If you came to join me for a cozy dinner at the PWWB house, chances are strong that I’d serve you pasta bolognese: a traditional Italian meat sauce made of beef, pork, & tomatoes, tossed into a pile of perfectly al dente pasta (& finished, of course, with a showering of freshly grated parmesan cheese!).
Bolognese is especially rich in flavor, making for the best hearty & comforting meal. &, if you ask me, it’s the ultimate expression of care for whoever you serve it to: it’s the kind of scratch-made meal that requires hours of TLC as it bubbles & simmers away on the stove. It’s just everything.
I guess you could say that pasta bolognese is my love language.
Among the reasons why it’s so near & dear to my heart, pasta bolognese is one of the very first things I ever taught myself how to cook.
After college graduation, I spent some time working as a server at a fine-dining Italian restaurant in Milwaukee, where I fell pretty head over heels for anything having to do with Mediterranean food & wine. If I pestered them enough, the guys who ran the kitchen would talk me through how to make my favorite Italian recipes, starting with my favorite dish on our menu: pasta bolognese.
In the 10 years since, I’ve worked off of that base bolognese recipe, perfecting it with some tips & tricks I learned along the way (from a few of my fave bad ass lady chefs, Anne Burrell & Lidia Bastianich, & from simply growing & improving as a cook throughout my 20s).
The result? The absolute best bolognese sauce recipe.
10 years in the making, this pasta bolognese recipe is my signature dish, & I’m so excited to share my take on it with you today. ♡ Read on to learn more about the PWWB Best-Ever Bolognese Sauce, or jump straight to the recipe & get cookin’!
Ragu vs Bolognese – what’s the difference?
The most frequently asked questions I’d face as a server in my time at that restaurant were, without a doubt, “What’s bolognese? Is it a tomato sauce, like marinara? How’s it different from ragu?”
Ragu is a term used to describe a type of Italian meat sauce, usually slowly simmered over the course of a couple of hours with some veggies & tomatoes. So while it usually has tomatoes (like marinara), & it’s usually finished with a splash of cream (like creamy pasta sauces), ragu is kind of its own thing. Ragu is all about meat, & making sure the meat shines.
You can make all kinds of ragu sauces: pork, lamb, roasted duck, wild boar, hearty mushroom, & so on. While all made with different main ingredients, the common element of ragu is the fact that the meat (or a meaty ingredient) is totally the star of the show.
Bolognese is a type of ragu sauce, made with beef & pork. Originating in Bologna, the largest city of the Emilia-Romagna region in Northern Italy, authentic bolognese is typically made with beef, pork, white wine, milk, & a little tomato.
This bolognese recipe is reminiscent of the Italian-American bolognese you typically find here in the U.S.: a hybrid of authentic Northern Italian bolognese & the kinds of ragu you’d find in Southern Italy, which tend to be a little more tomato-forward & richer in flavor.
Bolognese sauce ingredients
Like many traditional Italian recipes, one of the beautiful things about bolognese is it’s all about giving simple, humble ingredients a little TLC to transform them into something absolutely extraordinary, rich & flavorful.
The ingredients you need for this recipe aren’t anything crazy…you probably already have many of them in your kitchen right now! (Note: the full Ingredients List, including measurements, is provided in the Recipe Card, below.)
- soffritto, AKA the Italian holy trinity – a trusty mixture of carrots, celery, & onion
- meat: I like to use a 50/50 blend of ground beef & ground pork, plus some pancetta (cured, unsmoked Italian bacon) for extra flavor.
- aromatics, of course!: garlic, bay leaves, fresh rosemary, & fresh thyme
- tomato paste & crushed tomatoes
- red wine
- chicken broth or water, for simmering
- some heavy cream & parmesan to finish the sauce
- & pasta, of course!
A couple of quick tips & tricks:
- Many traditional bolognese recipes call for use of ground veal. While I do love the flavor of veal, the combination of ground beef & ground pork is most often available at the grocery stores I frequent. That’s what I opt to use. However, many grocery stores & butcher shops do sell a pre-mixed combination of ground beef, ground pork, & ground veal as a “meatball mix” or “meatloaf mix”. If you can find it at your grocery store, feel free to go ahead & use it in this recipe!
- Traditionally, Italian bolognese is served on a wide & flat noodle, such as pappardelle or tagliatelle. Here in the US, you’ll often see it served on spaghetti. I personally love using bucatini (pictured), a tubular spaghetti with the best chewy texture.
How to make bolognese sauce
The key to making the absolute best bolognese sauce at home is building layers upon layers of rich flavor. This takes a little bit patience & a whole lot of stirring, but it yields an absolutely restaurant-worthy rich & hearty bolognese sauce. It’s so worth it.
The cooking process itself is pretty easy. The basic gist of it goes something like this… (Note: full Recipe Directions are provided in the Recipe Card, below.)
First, prep the soffritto & pestata…
…two foundational components of the bolognese sauce. Grab your food processor, &…
- Prep the soffritto: Add roughly chopped carrot, celery, & onion to the food processor. Pulse just until broken down into fine pieces, then transfer to a medium bowl & set aside.
- Prep the pestata: Add roughly chopped pancetta & garlic to the same food processor (you don’t even have to wash it!). Pulse just until broken down into fine pieces. Set aside.
