Classic bolognese sauce flavored with fresh herbs and garlic. This family favorite is simple and always delicious served with pasta.
Table of Contents
- Ground beef/beef mince.
- Ground pork/pork mince.
- Soffrito: Onion, celery and carrot.
- Aromatics: Fresh garlic cloves, bay leaves, fresh thyme (other fresh herbs like rosemary and parsley will also be delicious).
- Beef broth/beef stock.
- Canned tomatoes.
- Salt, black pepper and sugar.
- Cream/milk. Use whole milk or heavy cream.
How to make bolognese sauce
- Build the flavor base: I like using a combination of ground beef (beef mince) and ground pork (pork mince). Using two kinds of meat means more flavor. You can also use ground lamb, Italian sausage, veal and even bacon or pancetta to boost the flavor. Brown the meat well in a large pot set over high heat. I do this in batches to allow the meat to build up good color. This also builds a fond at the bottom of the pot which will add so much depth to the finished sauce. Remove the browned meat from the pot and set aside. Add chopped carrots, celery and onion along with the fresh herbs. I like using bay leaves and thyme but rosemary is also a great addition. Allow the vegetables to saute until golden brown. The longer you let the vegetables saute, the deeper the flavor will be of the finished bolognese sauce. Scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.
- Make the sauce: Add the meat back into the pot then add the tomatoes, beef stock, sugar, salt and pepper. If you want even more flavor, you can use marinara sauce instead of tomatoes. I like using crushed or strained tomatoes. You can use chopped tomatoes too but I prefer the sauciness of the strained/crushed tomatoes so I would add a few tablespoons of tomato paste if using chopped tomatoes.
- Low and slow: For the most delicious Bolognese, I always recommend cooking it low and slow. Allowing the sauce to simmer gently for an hour ensures a super rich and meaty sauce. All the flavors blend together and the sauce is just always better. You can cook it a little faster for 30 minutes and the sauce will still be good, though! Using sugar balances out the acidity of the tomatoes but can be left out if you prefer. Another option that I always do is to stir in half a cup of heavy/whipping cream into the sauce 10 minutes before its done. This adds such lusciousness to the sauce. If you want to keep it dairy-free, it’s completely fine to omit the cream.
- Serve: There is no better spaghetti sauce than bolognese. It’s a family favorite for a reason. Serve over cooked pasta of your choice and serve with basil leaves and grated Parmesan.
Making ahead and freezing
Allow the cooked sauce to cool to room temperature. Transfer the sauce to freezer safe containers or bags and freeze for up to 3 months. I like to portion out a few cups into each container to make for easier thawing. I also know that we usually use around 3 cups of bolognese with pasta so it makes sense to portion it out that way. Thaw the bolognese in the fridge overnight then transfer to a small saucepan and heat until bubbling.
Bolognese sauce will last for 2-3 days in the fridge in airtight containers.
What can I do with bolognese sauce
Bolognese is perfect served with al dente pasta topped with Parmesan cheese for a simple family dinner. I like spaghetti or pappardelle but tagliatelle and fettuccine are delicious too. Remember to reserve a ladle of pasta water and add to the sauce as you toss it with the cooked pasta. This bolognese recipe is also great used in dishes like lasagna, in pasta bakes or simply served on crusty toast topped with plenty of cheese.
Starting with a soffrito builds a lot of flavor into the base of your bolognese sauce. Aromatics like garlic and herbs are also crucial for a delicious bolognese.
Milk or cream is added to bolognese for two reasons. The dairy adds rich, silkiness to the sauce but the lactic acid also helps to tenderize the meat, creating a melt-in-your-mouth meat sauce. This is the secret to the best Bolognese sauce.
By simmering the sauce for a long time, the liquid will reduce and the sauce will thicken naturally. There’s no need to add thickeners like cornstarch or flour to Bolognese.
Pasta sauce recipes
- 500 g (1lb) beef mince / ground beef
- 500 g (1lb) pork mince / ground pork
- 1 large onion finely chopped (approx 1 cup)
- 2 carrots peeled and finely chopped/grated (1 cup)
- 2 celery ribs finely chopped (½ cup)
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 garlic cloves crushed
- 1½ cup beef stock
- 28 oz (800g) strained / crushed tomatoes
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1-2 tsp salt to taste
- 1 tsp black pepper
- ½ cup heavy / whipping cream
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add the meat in batches and brown well. Remove from the pot and set aside.
- In the same pot, add the onion, carrot, celery and fresh herbs. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occassionally, until they are golden brown and starting to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Add the meat back into the pot with the stock, tomatoes, sugar, a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
- Partially cover with a lid and reduce the heat. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occassionally, until the sauce is rich and slightly reduced. Stir in the cream and cook for another 30-45 minutes.
- Adjust seasoning and serve.