This is a staple pasta sauce that everyone should have up their sleeve. Simple ingredients married perfectly and simmered to perfection to create a rich and luscious bolognese. Serve it with any pasta shape you like and just imagine it as the base of a lasagne. You will love this bolognese sauce I promise, it's insanely good and hands down one of my best sauces.
Best Bolognese sauce
This has been on my mind to create for so long, on the back of the popularity of my white pork ragu. I wanted to create a similar method but with ground meat, which is so much more accessible. The ingredients are otherwise the same except for the addition of tomato paste for some added depth.
There is debate around any Italian recipe but the traditional version does contain milk and white wine like I have used. It might seem really foreign to you to make a bolognese without any whole tomatoes or tomato puree but the tomato paste does enough here. You won't go back, it has SO much flavor. Yes, the cooking time is long but don't let it put you off, it's mostly hands off! This seriously is so delicious, please give it a try!
Ingredients for the best bolognese sauce
Ground pork and beef - It's very traditional for a bolognese to be a split of beef and pork. The pork adds flavour but also fat which is a vital ingredient to any meat sauce! You could definitely use all beef if you would prefer.
Pancetta - I use the thick slabs of pancetta and then chop into small pieces. You could substitute with bacon but it won't have quite the same flavour.
Soffritto - This is the onion, carrot and celery mixture and is the base of any good sauce! I like to chop them really fine in a food processor.
White wine - Traditionally a bolognese is made with white wine and milk, not red wine. I prefer the flavour white wine brings to a sauce. Red wine isn't an option to sub in my opinion.
Chicken broth - The same as in my white pork ragu, chicken broth is my preferred option here.
Lemon - If you have made any of my recipes you know that I love adding lemon at the end of my sauces. It adds such a fresh note and just lightens it up. If you haven't ever added lemon zest to the top of a meat sauce, please give it a try, it's magic!
How to make my bolognese sauce recipe
The full method and ingredient list is in the recipe card below.
- Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the ground meat. Don't worry too much about breaking it all up I prefer to leave it alone to get some good colour on it. It doesn't need to be cooked all the way through.
- When it has some nice colour on it, but still some pink in the middle, set aside.
- Heat the other 1 tbsp of olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan/casserole dish over medium heat and fry the pancetta for 10 minutes until nicely browned. Lift out with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat behind.
- Add the onion, celery, carrot mixture and a good pinch of salt and pepper and gently fry until soft, about 10 mins. Lower heat if it starts to brown and add more oil if it dries out too much.
- After 5 minutes add the garlic and herbs and continue cooking.
- Add the ground meat and pancetta and mix the tomato paste through.
- Cook the tomato paste off for 5 minutes, breaking up the meat really well with a wooden spoon.
- Add the wine and let it cook off, reducing for 5 - 6 mins and scraping any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. The meat should be completely broken up at this stage.
- Add the stock and milk and bring to a simmer.
- Taste the liquid for seasoning and add a good pinch of salt and pepper if it needs.
- Lower the heat right down and cook uncovered for a couple of hours or up to three. It should barely be bubbling. Stir it occasionally.
- It's ready when the liquid is mostly reduced and it tastes rich and delicious!
- Add the lemon juice and cream if serving straight away. Leave the cream out if not using straight away and add it when you reheat.
- Serve with plenty of parmesan cheese and some lemon zest on top.
Tips for making the sauce
- Prepare all your ingredients before you start to cook. I like to chop my ingredients and have everything in separate bowls all ready to go. It makes the cooking process so much easier and cleaner.
- When you leave it alone to simmer it should be on a really low heat. It should be so low that it doesn't even look like a simmer just the odd gentle bubble. This is a slow cooked meat sauce so having a low heat is key.
- I always say that any meat sauce like this should be made the day before. Flavours develop so well with time so make it the day before if you can. You'll notice when you pull it out of the fridge it would have solidified. It softens up when gently heated, and that is why I also add a touch of cream when reheating plus a splash of pasta water is always welcome.
- I always add the cooked pasta directly to the sauce and let it gently bubble away for a minute or two. This helps to coat the pasta in the sauce and can help thicken up loose sauces too. NEVER serve pasta naked with the sauce on top! This is why I often undercook my dry pasta by a minute so it remains al dente after bubbling away in the sauce for a minute or two.
What is the best pasta to use for bolognese?
There are so many rules in Italian cooking and I can sometimes be guilty of ignoring them! Obviously Spaghetti Bolognese is what we all know, so any dried spaghetti will work perfectly. For my best bolognese sauce I have used my homemade orecchiette and also a dried spaghetti too. Use any type of pasta you fancy! If you feel like making some fresh pasta then make sure you check out my homemade pasta dough. My pappardelle pasta or hand rolled gnocchi sardi would be perfect, or a dried rigatoni shape - anything!
Now you can make Lasagne Bolognese
Now you have made the absolute best bolognese sauce you have the perfect base for a lasagne! I'm sure the first time you make it you'll want to eat as is but the next time please consider making my Lasagne Bolognese. It's a bit of work I'll admit but it's sensational.
I know it seems strange but this is actually the traditional method and I PROMISE you, it's amazing, you have to trust me! Please don't add canned tomatoes or passata to this recipe.
I use a Dutch Oven for all my slow cooking. They are generally made of cast iron and are perfect for these kinds of sauces. A super versatile thing to have in your kitchen.
Cooking low and slow just makes all the difference to the flavour developing. It's mostly hands off you just need to stir very occasionally so it's not strenuous. You could cook it in a slow cooker too.
Absolutely! This makes a big batch and meat sauces freeze so well! Let it cool completely then transfer any leftover sauce to an airtight container. It will last up to three months. I like freezing a really small portion in a seperate container to use for ravioli fillings.
If you refrigerate any meat sauce like this it will solidify slightly. That is totally normal and it will liquify when reheated. Gently reheat on the stove top and you can add a splash of pasta water if it seems dry.
Want some other sauces to try?
If you loved my best bolognese sauce and haven't tried my white pork ragu then add it to the top of your list, it will become a go-to recipe! Maybe you need something quick and easy after this one though?! Check out my favourite cacio e pepe with olives and basil or my very popular creamy tomato pasta sauce.
Made this recipe and loved it?
I would love love LOVE if you could leave me a review down below and let me know what you thought! I love to hear any changes or adaptions you have made too. Also if you put a photo on instagram, please tag me so I can see, it makes my day!Print