This spaghetti bolognese is an easier version of the classic Italian pasta dish! A thick homemade meat sauce is simmered with tomatoes, onion and savory herbs then served over spaghetti for a hearty meal!
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The Best Spaghetti Bolognese
This spaghetti bolognese is a classic Italian recipe with so much flavor. It’s simple to make and tastes just like the one you’d order from a fancy Italian restaurant. It’s one of my favorite easy pasta recipes, as well as spaghetti and meatballs and lasagna.
The best part about this bolognese sauce recipe is that it’s made in one pot and ready in under an hour. Cook the homemade sauce even longer, though, and it will become even more flavorful. Serve over cooked pasta with a piece of homemade garlic bread. Yum!
Difference Between Bolognese Sauce and Spaghetti Sauce
Although there are some similarities between bolognese and spaghetti sauce, a classic Italian bolognese sauce is made with a meat base and includes tomatoes, dairy, red wine and spices. It’s hearty and simmers longer for best flavor development.
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 sauce.
Though it may seem like a lot of ingredients, it comes together so quickly and takes very little prep work to make this unbeatable spaghetti bolognese sauce.
Find the full printable recipe with specific measurements below.
- Sweet onion: I use sweet because I like how it works with the tomato sauce.
- Garlic: You can’t really make bolognese sauce without this important ingredient.
- Meat: I like to use a mixture of ground beef and ground pork to add more flavor to the spaghetti bolognese sauce.
- Seasoning: The perfect balance of flavor begins with salt, pepper, dried basil, dried oregano, and red pepper flakes.
- Brown sugar: This is my secret ingredient that helps bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes.
- Half-and-half: This adds a richness and creaminess to the spaghetti bolognese. Heavy cream or milk can be used instead.
- Parmesan: Use finely shredded fresh Parmesan will taste and melt into the sauce best.
- Dry red wine: This gives the sauce a complexity and balances all of the other flavors.
- Fire-roasted diced tomatoes: These cook down beautifully to give the velvety sauce a little extra texture.
- Crushed tomatoes: I like to use really good canned tomatoes that will only elevate the sauce.
- Tomato paste: This is added to really give the meaty bolognese sauce an extra depth of tomato flavor.
Substitutions and Variations
- Meat: I love the combination of ground beef and ground pork, but you could use a blend of beef, pork and veal if you would like. Sometimes pancetta is added to the sauce as well.
- Without wine: A traditional bolognese sauce usually includes red wine, however I have used pomegranate juice or grape juice for a non-alcoholic substitute. It’s acidic and has a similar aroma, so it still works great.
- Herbs. Fresh thyme and bay leaves are popular seasonings to add to the sauce.
- Worcestershire sauce. For a little zing to the bolognese sauce, add 1-2 Tablespoons of worcestershire sauce.
- Slow cooker: Easily make a spaghetti bolognese sauce recipe in the slow cooker. Brown meat and onions in a pan on the stove first, then add to slow cooker with remaining ingredients. Cook sauce on low all day, then serve the bolognese sauce over spaghetti.
How to Make Spaghetti Bolognese
It only takes 4 simple steps to make an outstanding spaghetti bolognese sauce for any night of the week.
- Cook. Melt butter over medium-low heat in large pot. Add onion with pinch of salt and cook until translucent. Stir in garlic.
- Brown the meat. Turn heat to medium then add the meat. Remove any excess grease. Using a wooden spoon, stir 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 (spaghetti is our favorite but tagliatelle is great, too). Enjoy!
- Simmer time. While this quick and easy bolognese is ready in 45 minutes, the longer it simmers the better the flavors meld together for an amazing sauce. You can even simmer it for hours on low heat if you have time!
- Thickening the sauce. The longer spaghetti bolognese sauce simmers, the thicker it will be. If you are short on time, try adding in a teaspoon or two of tomato paste, as a thickening agent. Also, be sure to drain any excess grease from the meats to remove extra liquid.
- Thinning the sauce: Reserve some pasta water when draining the pasta to thin out the consistency of the sauce.
- Dairy component. A dairy component is typically always included in bolognese. The dairy helps to give the bolognese recipe a silkier consistency and keeps the meat tender.
- Serving. A simple green salad and garlic bread are favorites!
I make my spaghetti bolognese sauce recipe with a mixture of ground beef and pork, tomato pasta, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, dried herbs, garlic, onion, half-and-half, parmesan, and a little brown sugar to balance the sweetness of the tomatoes. Pancetta is traditional in some bolognese, but I find I don’t need it with all the other meat.
The main difference between the two is a homemade bolognese sauce is creamy thanks to the addition of half-and-half or milk.
Of course! You can add celery, carrot, or fresh san marzano tomatoes, if you’d like to make the bolognese sauce a bit heartier.
Our favorite pasta to serve with bolognese sauce is classic spaghetti noodles, it is spaghetti bolognese after all. Sometimes I’ll use spaghetti squash and make a stuffed spaghetti squash boat. Feel free to serve over other types of pasta, like penne, rigatoni, macaroni or pappardelle.
Storing and Freezing Leftovers
This easy spaghetti bolognese sauce recipe makes a lot, so it’s great to make ahead or even freeze half for another time.
- Store: Cool sauce then store separately from spaghetti pasta in an airtight container for up to three days.
- Freeze: Place the leftover sauce in a zip-top bag or airtight container and then let it cool. Press flat and then store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Thaw: When ready to eat, thaw overnight in the fridge and then reheat on low on the stove top or in the slow cooker. Serve over spaghetti, it’s perfect for a busy night!
More Italian Sauce Recipes
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup diced sweet onion
- 1 ½ teaspoons + pinch Kosher salt , or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork , or pork Italian sausage
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
- 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
- ½ cup half-and-half , or heavy cream
- 1 cup dry red wine , grape or pomegranate juice
- 1 (14-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup tomato paste
- ⅓ cup finely grated parmesan
For serving: Pasta
- In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Stir in the onion and a pinch salt. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
- Increase the heat to medium and add the beef and pork. Break up the meat and cook until lightly browned. Drain any excess grease (I like to use a paper towel to absorb any excess). Add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, pepper, basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook 1 minute more.
- Stir in the brown sugar, half-and-half, wine, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and tomato paste. Simmer 10 minutes. Stir in the parmesan cheese. Cover and simmer an additional 20 to 45 minutes, or until thickened and flavorful. Season to taste.
- Serve over your favorite pasta.
Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.
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