Bolognese meal prep tip: If you’re looking to cut down on active prep time the day you make your bolognese, you can prep both the soffritto & pestata up to 3 days ahead of time, storing in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator.
Brown the pestata, soffritto, & meat mixture.
Grab a heavy-bottomed pot, drizzle in some olive oil, &…
- Cook the pestata: Add the pancetta mixture to the pot & cook until rendered. Your kitchen will smell like garlicky bacony heaven!
- Brown the veggies: Stir the soffritto mixture into the rendered pancetta, & cook until deeply browned & fragrant – 15-20 minutes. Once deeply browned, push the mixture up to the sides of the pot, &
- Brown the meat: Add the meat to the center of the pot. Cook for a solid 2-3 minutes on both sides, then use a wooden spoon to break the meat apart into small pieces before letting it cook completely through.
- Brown the tomato paste: Stir a generous amount of tomato paste into the meat mixture, letting it cook & brown for 2-3 minutes.
It’s incredibly important not to rush this handful of steps, & to instead really take your time in letting each component brown deeply before moving on to the next.
Many of the ragu & bolognese recipes I’ve seen over the years call for cooking through these steps for just a couple of minutes before moving on to the next. I strongly disagree! These steps create a rich base of flavor for the entire sauce. Taking a few extra minutes throughout the browning process to ensure the veggies & meat develop a ton of color & flavor makes a remarkable difference in the end result of your bolognese sauce. Now’s not the time for shortcuts!
Make the sauce:
At this point, you’re ready to deglaze the pan, add some tomatoes, & zhuzh it up with some aromatics….
- Deglaze: Pour the red wine into the pot, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any of the browned bits that may have formed on the bottom of the pot. Browned bits = FLAVOR, so be sure to use some elbow grease to scrape up as much as you can!
- Aromatics: Toss in the bay leaves & fresh herbs. I like to tie the fresh herbs together whole with kitchen twine to eliminate the need to finely chop a bunch of herbs – highly recommend keeping a spool of twine in your kitchen!
Your bolognese sauce will start to look like bolognese sauce at this point!
Simmer & finish the bolognese:
Turn the heat under the pot as low as it’ll go, & get ready for your kitchen to smell like absolute heaven!
- Simmer for 90 minutes. It may seem like a loooong time, but I’ve found that 90 minutes is really the sweet spot for simmering this bolognese sauce recipe. As the sauce simmers, it reduces, creating rich, complex flavor. Aside from the occasional stir, this cooking time is mostly hands-off. The perfect project for a lazy Sunday afternoon at home.
- Finish the sauce with a generous pour of heavy cream & a handful of grated parmesan. While traditional bolognese recipes call for use of whole milk, heavy cream’s extra luscious consistency adds a velvety quality to this bolognese sauce that I’m especially obsessed with.
Once your bolognese sauce simmered down to rich, complex perfection, you can use it immediately in pasta bolognese (or lasagna bolognese, if you’re feeling extra special!).
How to make pasta bolognese at home
Serving pasta bolognese isn’t quite as simple as tossing some of the prepared sauce on a bed of al dente pasta. This is the #1 mistake I see people make when it comes to serving pasta – please, please don’t do this!
Pasta should always cook with the sauce for a couple of minutes on the stovetop, which allows the two separate components to come together as one cohesive dish. If you feel like your pasta never turns out as good as it does in a restaurant, this simple step will help tremendously!
To properly cook pasta bolognese at home:
- Cook your pasta in a large pot of salted water to al dente (according to package directions). I love serving bolognese sauce with bucatini, but you can use any pasta (long or short) you love most. (Note: if you made the bolognese sauce ahead of time, simply heat it up in a large pot or skillet while the pasta cooks.)
- Reserve 1 cup of the starchy pasta water, then carefully drain the pasta. Resist the temptation of rinsing your pasta with water once it’s drained. Doing so rinses away the starches on its surface, preventing it from properly adhering to the bolognese sauce.
- Toss! Add the hot pasta straight into the pot with the bolognese sauce, tossing to combine well. Use your judgment & adjust pasta bolognese as needed (a splash of the reserved pasta water will help loosen up the pasta bolognese; a handful of extra parmesan will tighten it up a bit, etc.).
- Simmer: Let the pasta bolognese simmer for 1-2 minutes, allowing the pasta to absorb some of the bolognese sauce as it finishes cooking.
- Serve! At last, the best part! Portion into individual bowls & serve immediately.
Bolognese sauce FAQs
What’s the best meat for bolognese sauce?
I find it’s most convenient to make bolognese with a 50/50 blend of ground beef & ground pork, which has a great amount of fat & flavor to help develop the flavors of the sauce. I love adding a bit of pancetta to the mix for extra rich flavor.
Many grocery stores & butcher shops sell a pre-mixed combination of ground beef, ground pork, & ground veal as a “meatball mix” or “meatloaf mix”. If you can find it at your grocery store, go ahead & use it in this recipe.
If you’re interested in a slightly lightened-up bolognese recipe, be sure to check out the PWWB turkey bolognese recipe.
What wine works best in bolognese sauce?
