauce that can be enjoyed on top of tagliatelle pasta or as the main sauce in lasagna ala Bolognese. This true Italian classic Bolognese sauce cannot be made quickly. Allow yourself plenty of time for this outstanding sauce to mature.
This recipe is quite possibly the longest one I will ever post. But there is a reason for this. This Bolognese sauce, when made correctly, is simply outstanding. It is a classic taste that just keeps you coming back for the next bite. And you guess it – it came from Italy!
It’s made with both ground beef and ground pork, canned San Marzano tomatoes plus a giant glug of wine… so it’s a winner in my book.
So let’s get started …
HOW TO MAKE BOLOGNESE SAUCE
1. Soffritto – The first step in making an authentic Bolognese sauce is in what’s called the soffritto. Soffritto is a vegetable base (onion, celery, carrot and sometimes garlic). The prep is a little higher-level here. In fact, making a soffritto for a Bolognese is a great place to practice your knife skills.
This is time-consuming as you want all the veggies exactly the same size, finely minced. Start by julienning the carrot and celery and then finely dice the tiny sticks you made. Dice the pancetta into similar size dices.
2. Start Rendering – Add the pancetta to a large stockpot or Dutch oven along with 2 Tbsp oil and 2 Tbsp unsalted butter. Let the fat render out – this will take a few minutes. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic. There are 2 times you are going to want to take your time with this Bolognese sauce and this is one of them.
The veggies need to cook down, but they also need to brown. Cook them over a low to low/medium heat and try not to disturb the veggies too much. Let them cook for a good 10-15 minutes or until you can see them turning brown and the pancetta getting crispy.
3. Add the meat – The next step is to add the meat (which should be taken out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes beforehand) in batches. Cooking the meat in batches allows it to caramelize and it can’t do that if it is somewhat submerged in fat.
As the meat is cooking, break it up with a fork. Once it is cooked, add the other half and do the same pushing the cooked meat to side to continue browning.
At this point the pan should have browned considerably on the bottom (like the photo below). Continue cooking the meat and breaking it up for another few minutes, stirring it from time to time. You are looking for crispy brown bits on the meat, but be careful not to burn it.
5. Reconstitue the tomato paste – Next add 3 Tbsp of tomato paste and stir it around until it is all incorporated. The heat from the pan brings out the flavors of the tomato paste. You want to shock the paste before you mix it into the meat. This takes away some of the tinny flavor of the paste and smooths it out a bit. Generally, I just move the paste around the bottom of the pan for a minute with the wooden spoon and then mix it in.
6. Deglaze – Add the wine and scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking over low/medium heat. Push the meat around with a wooden spoon until the bits have loosened and the wine has almost completely evaporated (3-4 minutes).
7. Add the tomatoes and stir. Give the sauce a generous pinch of black pepper and a little sugar. Let it simmer for 15 minutes or until you see almost half of the sauce has reduced. Continue cooking the sauce on very low heat.
8. Slowly add liquid – Add about ½ cup chicken broth and ½ cup milk to the sauce and let it SIMMER until it evaporates. I usually let it go for 30 minutes. Continue to add another ½ cup or so of broth and milk until it is almost gone. This process can take upwards of 3-4 hours. Do not rush this step. If you don’t have the time to commit to this sauce it will not come out right.
You just want enough liquid to cover the sauce. Adding all the liquid at once will boil the meat. Take your time.
WHAT TYPE OF PASTA SHOULD I USE?
Bolognese is a very thick sauce that needs a thick pasta. It is best served with a ribbon type pasta that will hold up to the weight of the sauce. Spaghetti is not recommended.
I recommend the Tagliatelle noodle, which shape is large, very broad and flat, similar to fettuccine. The consistency and large surface of this pasta is the main reason why they are ideal if served with thick sauces, because the thick sauce will cling to the pasta.
Another option would be the Pappardelle noodle. Because the wide ribbons are very absorbent and sturdy, it also makes a good pair with thick sauces.
The most prominent difference between Pappardelle and Tagliatelle is their width. Pappardelle width is about 2 to 3 centimeters, while Tagliatelle width is about 1 centimeters.
Since Tagliatelle is narrower, it can match the thick sauce extremely good. While the wider Pappardelle will fight with the sauce to be the dominant taste. It is your choice what pasta you use and if I’m being totally honest here, I would eat this sauce with anything.
HOW TO SERVE BOLOGNESE SAUCE:
- Start with very salted water for your pasta. Don’t cook the pasta all the way through in the water. Instead, drain it when it still has a little bite, making sure to reserve a cup of the pasta water.
- Then scoop out the desired amount of Bolognese sauce and place it in a small sauté skillet over hot heat.
- Add the pasta and a little of the reserved water. Stirring with tongs to combine. Continue cooking for a few minutes more until the pasta is cooked and has absorbed a little of the sauce.
- Top with some fresh Parmesan cheese
I hope you find the time to make this sauce one day and be sure to let us know how it turned out! 😀
WANT MORE DELICIOUS SAUCE RECIPES?
- CLASSIC ALFREDO SAUCE
- SIMPLE HOMEMADE SPAGHETTI SAUCE
- GARLIC AND BUTTER CREAM SAUCE
- BEST ENCHILADA SAUCE
A slow simmered, full bodied Italian meat sauce that can be enjoyed on top of tagliatelle pasta or as the main sauce in lasagna alla Bolognese.
- 2 Tablespoons Organic Butter
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 4 oz. Pancetta, cut into ¼-inch pieces (⅔ cup)
- ⅔ Cup Organic Onion, minced
- 3–4 Cloves Organic Garlic
- ⅔ Cup Organic Carrot, grated (2 medium)
- ⅔ Cup Organic Celery, minced celery (1 rib)
- 1 lb. Ground Beef
- 1 lb. Ground Pork
- 3 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
- 1 Cup Red wine
- 1 ½ Cups Organic Whole Milk
- 5 Sprigs Fresh Thyme, tied into a bundle with kitchen twine
- 1 to 2 Fresh Bay Leaves
- 1 can (28 oz) Organic Whole Peeled Tomatoes, pureed (with juice) in a food processor or blender
- 2–3 Cups Organic Chicken Stock (start with 2)
- Sea Salt and Black Pepper
- Heat butter and oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until butter starts to sizzle, then reduce heat to medium. Add the pancetta, and cook until fat has rendered, about 3 minutes.
- Add onion, carrot, and celery, and cook, stirring often, until just beginning to brown around edges, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir another 30 seconds.
- Add HALF the beef and pork and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently and breaking up the meat. Once browned add the other half and continue to cook until little crispy little bits form on the edges. Once meat is completely browned, pour off any excess fat. Add tomato paste and cook 1 minute, stirring to intensify sweetness.
- Deglaze the pan by pouring in the wine, stirring to scrape up browned bits from bottom of pot, until liquid has evaporated, 3-4 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and simmer on low approximately 15 minutes. Add a teaspoon or two of sugar to offset the acidity. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
- Add just enough stock and milk (about half each) to cover the meat. Add the thyme and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Bring it to a boil then simmer. As the stock evaporates add more liquid. This is where the flavor comes from. If you add all the stock at the same time you will just have boiled meat.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a very low simmer and cook, partially covered, 3 to 3 ½ hours. If at any time the sauce appears too dry, add more stock as necessary. The finished sauce should have the consistency of a loose chili.
- Stir in remaining ¼ cup milk and season with salt and pepper if needed.