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!
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Classic Bolognese Sauce
This dish is an Italian classic that has SO much flavor. It’s simple to make and tastes just like the bolognese sauce you’d order from a fancy Italian restaurant. It’s one of my favorite pasta dishes, as well as spaghetti and meatballs and lasagna. In fact, I love all easy pasta recipes.
This spaghetti bolognese sauce 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 bolognese sauce 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!
What is Bolognese Sauce?
Although there are some similarities between bolognese and spaghetti sauce, are that 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 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 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 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: The bolognese sauce gets super creamy and rich thanks to this.
- Parmesan: Use finely shredded to help it melt easier in the sauce. I like to grate mine fresh.
- Red wine , grape, or pomegranate juice: Any of these will work to give the sauce a complexity and balance all of the other flavors.
- Fire-roasted diced tomatoes: These cook down beautifully to give the 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 bolognese sauce an extra depth of tomato flavor.
Slow Cooker Version
You can easily make this bolognese sauce 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 the bolognese sauce over your favorite pasta.
How to Make Bolognese Sauce
It only takes 4 simple steps to make an outstanding 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 and tagliatelle are great options). Enjoy!
- Thickening the sauce. If the bolognese sauce 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 recipe a silkier consistency and keeps the meat tender.
- Wine substitute. A traditional bolognese sauce 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 sauce 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. Reserve some pasta water when draining the pasta to thin out the consistency of the sauce.
I make my 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 sauce, but I find I don’t need it with all the other meat.
The main difference between the two is bolognese sauce is a creamy sauce 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.
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.
This bolognese sauce recipe makes a lot, so we always reserve half by freezing for another time. Simply 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. When ready to eat, thaw overnight in the fridge 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 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 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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