If I happen to have a bottle on hand, I like using Chianti in this bolognese recipe. If not, any nice, medium-bodied red is great.
How long should I simmer bolognese sauce?
The sauce develops rich, savory flavor the longer it simmers. I like to simmer my bolognese sauce for a full 90 minutes, giving it a good stir every so often (60 minutes is probably the minimum amount of time I’d allow the sauce to simmer). It’s the perfect recipe to make for a lazy Sunday at home.
If you’re pressed on time, you can make this recipe in a slow cooker or Instant Pot to cut down on active cook time. More on this below!
Can I make this bolognese sauce recipe in my slow cooker or Instant Pot?
Yes & yes! You can find both slow cooker & Instant Pot directions for this bolognese recipe in the Recipe Notes, below.
Can I make this bolognese sauce recipe ahead of time?
Yes! Bolognese sauce is so make-ahead friendly! Like many other stews & sauces, the flavors of this bolognese sauce will continue to meld & develop as it sits. I personally love it most after it’s had a chance to sit in the fridge for a day or two.
This bolognese sauce will keep, stored in an airtight container, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Check the Recipe Notes for additional thoughts on storage & freezing for later.
I really hope you try this Pasta Bolognese recipe soon! This is my tried & true signature recipe, & I know that you’ll flip out over it.
If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations! Happy cooking! ♡Print
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 2 hours
- Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
- Yield: serves 6-8 1x
- Category: Pasta recipes, Main dishes
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian
Tweaked & perfected over 10+ years, this is the absolute best bolognese sauce recipe! A lusciously rich & hearty Italian meat sauce made of ground beef & pork, pancetta, red wine & tomatoes, which simmers for hours before getting tossed into a pile of pasta for the perfect pasta bolognese dinner. Stovetop, Slow Cooker & Instant Pot instructions provided.
- 2 large carrots, roughly chopped
- 1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
- 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 4 ounces pancetta, roughly chopped (see Recipe Notes)
- 6 cloves garlic
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
- 1 cup medium-bodied red wine, such as Chianti
- 3–4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 10–12 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- optional: 1 parmesan rind
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan
- 16 ounces pasta of choice (I love bucatini or rigatoni)
- for serving, as desired: grated parmesan or pecorino romano, finely chopped basil or parsley, crushed red pepper flakes, etc.
- Prep: Grab your food processor & prep the…
- Soffritto: Add the roughly chopped carrot, celery & onion to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse just until the mixture is broken down into fine pieces. The mixture should not be puréed; you should still be able to see small pieces of carrot, celery & onion. Transfer to a medium bowl & set aside.
- Pestata: Add the pancetta & garlic to the bowl of the same food processor used to make the soffritto (no need to wash it!). Pulse just until the mixture is broken down into fine pieces. Set aside.
- Cook the pestata: Add the olive oil to a heavy-bottomed pot (at least 4-quart capacity) over medium heat. Once hot, carefully add the pestata mixture from Step 1 and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta renders, 4-5 minutes.
- Brown the soffritto: Add the soffritto mixture from Step 1 to the pot with the pestata. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and stir to combine. Cook, stirring ocassionally, until deeply browned & fragrant, 15-20 minutes. If the veggies begin to brown too quickly, reduce the heat to medium-low or low. Once browned, push the pestata & soffritto mixture to the outer edges of the pot.
- Brown the meat: Generously season the beef and pork with 1 teaspoon kosher salt each. Add the meat to the center of the pot with the soffritto & pestata mixture. Do not touch the meat for 2-3 minutes, allowing it to brown deeply. Turn the meat over and brown the second side for 2-3 minutes. Once browned on both sides, use a wooden spoon to break the meat apart into small pieces. Stir to combine with the soffritto mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned completely, 8-10 minutes. Add the tomato paste, stirring to coat the meat & soffritto mixture. Cook for 2-3 minutes to brown.
- Deglaze: Increasing the heat to medium-high, pour the red wine into the pot. Stir constantly, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits that may have formed at the bottom of the pot. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until the wine is almost completely absorbed into the meat mixture.
- Aromatics: Tie the herbs together using kitchen twine (or finely chop if you do not have twine), then add to the pot with the bay leaves & parmesan rind, if using. Add the crushed tomatoes & broth or water, stirring to combine.
- Simmer: Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 90 minutes. If the bolognese begins to reduce too much (losing too much of its liquid too quickly), feel free to add in a splash more broth/water, reduce the heat further, &/or cover the pot.
- Finish the bolognese sauce: Stir in the heavy cream and grated parmesan. Taste and season with additional kosher salt and ground black pepper, as desired. At this point you can cool & store for later use (see Recipe Notes for storage & freezing directions), or serve immediately with pasta (proceed to Step 9-10, below).
- Cook the pasta: Once the bolognese has simmered & reduced (Steps 7-8, above), cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is cooked to al dente. Carefully dip a liquid measuring cup into the pot, reserving about 1 cup of the starchy pasta water, and set aside. Carefully drain the pasta – do NOT rinse it!
- Finish the pasta bolognese: Add the pasta straight to the bolognese sauce. Toss to combine well – the sauce should evenly coat the pasta. Add in some of the reserved pasta water if the bolognese sauce needs to loosen up a little; add in an extra handful of parmesan if the sauce needs to tighten up a little. Cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, allowing the pasta to meld with & absorb some of the sauce.
