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Bolognese sauce tossed into bucatini noodles, served in a pink pasta bowl with gold flatware. The pasta bolognese is topped with grated cheese, chopped parsley, & crushed red pepper flakes.

Best-Ever Bolognese

  • Author: Jess Larson | Plays Well With Butter
  • 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

Description

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. 

 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 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
  • 34 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1012 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.

Instructions

  1. Prep: Grab your food processor & prep the…
    1. 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. finely chopped soffritto in food processor bowl.
    2. 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. Pestata (finely chopped pancetta & garlic) in food processor bowl.
  2. 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. Rendered pestata in a large pot.
  3. 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. Browning soffritto in pestata renderings in a large pot.
  4. 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. Adding beef & pork to the pot with the browned soffritto/pestata mixture for homemade bolognese sauce.
  5. 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. 
  6. 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.Adding aromatics (fresh herbs, bay leaves) & tomatoes to the pot.
  7. 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. Simmered bolognese sauce in a large black pot.
  8. 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).Finishing the bolognese sauce recipe with parmesan & heavy cream.
  9. 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!
  10. 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.
  11. 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!

Notes

  • 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

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A side angle shot of pasta tossed in San Marzano tomato sauce that is plated on a creamy white speckled plate. The pasta has been garnished with parmesan cheese and fresh chopped basil. The plate sits atop a creamy white surface with a light blue linen napkin tucked underneath the plate. A set of silverware rests alongside the plate and a few loose basil leaves and a small wooden pinch bowl filled with parmesan cheese rest just above the plate.