Hands down the BEST homemade bolognese sauce ever! The flavors are unreal and taste so authentic. It will soon become your new go to sauce for pasta night!
This dish is an Italian classic that has SO much flavor. It’s simple to make and tastes just like the bolognese you’d order from a fancy Italian restaurant. It’s one of my favorite pasta dishes, as well as spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna and creamy rigatoni.
This spaghetti bolognese is what dreams are made of. Seriously! Take one bite and you’ll think you are dining in an authentic restaurant in Italy. It tastes so amazing that I had one bowl and had to go back for another. I could have eaten it all on it’s own.
The best part about this recipe is that it’s made in one pot. The longer it cooks, the more flavor that comes out. So much flavor! I’m telling you, you have to make this homemade version. So much better than the canned stuff. Serve over your favorite cooked pasta with a piece of homemade garlic bread. YUM!
Difference between bolognese sauce and spaghetti sauce
Although there are some similarities between the two, a classic Italian bolognese sauce is typically made with a meat base and usually includes tomatoes, dairy (milk or half and half), red wine and spices. It’s hearty and simmers longer so that the flavors come out.
Spaghetti sauce is on the lighter side and comes together quickly. It’s typically made with tomatoes, oil, onions and spices and has a bright and acidic flavor. It doesn’t need to simmer as long as bolognese.
How to make bolognese sauce
Scroll down for the printable recipe and step-by-step video tutorial.
- COOK. Melt butter over medium-low heat in large pot. Add onion and garlic with pinch of salt and cook for 5 minutes, until translucent. Turn heat to medium then add the meat. Remove any excess grease. Add in pepper, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes and remaining teaspoon salt. Cook until meat has browned.
- SIMMER. Add in brown sugar, half and half, wine (or pomegranate juice), diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and parmesan. Stir and then simmer for 10 minutes. Cover and cook additional 20 minutes. S&P to taste.
- SERVE. Serve the sauce over your favorite pasta. Enjoy!
Slow cooker version
You can easily make this recipe in the slow cooker if preferred. Brown the meat and onions in a pan on the stove first, then add in your slow cooker with the remaining ingredients. Cook the sauce on low all day, then serve over your favorite pasta.
- Thickening the sauce. If you’re bolognese hasn’t reached your desired thickness, there are a few tricks that will help. One of the main things that makes a thicker sauce is the amount of time that you let it simmer. The longer it simmers, the thicker it will be. You could also try adding in a little more tomato paste, since it acts as a thickening agent. I’d add in a teaspoon or two at first, so that you don’t alter the taste too much. Also, be sure to drain any excess grease from the meats to remove extra liquid.
- Dairy component. A dairy component like milk, half and half or cream is typically always included in the sauce. I prefer to use half and half, however you can still use milk or cream. The dairy helps to give the bolognese a silkier consistency and keeps the meat tender.
- Wine substitute. A traditional bolognese usually includes red wine, however I used pomegranate juice for a non-alcoholic substitute. It’s acidic and has a similar aroma, so it still works great.
- Type of pasta. Our favorite pasta to serve over bolognese is classic spaghetti noodles. If I’m watching my carbs, sometimes I’ll serve over spaghetti squash and make a stuffed spaghetti squash boat for a healthier alternative. Feel free to serve over other types of pasta, like penne, rigatoni, macaroni or pappardelle.
This recipe makes a lot, so we always end up freezing half for another time. Simply place the leftover sauce in a zip top bag and then let it cool. Press flat and then store in the freezer for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then reheat on low on the stove top or in the slow cooker. Perfect for a busy night!
More Italian sauces for pasta:
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 1 sweet onion (diced, about 1 cup)
- 4 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork (or pork sausage)
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
- 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup half-and-half (can use milk)
- 1 cup dry red wine (I used pomegranate juice)
- 14 ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 1/3 cup finely grated parmesan
- In a large pot , melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt. Cook for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Increase the heat to medium and add the beef and pork. Remove any excess grease. Add in the remaining teaspoon of salt, pepper, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes. Cook until the meat is browned.
- Next add the brown sugar, half-and-half, wine (or pomegranate juice), diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and parmesan. Stir well and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes. Cover and cook an additional 20 minutes. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed.
- Serve over your favorite pasta.