- Serve the pasta bolognese: Portion out the pasta bolognese into individual pasta bowls. Serve immediately, topped with extra parmesan, chopped herbs, &/or a sprinkling of crushed red pepper as desired. Enjoy!
- Pancetta is cured, unsmoked Italian bacon. Widely available at most conventional grocery stores, you can typically find pancetta already diced up in an individual container near the cured meats & bacon, or cut-to-order at the deli counter. Feel free to swap it out with regular ol’ bacon if that’s what you can find easily – thick, center-cut bacon will work best for this recipe.
- Storage: Bolognese sauce stores SO well – it’s one of those things that gets even better as it sits & its flavors have the chance to meld together. To store, prep the sauce through Step 7. Once cooled, transfer to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Whip up a batch of pasta bolognese during the week by reheating the bolognese sauce in a skillet, & completing the recipe according to Steps 9-11, above.
- Freezing: Bolognese sauce is incredibly freezer-friendly. To freeze, transfer the cooled bolognese sauce to a freezer container (or divide it up between multiple freezer containers for smaller portions). Freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw, place the frozen bolognese in the refrigerator overnight (or submerge the freezer container in room temperatue water for a quicker thaw). Reheat the bolognese sauce in a skillet. The bolognese sauce may seem a little watery, so just let any residual water simmer out before completing the recipe according to Steps 9-11, above.
- Slow Cooker: Prep the recipe according to Steps 1-5, above. Transfer the bolognese meat mixture to the slow cooker, along with the aromatics, tomatoes, & broth as directed in Step 6. Slow cook on high for 2 hours or on low for 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Finish as directed in Steps 8-11; you can do this right in your slow cooker. If your slow cooker has a searing/browning feature, you can use it to cook the entire bolognese sauce recipe (Steps 2-8) in the slow cooker.
- Instant Pot: Use the Instant Pot’s Sauté setting to cook the recipe as according to Steps 2-6, above. Seal the Instant Pot and cook on manual high pressure for 35 minutes. Allow the pot to naturally release pressure for 10 minutes before carefully flicking the valve to its “venting” position to vent out any residual pressure. If the bolognese sauce seems a little too liquidy, feel free to turn on the Sauté setting again, letting the sauce simmer down a little before finishing as directed in Steps 8-11.
Keywords: traditional pasta bolognese, bolognese sauce recipe, pasta recipes, comfort food recipes
More classic Italian recipes to try…
- Put your bolognese sauce to use: Lasagna Bolognese
- Or try a lightened-up version: Healthier Turkey Bolognese
- Want to try ragu? Start here: Braised Pork Ragu Pappardelle & Slowly Braised Lamb Ragu with Gnocchi
- Quick & easy: 5-Ingredient Pomodoro Sauce
- Perfect for weeknights: 20-Minute Spicy Italian Sausage & Peppers Pasta
- An Italian-American staple: Pasta Marsala
- Instant Pot magic: Instant Pot Chicken Cacciatore
- A classic, with a twist! Gnocchi all’Amatriciana
- All PWWB Pasta Recipes
- All PWWB Italian Recipes
Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, Facebook, & Pinterest for more easy, modern recipes & fun!
I made this bolognese sauce for my sons birthday dinner and it did not disappoint. Truly, the best bolognese I’ve ever made. It was a great family meal !
Hi Lisalen! We are so glad to hear that you & your family loved it & honored to be included in your son’s birthday celebration!!
Hello! Does this require an entire head stalk of celery or one rib/stick? Thanks for your help!
Hi Hillary! Just 1 rib – not the entire head. Hope that helps!
This was truly amazing. I’ve made several Bolognese sauces over the years – none compare to this one – it is truly the BEST. We had a little bit last night and are saving the rest to have with family the night before Thanksgiving! A truly fantastic recipe!!!
We love to hear it, Jennifer! Thank you for leaving a comment, it means so much & we hope everyone enjoys the delicious leftovers the night before Thanksgiving! 🙂
Thank you so much for this recipe!! I just finished making it and good gracious it’s sumptuous, full bodied and absolutely perfect. Well done! I followed the recipe to a T, but I did soak dried porcini mushrooms in the Chianti, then I added the mushrooms to the soffritto in step 1 and used the mushroom wine for the deglazing in step 5. This was actually really fun to make, thanks again for a wonderful recipe!
So glad you had fun making this Bolognese, Kelsey! It’s a PWWB team favorite & we’re so glad you loved it! 🙂
Oh my goodness was this fantastic! I made this last week, and I’m making it again today. This time I’m doubling the sauce so I can freeze some for a easy meal in the future.
Yay! So glad you loved it, Katie! It’s a wonderful freezer recipes so we totally approve of making a double batch. Thanks so much for leaving a comment!
Could I use fresh tomatoes instead? We have a ton from our garden…
Hi Shira! We have never tried with fresh tomatoes so we can’t say for sure – depending on the type of tomato/acidity it could change the flavors a bit & may require some taste & adjustments with other ingredients to balance it out. Let us know if you do end up giving it a try!
