Homemade Bolognese Sauce is the ultimate pasta sauce simmered with ground beef, carrots, onions, tomatoes, white wine, parmesan, and herbs.
Transport your kitchen to the Italian region of Bologna with this flavorful Bolognese that will fill your home with the most delicious aromas. This recipe was inspired by an icon of bringing Italian cuisine into American homes, the renowned Marcella Hazan, and while this version is an adapted one with alterations, the original one entered our recipe files over 15 years ago.
While a jar of spaghetti sauce is a lifesaver on busy weeknights, it can’t compare to all the amazing layers of flavor in this meat-based sauce. It takes a little time and love in the beginning of this Bolognese Sauce recipe but after you get it simmering, it’s mostly hands off until you are ready to serve over your favorite pasta.
This Homemade Bolognese recipe starts with the basics of sautéed onion, celery, and carrots and then adding seasoned ground beef. This rustic tomato sauce is all about quality ingredients. Use extra-virgin olive oil, Italian tomatoes, and ground beef with a good fat content. You don’t need an expensive white wine, but don’t use a cheap brand or cooking wine.
Using quality ingredients like Italian canned tomatoes doesn’t have to break the bank. The best brand of Italian tomatoes to use is San Marzano. It doesn’t cost much more than other brands but they taste so much better. Fresh grated parmesan cheese also makes a huge difference versus the crumbles you get in the green bottle.
This Homemade Bolognese Sauce is a great recipe to use in your favorite dishes like Ultimate Meat Lasagna and Baked Spaghetti. It’s such a hearty meat sauce, you could serve it over Roasted Broccoli or zucchini noodles for an easy low carb, gluten free Italian dinner. Use our guide below to make Perfect Spaghetti Bolognese.
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Variations on Bolognese Sauce
- Meat: Other ground meat you can use in this Bolognese recipe are Italian sausage, ground veal, and ground pork. If you use ground turkey add an extra tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté pancetta with your onion mixture for more flavor!
- Soffritto: Sauté 2 cloves minced garlic with onions, celery, and carrots to make your sauce base with a true Italian soffritto.
- Pasta: Serve this delicious meat sauce with any of your favorite pasta like tagliatelle, penne, rigatoni, or pappardelle.
- Wine: Use a moderately priced dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. For a richer ragù style sauce, use a red wine like Pinot Noir or Malbec.
- Spicy: Make a spicy Bolognese Sauce by adding red pepper flakes when you sauté the ground beef. Start with a ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes and add more to taste.
- Heavy Cream: Instead of whole milk, you can use heavy cream or half and half for a richer, heavier tomato sauce.
Perfect Spaghetti Bolognese
Prepare the Bolognese Sauce as usual. During the last 30 minutes of cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook 1 pound spaghetti to al dente. Drain and reserve ½ cup pasta water. Toss pasta with cooked sauce, adding pasta water as necessary, to fully coat pasta. Garnish with more parmesan cheese and thinly sliced fresh basil.
Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce
Follow the first 5 steps of the recipe below, sautéing onions, celery, carrots, beef, and reducing the wine and milk as usual. Add ground beef wine mixture to the slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. If the sauce is too thin, remove the lid and cook additional 30 minutes. Serve over pasta with more grated parmesan.
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How to Store Bolognese Sauce
- Serve: This Bolognese Sauce can be at room temperature for up to 2 hours before it should be cooled and stored.
- Store: Transfer cooled sauce to an airtight container or glass jar with a lid and refrigerate for 3-4 days.
- Freeze: Make sure there isn’t a big gap between the sauce and the lid of your sealed container so moisture doesn’t collect. Freeze Bolognese for 4-6 months and thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 yellow onion , minced
- 2 stalks celery , minced
- 1 carrot , minced
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef , (85/15)
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 cup whole milk
- 29 ounces canned diced tomatoes , do not drain
- 15 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Add olive oil to a large dutch oven on medium heat with the onions, celery and carrots.
- Cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and celery is softened.
- Add the ground beef, salt and pepper and break it apart as it cooks until it is well browned.
- Add in the nutmeg and white wine, stir well, and cook for 15-20 minutes until wine has mostly cooked off.
- Add in the whole milk, stir well, and cook for 15-20 minutes until the milk has mostly cooked off.
- Add in the diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and parmesan cheese, stirring well until well combined.
- Lower heat to a low simmer and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until sauce has reduced and thickened.