Pasta with Bolognese Sauce

What’s in a Sauce? A Bolognese Recipe

Our family favourite recipe for Bolognese Sauce. Printable recipe card included.

Bolognese Sauce

One of our favorite family meals is pasta with Bolognese or Ragù alla Bolognese – a delicious meat sauce from Bologna Italy. This rich sauce has many layers of flavour – beef, pork, bacon or pancetta and a wonderful “soffrito” mixture.

Bolognese should not be confused with one of our quick and easy family favorites – primarily consisting of ground beef, tomato sauce and pasta, which is always accompanied by garlic toast. Smile if you will, but around our table this simple fare always guarantees that seconds will be had by all. Many people refer to this as Bolognese sauce, but the authentic sauce has some key differences.


The thing about Bolognese is, there are as many recipes as there are kitchens.

To protect the cultural integrity of this sauce, city officials from Bologna, Italy felt it necessary to post their claim of the “Authentic” version on the city web page traced back to the 1700’s by chef Alberto Alvisi. The Link to the Bologna website and recipe is here!

His creation originates from Imola, a city west of Bologna and there are still many that debate the beginnings of this truly wonderful Bologna staple.

The following is a delicious version…….. “In The Style of Ragu alla Bolognese”:

A Printable Recipe Card from is available at the bottom of this post!

Bolognese Sauce Recipe “In The Style of Ragu alla Bolognese”

-A rich & simple classic

Total Time to prepare is about 2 hrs: Prep time 30 min., Cook time 90 min.


  • 3-4 strips of thick cut bacon about 1/3 lbs cut into cubes (or pancetta)
  • 1 rounded cup each chopped celery (3 stalks), carrot (about 3), red onion (1)
    • Should be uniform size in small cubes
Soffrito - One rounded cup each chopped carrots, celery and onion
One rounded cup each chopped carrots, celery and onion
  • 1.5lbs each lean ground pork and beef (can use veal for beef)
  • 2/3 cup (5.5oz tin) of tomato paste
  • 1 cup of tomato sauce (we use Molisana strained tomato sauce)
  • 1 1/2 cups/half a bottle of red wine (we use a good Cabernet)
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper & a generous amount of salt to taste

Note: This recipe will feed at least 10 people. We make the full recipe, create one night’s meal and freeze into three more portions and enjoy any day of the week in 20 minutes with homemade pasta – see link to our homemade pasta.

Bolognese Method

  • Lightly coat large sauce pot with olive oil and set to medium heat
  • Add bacon & pepper and cook until slightly crisp
  • Excess bacon oil may be strained but leave some in, see picture
  • Add celery, carrots and onion (This is the soffritto to deepen the flavor), occasionally stirring for roughly 8 to 10 minutes – do not caramelize
Soffrito - Add celery, carrots and onion
Soffrito – Add celery, carrots and onion
  • Add the tomato paste and allow to cook for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally
Add tomato paste to Soffrito
Add tomato paste
  • Add ground beef and pork. It is important to mince the meat into fine crumbs until cooked allowing excess water to cook off, about 15 minutes or so
Cook ground beef and pork
Cook ground beef and pork
Allow excess water to cook off
Allow excess water to cook off
  • Add red wine before Lillie drinks it all and allow to cook off for about 5 minutes
  • Add the tomato sauce and beef stock and bring to boil for 5 minutes
  • Add a generous amount of salt to flavor – keep in mind that it will intensify when reducing
Bolognese Sauce - Add red wine, tomato sauce and beef stock
Bolognese Sauce – Add red wine, tomato sauce and beef stock
  • Reduce heat to low to simmer for about 90 minutes while occasionally stirring – do not cover as you want to reduce the sauce to thicken and intensify the flavor
  • When the sauce has reduced to a creamy meaty paste, stir in milk – sauce is ready in 5 minutes
Stir in whole milk
Stir in whole milk
Delicious Bolognese Sauce
Delicious Bolognese Sauce

How to Serve Bolognese Sauce:

We serve with homemade tagliatelle pasta. While we may think of Bolognese Sauce as being served with readily available spaghetti pasta, the sauce is better served with a wider pasta to support and absorb the weight and texture of this delicious sauce. A penne or even rigatoni or fettucine would also work well!

In a large bowl, lightly coat the pasta with olive oil and ladle in the sauce to coat.

The pasta is swirled onto a plate and topped with grated parmigiana. Enjoy with your remaining wine.

Homemade pasta with Bolognese and grated Parmigiana
Homemade pasta with Bolognese and grated Parmigiana

Below is a printable recipe card from RecipesGenerator. Please give it a try!


Is there Tomato Sauce in Bolognese?

While we may think of the North American version of the sauce as Spaghetti Sauce with ground beef, there are many family recipes that have varying degrees of tomatoes involved. A more traditional recipe includes a small can of tomato paste, and we use a pureed tomato sauce. The tomato flavour is not the heart of the sauce though – it’s just a bit of zip and binds the sauce together. Many traditional recipes do not include tomato at all!

Is there garlic and basil in Bolognese?

No. The flavour is derived from the many layers of meat – pork, beef or veal, beef broth, bacon or pancetta and milk. (not to mention the wine!)

What type of wine to use in Bolognese?

White is traditional, but the red enriches the flavour. Some people use white if they are serving the same day, and red if the sauce is make-ahead.

If you have any more questions, please comment and I will add to the post!

Thanks for stopping in at Everyday Lillie. Please have a look around as much as you like. If you enjoyed the visit, please feel free to follow, share, comment or like. Please drop in again soon!

Follow Everyday Lillie on

19 thoughts on “What’s in a Sauce? A Bolognese Recipe

    1. Hi Pooja, thanks for the comment! I’m glad you liked Bolognese! We haven’t got a suitable plant based version yet, but we are working on it.

      1. I had the plant based one at a restaurant so I’m not sure what they used but I hope you find a great one soon!

  1. When my husband use wine in the food, he always take one of the good bottles … because, according to him, ‘when you want to make great food, you need to use great ingredients’ 😊. Your bolognese sauce looks incredible – we’re definitely going to try this.

    1. My husband agrees with your husband – for me, I agree with him just because I like to sip the wine while he’s cooking. Happy cooking!

Leave a Reply