Otherwise, if you are looking for more ways to use up all of your fresh garden tomatoes check out our Tomato Burrata Salad, our Whipped Ricotta Bruschetta, or these Slow Roasted Cherry Tomatoes here!
Absolutely the best ! My printer is broken
Hi Barbara! Thanks so much & oh no – hope you can save or bookmark for later! 🙂
This was AMAZING!! I had to substitute sweet pork italian sausage for ground pork and pinot noir for the chianti because that’s what I had at home, but it was great!.I also added some red pepper flakes during the simmer stage. Thanks for sharing this restaurant-quality recipe. It is a new family favorite!
Thank you Shanna! It is a PWWB favorite too – we’re so glad you & your family enjoyed! 🙂
I have tried countless bolognese recipes and this is by far the best i have ever made. I stuck to the recipe and made it in the slow cooker. Just delicious. And both kids loved it so this will be a new staple in my kitchen! This is my first ever review but it was so good I had to tell you!
Hi Melissa! Thanks so much for taking the time to share this review! Reviews like this make our day & we’re so glad the whole family loved it! Lots of our recipes are suitable for the slow cooker so if you are looking for any additional weeknight recipes – be sure to check out all of our slow cooker-friendly recipes HERE! Thanks again!!
I have been making Bolognaise sauce for many years and don’t usually follow a recipe as it usually goes down well. I had just had a trip to Rome and bought some nice pasta back so wanted to make the sauce extra special and was looking for tips. It was delicious and even my husband, who is not a fan of it normally really loved it. I had to use English style non smoked bacon as I had no pancetta and I added some milk as opposed to cream otherwise I stuck to the recipe. Well worth the effort!
So happy to hear that it was a hit & you were able to use our recipe with the pasta you brought back from your trip – sounds delicious! Thank you for this comment Leslie!
Love the texture and consistency of this sauce and that I could easily use entire 32-oz box of chicken broth and can of paste. Made exactly as written. Just did not like the rosemary flavor at all in this recipe. It was overkill. WHEN I make again, will leave out the Rosemary—it was just way too overpowering.
Hi Brenda! Glad to hear that you enjoyed the sauce & we always encourage you to adjust to your liking so hope you can do so with the rosemary the next time around. Thank you for sharing!
Super delicious and fun to make as a family. We also made homemade noodles (for the first time) and they made a great meal with this delicious bolognese!
That sounds so delicious & FUN, Emily! So glad your whole family enjoyed! If you are ever in the need for another homemade pasta recipe be sure to check out our tutorial HERE! Thank you for sharing!💜
I added 1 cup stock to start with and then another 1/2 cup or so when reheating because the sauce was too thick. It’s a good sauce – though next time I’d add less salt as I felt it was too salty for me. I’d also use thinner spaghetti because I think that actually works better with a sauce like this.
Always welcome making changes to your taste & liking! Glad you enjoyed!
I made this recipe yesterday and I couldn’t agree with you more: This is the Best Bolognese recipe. Thank you. I made it following each of your steps and suggestions.
Thanks so much, Elizabeth! We’re really happy to hear the included tips & directions were helpful!!
Made this tonight for a small group. Followed the recipe exactly. It was fantastic. Everybody loved it. Definitely bookmarking.
Thanks April! It is definitely a recipe that is meant to be shared 🙂 so glad you & your friends loved it!
The recipe says to tie up the fresh herbs or cut them very small. If I choose to tie them, do I remove them when the sauce is done cooking? Do I remove the bay leaves too?
Hi Kim! Yes, you can remove the tied herbs & bay leaves prior to tossing with the pasta & serving! Hope this helps! 💜
This was so wonderful! It knocked my socks off. I used the sauce to make baked ziti. I couldn’t stop tasting it, just plain! The only changes I made was that I left out the pancetta – I don’t care for smoky flavor. I will make it again and again!
Oooh your baked ziti sounds delicious! What a great use of the sauce – so so glad you loved it! Thank you for taking the time to share with us!
I made this recipe and it turned out amazing!! This is an excellent bolognese sauce. Usually I tried different types and not that happy but I must say this will be now the one to go every time I make bolognese. Thank you for sharing this!
Hi Gabriela! So glad this recipe can be a new go-to for you – it means so much! Thank you for sharing 💜
This was the first dish I cooked in our new home. Delicious! Everyone loved it!
Kayla! We LOVE that you were able to break in your new kitchen with the PWWB Best-Ever Bolognese 🙂 Glad you enjoyed & good luck getting settled into your new place (I’m sure the cozy pasta helped!).
This was the best bolognese recipe & will be a new favorite! I didn’t have bay leaves, pancetta, or the parm rind (just parm) and it was still delicious. Even better the next day; Thank you!
Hi Emily! Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment, so appreciated & so glad to hear that you enjoyed the recipe! & yes the flavors totally continue to meld as its stored in the fridge making the best leftovers!!
This is the best meat sauce I’ve ever tasted. You cannot go wrong with this. Worth all the time and effort. Even my picky toddler who refuses tomato based sauces inhaled it and asked for more. Be sure to make Jess’ homemade pasta to go along with this beautiful sauce.
