This is authentic Spaghetti Bolognese. A combination of pork, beef and pancetta are simmered for hours in a rich tomato sauce to create this classic pasta dish.
Below are the step by step photos for making bolognese sauce. Of note, the recipe shown here is for a double batch of the sauce.
Why this is the best bolognese (IMO)
To create the ultimate bolognese sauce, you have to go the old fashioned low and slow way. It’s also vitally important to spend the time to brown the meat properly and cook the soffritto into sweet perfection.
I compared four recipes to come up with my favorite bolognese sauce, and have the sauce in my freezer to prove it.
First, I tested Mario Batali’s recipe (I hope that’s okay) against my old chef’s version and my personal recipe. Then, I created a new hybrid iteration with my favorite aspects of each sauce.
In the final version, I used ground pancetta, pork and beef. It’s really simple to grind pancetta in a food processor, so don’t be intimidated.
For the tomatoes, I went full on tomato paste. A combination of whole San Marzanos and paste is also great, but I really enjoyed the sweetness and richness created by using all paste.
I used the traditional Italian soffritto of carrots, celery and onion, heaviest on the onion and lightest on the celery. When you grind these in a food processor, they melt into the sauce and the texture is completely undetectable.
White wine and whole milk are traditional additions which add acidity and creaminess, respectively. It might seem odd to add milk to a tomato based sauce, but trust me, it works!
Ways to Change Things Up
- Try half pork, half veal. For a more mild, sweeter taste than beef, veal makes a great substitution. It was honestly difficult to decide if I preferred this over the beef while testing the recipe.
- Add whole canned tomatoes. For sauce a little lighter on the tomato flavor, reduce the amount of tomato paste to 2 tablespoons and add 6oz (⅔ cup) of San Marzano whole canned tomatoes, pureed smooth in a blender.
- Add thyme. If you like the flavor of thyme, throw in a small sprig and fish it out of the sauce along with the bay leaf and cloves before serving.
- Make it extra creamy. For an extra creamy finish, skip the milk in the beginning and add ¼ to ½ cup of cream when tossing the pasta with the sauce for an extra rich, luscious finish.
- Butter makes it better. For a velvety, glossy finish, throw in two tablespoons of butter when tossing the pasta with the sauce.
- Use a different pasta shape. If you’re not in the mood for spaghetti, no worries. This dish is also great with rigatoni or mezze rigatoni (the shorter variety). Penne rigate would also work well.
More Pasta Pleasures
- Lasagna Bolognese with Bechamel Sauce
- Pasta with Peas and Pancetta
- Pasta with Mushrooms and Prosciutto
- Fregola with Clams
- Shrimp Pasta and Fresh Tomatoes
- Penne Alla Vodka
- Italian Instant Pot Meatballs (pasta directions in notes)
- Pesto Pasta with Tomatoes
- Rigatoni with Braised Sausage in Red Wine Tomato Sauce
- Lemon Garlic Shrimp Pasta
- Authentic Fettuccine Alfredo Pasta
- Short Rib Ragu with Pappardelle Pasta
- Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
- Bucatini All’Amatriciana
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A combination of pork, beef and pancetta are simmered for hours in a rich tomato sauce to create this authentic Spaghetti Bolognese.
- 1lb dry spaghetti pasta
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
- 8oz ground pork
- 8oz ground beef
- 2oz pancetta
- 1 medium onion
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 large stalk celery
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed in press or finely minced
- 5 tbsp (3oz) tomato paste
- ½ cup dry white wine (such as Pino Grigio)
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup chicken stock, light beef stock*, veal stock or water
- 1 dried bay leaf or two fresh leaves
- 2 whole cloves
- ¼ cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
- Parsley, finely chopped, for serving (optional)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Grind pancetta: Cube pancetta and place into a food processor. Pulse until finely ground. Do not bother to clean before grinding vegetables in step 3.
- Brown meat: Heat a Dutch oven or large sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil followed by pork, beef and pancetta. Spread in an even layer. Cook undisturbed for 7-10 minutes or until well-browned on bottom side. Flip in large chunks using a spatula. Season. Cook undisturbed for at least 6-8 minutes or until browned on opposite side and cooked through. Break up into smaller pieces using a wooden spoon. Transfer meat to a bowl, reserving oil in pan.
- Grind vegetables: While meat browns, cut onion, carrots and celery into 1-2 inch chunks. Transfer to food processor, in batches, as needed. Pulse until finely ground, but do not puree.
- Cook soffritto: Reduce heat to medium. Add remaining tablespoon of oil to pan. Add ground onion, carrots and celery. Season generously with salt. Cook for at least 25-30 minutes to upwards of 1 hour until vegetables release all of their moisture and become sweet and flavorful. Add an additional tablespoon of oil, as needed, so the vegetables do not get dry or burned. Lower heat to medium-low when needed to prevent browning.
- Add garlic and tomato paste: Add minced garlic and cook 30-60 seconds, making sure not to brown. Add tomato paste and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 7-10 minutes or until it becomes a rust color.
- Add remaining ingredients and simmer: Add wine and reduce by half, about 5 minutes. Add milk, stock, bay leaf and cloves. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 2 ½ to 3 ½ hours or until richly flavored. Break up meat more, as needed, while sauce cooks. Add water as needed throughout cooking process to prevent sauce from becoming too thick and burning on bottom. When fully cooked, remove bay leaf and cloves from sauce and discard.
- Cook and sauce pasta: When sauce is almost done cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil for spaghetti. Season water heavily with salt, so it’s the salinity of sea water. Add in pasta and cook 1-2 two minutes shy of package directions for al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water. Drain pasta and add to sauce. Toss in grated cheese and a few tablespoons of pasta cooking water, as needed, to loosen sauce to desired consistency. Cook noodles in sauce over medium heat for several minutes until sauce comes together and pasta is al dente.
- Serve: Plate pasta and top with parsley and additional grated cheese, if desired. Enjoy.
By light beef broth, I mean a lighter colored, more subtle flavored stock. I usually find beef bone broth at the grocery store, which would work well.
Consider doubling up on the Bolognese recipe and freezing leftover sauce for a quick weeknight meal. I freeze my sauce in quart containers labeled with the name and date. This keeps well for at least 3-6 months in the freezer. Do not add cheese before freezing.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
- Category: Pasta
- Method: Braise, simmer
- Cuisine: Italian
- Serving Size: ⅙ of pasta dish
- Calories: 620
- Sugar: 7g
- Sodium: 240mg
- Fat: 25g
- Saturated Fat: 8g
- Unsaturated Fat: 17g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 66g
- Fiber: 4g
- Protein: 28g
- Cholesterol: 64mg
Keywords: spaghetti bolognese, pasta bolognese, spaghetti with meat sauce, bolognese sauce