I used to make pasta with meat sauce all the time.  It was part of our rotation of family meals for many many years…a quick dinner consisting of chopped onion, browned beef, and a jar of tomato sauce.  It was a family favorite and so I never thought to mess with success.  But a couple of weeks ago while visiting my dad we went to a wonderful Italian restaurant where I had a classic pasta Bolognese.  After one bite it was like the clouds parted and rays of enlightenment streamed down upon me, or rather it was like being hit over the head with a cast iron pan as I realized how rich and complex a meat sauce could be, and what we’d been missing all these years.

Pasta Bolognese recipe ~ theviewfromgreatisland.com

There are a few key elements that will transform any simple meat sauce into a fabulous Bolognese.  The slow browning of the minced vegetables develops the first level of deep flavorA combination of beef and pork adds a second level.  The hot pepper creates a spicy note, the wine and the fresh herbs contribute complexity, and the cream adds a final but essential dreamy richness.  It really doesn’t take much longer than a basic meat sauce, but it’s so much more rewarding.

Pasta Bolognese

Pasta Bolognese


  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut in small dice
  • 1 small hot Italian pepper, minced (if you don't have one you can use red pepper flakes)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • good olive oil
  • 1 lb ground Angus beef (85%)
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 26 ounces crushed or pureed Italian tomatoes (I like San Marzano tomatoes)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste (from a tube that you should always have in your fridge)
  • 1/2 cup red wine or cognac
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a bunch of fresh thyme, leaves removed (at least 3 Tbsp)
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • a splash of heavy cream
  • fresh Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 box whole grain spaghetti


  1. Cover the bottom of a heavy pot with olive oil and saute the onion, carrots, pepper and garlic for 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. This is an important step towards developing the special flavors of the sauce, so don't skip it. Add more oil if the vegetables start to stick.
  2. Add in the ground meats and cook until they are browned. While it is browning, break up the meat well, so there are no large chunks. Then add in the wine, tomatoes and water along with the bay leaves and the fresh thyme leaves. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cover and simmer for about 2 hours on a low heat. Add the splash of cream at the end, remove the bay leaves, and check the seasoning.
  4. Cook the whole grain pasta to an al dente stage and drain. Add in a little of the sauce to separate the pasta strands, and then heap into big pasta bowls and top with lots of sauce. Garnish with some fresh cheese.


  • If you have the time, by all means cook this sauce, covered, for up to 3 hours on a low heat.
  • This sauce gets better with age, so it makes wonderful leftovers.
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20 Responses to Pasta Bolognese Recipe

  1. Frances says:

    I just made this using all your ingredients but I cooked it with a method that an English chef, Delia Smith suggested. After bringing to a boil I transferred the covered pan to a 325 degree oven for 1 1/2 hrs then uncovered for 1 1/2 hour. My family said it was the very best ragu I’ve ever made!

  2. Suzette says:

    I just came across this recipe and it looks amazing!! I haven’t made bolognese in way too long and will definitely be trying your recipe this week. I’m wondering whether you used dry marsala or sweet marsala. I’m guessing dry but I don’t want to ASS-U-ME…..hehehe!! If I were to use red wine, what kind would you recommend? :)

    • Sue says:

      Hi Suzette— I use dry marsala, and if you want to use red wine, I would use what you like to drink, but definitely on the dry side is better. I hope you like this, when I am really hungry, this is the meal that I crave!

  3. I loved this recipe, thanks for letting me use it in my recipe roundup! http://dashandapinch.com/2014/10/recipe-roundup-homemade-pasta-sauces/?

  4. grace says:

    i like me some plain ol’ meat sauce, but bolognese is definitely a cut above. this looks heavenly!

  5. I’ve swiped the salted chocolate chip peanut butter cookie recipe – can’t wait!

  6. Lea Ann says:

    I’ve been seeing your comments on other blogs so had to come check out your site. I’m a new subscriber and look forward to your posts.

  7. Barbara says:

    Actually, the marsala in that dish would be a great flavor addition. Going to try that in my next sauce.

  8. Mary says:

    This is a terrific sauce recipe! It looks amazing and I’ll wager it is delicious. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  9. Joanne says:

    Good bolognese recipes are hard to find but when you find one, hold onto it for dear life. This looks amazing!

  10. Mary says:

    This sounds absolutely delicious. I adore pasta so very much and this is a favorite combination.

  11. Oooh! Yum! I haven’t cooked this for years, and it looks and sounds so tasty. It’s on the menu for next week. Thanks Sue, for reminding us about a great meal.

  12. Magda says:

    I love spaghetti bolognese. It’s so simple and so delicious. It’s one of my favourite dishes.

  13. My husband LOVES pasta and this recipe would be a winner here in the Humble Bungalow.
    I’d love some leftovers!

  14. annie says:

    This looks so good…I wish I had some of your leftovers right now…and one of those pumpkin scones that I can’t get out of my mind!

  15. Hello Sue:
    What remarkable timing! You are a saviour!! We shall return to our Brighton rooms at the end of the month and there we must fend for ourselves in the kitchen. We love Italian food and surely we can achieve this. It sounds to be just a few, albeit essential, steps away from our usual comfort zone of ‘Savoury Mince’, so Great Island Spag Bol here we come!!!

  16. Jacquelyn says:

    Hi Sue! I guess were on the same thought train here with recipes. I posted a spaghetti bolognese recipe yesterday ;) Hmmm.. maybe because its fall? Its not really fall weather here, but its still fall so I am brining out the fall recipes ;) I used buffalo meat in lieu of pork and ground beef. I will give yours a try next time. Its always nice to have a couple of great pasta recipes.

    Again, beautiful photos!

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