Oh my goodness! I’m speechless! My kids were raving the entire time I was preparing this dish. It started with the carrots, celery and onions! My son, the picky one, walked in the door after work and EXCLAIMED, “Whoa! Mom, what smells so amazing?!” I’m always cooking but never this! Every single bite was another “Mmm, mom, this is so delicious!” Keeper for sure and follow it to a tee!!
Isn’t it the BEST smell?! Nothing beats a slowly simmered sauce! The PWWB team is thrilled you & your family enjoyed! Thanks so much Leilani!
Followed with some mods;
1) My much-loved meat sauce which I found out is decidely not bolognese always got its special punch from smashing the garlic in a plate of olive oil which allowed it to diffuse in the sauce. So did that and added to the pancetta
2) Even though used 2.25 lbs of meat no way this could hande as much liquid as descirbed here. Deglazed with 1.5 cups red wine, added maybe 5 ounce of stock, 3oz od crushed tomatoes (in addition to the charred tomato paste), 1/3 cup heavy cream 1/3 cup of milk.
Cooking down as we speak smells amazing, if I need to add more liquid I will. Saving some cream and parm for the end.
Serving with table-side made ceasar salad and garlic crostine with melted brie, drizzled honey and prosciutto. Ending with Creme Brulle. Enjoing my simmer time glass of wine will report back. Thank you!
I liked this much better than the recipes that eschew garlic and spices. As per my above comment I left out most of the liquid; used 3 or 4 oz of chicken stock vs 2 cups and same for crushed tomatoes vs 28oz. Cooked low and slow, added a splash of heavy cream and a handful of parmesan cheese vs 1/2 cup. Came out beautifully I think, very meat centric vs sauce centric as I imagine it should have, the meat itself was delicious and infused with flavor. One thing I did do that worked great was to add heavy cream (2 tbs per lb) to the raw meat and let it marinate for 4 hours.
LOVE this bolognese. Have also made your other quicker one and both are so delish. We used dairy-free heavy cream and it worked out well.
This is so delicious. I don’t eat pork so I used a mixture of ground chuck and ground chicken . I browned the veggies in butter and olive oil. I used the chicken stock and a Merlot. It was absolutely divine. My first attempt at bolognese, but won’t be my last. Very easy to
Follow instructions. Thank you for a fantastic sauce!
So glad to hear you could make it your own Valerie! Thank you so much for sharing!!
This looks absolutely delicious. Is there a substitute I could use for the cream? Without one I’m afraid I’ll have to skip it and that would be a shame!
Hi Kay! We’ve never tested it with an alternative. If you’d like to omit due to lactose you could just leave out & add Parmigiano Reggiano (as it is naturally lactose free!) otherwise you could test using your favorite dairy-free cream alternative if you’d like but please note it could change the flavor!
Best bolognese recipe by far. Thank You
Hi Barbara! Thanks for the comment, it means so much! We are thrilled to hear that you love it too!
Thanks for sharing such a great recipe and process. I didnt have a lot of items on hand and had to wing it, but its still wonderful. I look forward to making this again and again with variations. Some of the things i changed due to ingredients on hands was squash instead of celery, less carrots, bell peppers in sofrita. Only had ground beef. Shallots with the onion. Bacon. Beef stock that i made last year. Garden tomato sauce instead of crushed. Vermouth, wish i had the red on hand. Goat cheese instead of cream.
Fortunately it was still amazing. Your directions are great. I tend to be very loose with measurements, if at all. Keeps the family on their toes.
Again, this recipe is fabulous.
Hi Brian! Thanks so much for sharing – so glad you enjoyed & found the process directions helpful! Always fun to experiment in the kitchen with what you have on hand!
Great flavor. Everyone loved it. Because of my refrigerator I had to use beef,pork and smoked ribs. And because of my pantry I had to use orecchietta.
Out standing, worth the 90 minutes .
Thanks for sharing Michael! So glad it was a hit!
Left over sauce never gets cream added per instructions? I’m assuming that’s a mistake right?
Hi Jason! In step #8, outlined in the recipe card we state finish the bolognese sauce: Stir in the heavy cream and grated parmesan. Taste and season with additional kosher salt and ground black pepper, as desired. At this point you can cool & store for later use or serve immediately with pasta. That way, any leftover sauce you want to store will already have the cream added – hope that helps clear things up!
I just impatiently sat working all day while this simmered away on the stove for a friend who just had a baby. It’s perfection! Wish I was keeping some for myself but I’ll definitely be making again soon!
This recipe is absolutely FABULOUS. I followed the recipe and ingredients exactly as directed, and it turned out just so amazing. I wouldn’t change a thing. Thank you so much for sharing. I can’t wait to make this sauce again and again. Bravo!
I am SO glad you enjoyed my bolognese, Jaime!!! Thanks so much for the comment. xx
Alright, look no further, y’all. You have found the holy grail of bolognese. Take a Sunday afternoon and pop this in your Dutch oven to simmer away. Your kitchen will smell incredible. Loooooved the fresh herbs, especially the rosemary. A++++++++
Ah, Christine! I’m so, so, SO glad you enjoyed my bolognese recipe. I think it’s the holy grail too. =) Thank you for dropping a comment! Jess
Decided to make a fancy feeling homemade dinner for my birthday tonight. My husband made homemade pasta and I did the bolognese. I used a merlot. Used bacon in place of pancetta since my husband wasn’t able to find it at the store. But didn’t change anything else. He said this just knocked my homemade vodka sauce out of 1st place for his favorite thing I make – that sauce has held it’s place for close to 15 years!! So delicious and I can’t wait to make again!
This sounds like such a lovely birthday dinner! So so glad to hear that you enjoyed, thank you for sharing!!!
This sounds amazing. Question however; I usually replace any chicken/beef stock with home-made one beef stock I make with marrow bones and some red or white wine slow cooked for a couple of days. Would that overpower this? On the surface seems like it would be a great substitution but just curious on your thoughts…
Hi Michael! Without testing it, it is hard to say but it does sound like your homemade stock would be a wonderful addition! 🙂 If you end up giving it a try, be sure to let us know how it goes!
This recipe is so easy to follow with the photo instructions and absolutely delicious. My hubby and I aren’t big pork eaters but are IN LOVE with it. We have added it to our family cookbook! Thank you so much for sharing it.
Hey Brittanni! What an honor to have this PWWB recipe added to your family cookbook – it means so much to our team & we’re so glad to hear that you & your husband love it as much as we do!
Hello! I plan to try this recipe and have a question on your Instant Pot instructions. Do you recommend adding the heavy cream and parmesan before or after the 35 mins high pressure cooking time? The recipe as written makes it seem like we should add them before, but in the standard recipe, you would add them after the sauce has cooked for 90 minutes. Thanks in advance for your help. Can’t wait to make this!
Hey Susanna! Can’t wait for you to try it out, I think you’ll love it! You will add the cream & parmesan into the sauce after it has pressure cooked – you’ll want to begin the 35 minute pressure cook after Step 6. If the sauce is liquidy after pressure cooking, use the saute setting to cook some of the liquid off (this is a personal preference type of thing), then continue the recipe with Steps 8-11. Let me know if this helps!
Hi Jess, Thanks for this recipe and the quick response to my question! I made this tonight in the pressure cooker and it was FAB. I did reduce the chicken brother to 1-1/2 cups since excess liquid won’t be evaporating while cooking in Instant Pot, and I added 1 tbsp of dried oregano, 1 tsp each of dried marjoram and thyme, and a few dashes of red pepper flakes. I still had to reduce the sauce a little after cooking time, before I added the cheese and cream. This is the best bolognese recipe I’ve tried. THANKS AGAIN!
Jess is not hyperbolizing when she calls this “best ever bolognese.” It is UNREAL!!!!! It’s not a quick recipe, but it’s pretty simple and easy to make. The end result is worth ever second of your time (which is honestly mostly just letting the sauce simmer). I can’t wait to make this again. Thank you PWWB!!!
Lindsey, thank you so much for the bolognese love! 💜 We are so so glad you enjoyed this recipe & agree it is well worth the time & effort!
I made this last night and it was really delicious. I didn’t have pancetta so I used 4 pieces of bacon. Also used dry herbs since I didn’t have any fresh on hand. Next time I will try with fresh herbs. I bet it is even better with fresh herbs.
Amanda, I’m so glad you enjoyed your bolognese! Bacon is the perfect swap for pancetta. Would love to know if you notice a difference using fresh herbs next time! xx
So I made this months ago and loved it. I just found a container in my freezer and had kind of forgotten how good it was. WOW, even from the freezer after months this recipe was incredible. I just added a bit of pasta water to thin it out on reheating. Highly recommend, fresh or frozen!
I’ve made this recipe three times now and it is definitely 5 stars!! I have family recipes for almost everything but bolognese. This one is going to be the one. Thanks!
Seriously makes my day to hear this, Tracy! It’s truly the best, & I’m so glad you love it. If you ever want to switch it up a little bit, check out this pork ragu or this lamb ragu which are similar in preparation to this bolognese recipe, but offer a little versatility when you want to work with a different protein. Thanks so much for dropping a comment, I really appreciate it! xx
Where did you get your wooden spoon
The wooden spoon used in these photos was originally purchased at Sur La Table a few years back but has since been discontinued there. If you are looking for a similar braided wooden spoon we have an affiliate link for a set at West Elm here or you could try searching Etsy for a braided or spiral wooden spoon!
The best bolognese sauce I have ever tried! Thanks!
Awesome, I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Emma!
I am planning on making this tomorrow however I want to simmer it for roughly 4 hours so the flavours really blend, would you make any amendments due to this? Also I was thinking about adding the cream and parmesan about an hour before it has finished simmering, will this cause a problem?
Hi Jack. So excited you’re making my bolognese – you’re in for a treat! =) To simmer for 4 hours, you’ll definitely want to just keep an eye on the overall level of liquid in the pot to avoid burning. Since I’ve never tested with a 4 hour timeframe, I can’t say with certainty, but I think you’ll likely end up nearly doubling the amount of stock/water called for in the recipe. Rather than adding it in all at once, I’d add it in little by little as needed as the sauce simmers. You should be okay to add the cream & parmesan as planned – be sure to use high-quality, fresh heavy cream to avoid curdling. Good luck – keep me posted!
By my own standard, I shouldn’t be rating this a five star recipe just yet, as I haven’t even cooked it!
However, as I read through this recipe, I am awestruck by how lovingly the quality ingredients, the clear step-by-step instructions, the footnotes and the mouthwatering photos are presented.
I’m impressed! It’s clear that you know what you’re talking about, have tried this out and made many modifications in search for a perfect balance of rich flavours.
You’ve sparked some enthusiasm in me to go out and get the ingredients and start cooking!!
You’re too kind, Cheryl! Thanks so much. Lots of love goes into developing recipes & sharing them. Please let me know if you give it a try!
Planning on making this today, for the celery, how much is a stalk? 1 piece or the bunch?
Hey Deano – Just 1 piece, not the whole bunch. Hope you enjoy, be sure to let me know how it goes!
If freezing, do you stop at step 7? If so when should you add the cream and parm?
Hi Blake! I typically cook through Step 8, then cool & freeze. If you’d prefer to omit cream/parm before freezing, cook through Step 7, then cool & freeze. Thaw out the bolognese & proceed with steps 8-11 to finish the sauce & serve. Let me know if this helps!
This is a fantastic bolognese recipe! Thank you so much! Am looking forward to trying your other recipes.
So glad you loved it as much as we do!! Thanks for dropping the kind comment. =)
Grand Slam Bolognese!
One of the Best Pasta Sauces I’ve Ever Made!!
Thank you, PWWB!!!
Here’s a brief list of what I did differently:
Used Buffalo Meat (80:20, lean:fat),
More Garlic, More Veggies, More Herbs;
Added Butter to Pestata/Soffrito Mixture;
Just a Tad More Wine, Cream, and Parmesan,
And Just A Little More Time
I just made this on Sunday very closely to what’s described here, with the following modifications:
1. I used 2 lbs ground bison, aka “buffalo” (instead of 1 lb. of ground beef and 1 lb. of ground pork), in addition to the pancetta as per the recipe.
2. I used roughly double the garlic for the pestata (because the day I put “too much garlic” in anything is the day I’ll hang up my apron).
3. I also added some imported Finnish butter (2-3 oz) when cooking the pestata to accomodate the next modification on this list: more veggies
4. To give more body (and to get more sauce), I roughly doubled the overall quantity of mirepoix/soffrito: I used a whole pound of carrots (instead of just two large carrots), two celery stalks (instead of one), and about 80-85% of a very massively large onion (note: I finely chopped the whole thing, which was probably more than 1.5 times the size of a “large onion”, but I wanted to avoid the “too much onions in the sauce” effect, so I used a little more than a normal large onion’s worth, but not the whole thing, and not even close to double a large onion).
5. I used fresh oregano instead of fresh thyme, along with the fresh rosemary as in the recipe. (note: I love fresh herbs, but a quality dried thyme is better to cook with than fresh thyme in my experience).
6. Along with the above fresh herbs, I added:
(a) a generous helping of nice, organic “Italian Seasoning” dried herbs: marjoram, thyme, basil, oregano, sage, rosemary, parsley…
(b) four bay leaves (instead of two), and
(c) 4-5 whole “bruised” garlic cloves (yes, even more garlic, and those bruised cloves are the tastiest things to melt in your mouth when eaten!).
6. I was generous with the red wine (a full cup and then a splash more…before I drank the rest!), and also with the finishing organic cream (also a little more than the recipe calls for), and the grated parmesan (at least 3/4 cup instead of 1/2 cup).
7. Due to the increased quantity, some steps naturally required longer than the times suggeted in the recipe, especially the mirepoix (soffrito) browning and the long simmer (went 10-15 minutes longer than the prescribed 90 minutes so the sauce would keep reducing until nice and thick…I did have more vegetables, after all, so more liquid to reduce).
In the end, it came out looking, smelling and tasting like heaven, so rich and flavorful, and with a few more servings’ worth of sauce, thanks to the extra veggies!
Wow, Eba, all of your personal touches sound absolutely amazing. I bet bison is so good in the sauce; it’s one of my favorite animal proteins, too! So glad you enjoyed…enjoy those leftovers!!! =)
THIS RECIPE IS EVERYTHING. Obsessed with it and make it at least every two weeks. I tell everyone it’s a must try. 🙂
Thanks Maggie!! That means so much!
At first I was intimidated by the ingredient list and time needed for this but I’m so glad I decided to make it anyways! It ended up being SO easy and like the recipe says was so worth it to take the time. I did it on the stovetop but I might try instant pot next time just for a week day meal because my family loved it!! Worked out amazing!
Angela! This comment 100% totally, completely made my day. =) I am SO glad you loved this bolognese recipe, & couldn’t agree more: it’s a little time-intensive, but the process is beyond easy. Please report back when you try it in the Instant Pot – I’d love to hear how it goes!!!
this is really the BEST ever bolognese. I made it last night and my husband and I couldn’t get over how good it was. I’ve sent this recipe to everyone I know, saying MAKE THIS NOW!
Melissa! This comment 100% made my day. Thank you so much for trying my bolognese, & for sharing with everyone you know! =) I am SO thrilled you enjoyed it just as much as we do! =)