Easy Pasta Bolognese Recipe

taking forkful of pasta Bolognese

My Easy Pasta Bolognese Recipe is a classic Italian meat sauce that’s comforting and SO satisfying! It gets even better as it sits in the fridge, so plan to make a big batch over the weekend and enjoy it all week long.

taking forkful of pasta Bolognese

Pasta Bolognese is an instant upgrade for your family’s favorite meat sauce

I grew up on a plain meat sauce made with a brick of frozen hamburger, some chopped onion, and a jar of spaghetti sauce. It doesn’t sound like much but my sisters and I loved it, and I continued the tradition when I cooked for my own girls. It was part of our rotation of family meals for many many years and was such a favorite I never thought to mess with success. But somewhere along the line I was introduced to the classic Italian Bolognese sauce, and it only took one bite to realize that we’d been missing a lot all those years.

Eating pasta bolognese in a white bowl, with napkin

Bolognese sauce or ragù alla bolognese

  • it’s an Italian meat sauce that’s traditionally long simmered and very rich.
  • it comes from the city of Bologna.
  • Bolognese sauce is richer than American meat sauce; wine and a little milk or cream gives it a depth of flavor and a wonderful creamy texture.
twirling pasta Bolognese with a fork

What you’ll need to make bolognese sauce

  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • onion, carrot
  • hot Italian pepper or red pepper flakes
  • ground beef
  • ground pork (the pork makes a big difference)
  • crushed tomatoes (buy the good Italian tomatoes)
  • tomato paste
  • red wine
  • bay leaf
  • fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • heavy cream or milk (heavy cream is best!)
  • Worcestershire sauce (not traditional but adds a touch of acidity and umami)
pasta bolognese in a cast iron skillet with tongs

The secrets to a perfect Bolognese

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 flavor. A 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 with Italian meat sauce in skillet with tongs

 

What pasta goes best with Bolognese sauce?

If you want to be scrupulously traditional, you’ll toss your Bolognese sauce with tagliatelle, a flat strand egg pasta similar to fettuccine. I used pappardelle, which is wider, but still delicate. A flat strand pasta encourages the sauce to cling and the wide paparedelle makes this satisfying sauce even more satisfying. That being said, you can use a Bolognese sauce in any recipe where you need a meat sauce ~ I love it in my stuffed shells Bolognese.

Pasta with bolognese sauce in a pan with tongs

More Italian inspired comfort food

Pasta with bolognese sauce
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4.17 from 53 votes

Easy Pasta Bolognese Recipe

Easy Pasta Bolognese Recipe ~ this classic Italian meat sauce is comforting and SO satisfying!  It gets even better as it sits in the fridge, so plan to make a big batch over the weekend and enjoy it all week long.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 35 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 50 minutes
Yield 6 -8 servings
Author Sue Moran

Ingredients

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 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, about 1/2 tsp)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb ground Angus beef, 85%
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 26 ounces crushed or pureed Italian tomatoes (I like San Marzano tomatoes)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste, I always keep a tube in the fridge
  • 1/2 cup red wine (also use Marsala, or cognac)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup milk or heavy cream (cream makes the sauce luxurious)
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, not traditional, but my secret ingredient
  • 1 pound papardelle pasta

garnish

  • fresh Parmigiano Reggiano
  • fresh thyme leaves

Instructions

  • 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 and stir frequently.
  • 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 paste, 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 to taste (start with 1 tsp of each)
  • Cover and simmer for about 2 hours on a low heat. (Make sure the sauce is simmering slowly, not boiling furiously.) Add the cream and Worcestershire sauce during the last half hour of cooking. Leave the top off during that time to thicken it.
  • When the sauce is done, remove the bay leaves, and check the seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if you like. The sauce can be made ahead of time and refrigerated.
  • Cook the pasta to an al dente stage according to the package directions and drain. Reserve a cup or so of the cooking liquid in case you need to loosen the sauce later.
  • Add the pasta to the sauce and toss with tongs to coat, then heap into big pasta bowls and garnish with some fresh cheese and thyme.

Cook’s notes

 
  • 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.  There’s nothing like coming home to a fridgeful of pasta Bolognese after a busy day  ~ nothing!
 
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
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67 Comments

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  • Reply
    Kathy Strand
    December 27, 2021 at 7:46 am

    I made a double batch of this yesterday and plan to serve it tonight. I haven’t yet added the Worcestershire sauce and cream but will re-warm and add tonight before serving. I’m wondering if people who have made it have thought four tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce was just right or too much?

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      December 27, 2021 at 8:04 am

      Hey Kathy, coincidentally I made this sauce again last week for a lasagna, and I agree that 4 Tbsp of Worcestershire sauce is probably more than you’d need. I’ve updated to 2 Tbsp, but you should add to taste, for sure.

      • Reply
        Kathy Strand
        December 27, 2021 at 8:57 am

        Thank you for the prompt response. I will add to taste and aim for a sweet post of 2 tbsp. The “secret ingredient” is such an unusual one that I don’t want to overwhelm the dish. Really enjoy your blog and recipes–thanks for sharing.

        • Reply
          Kathy Strand
          December 27, 2021 at 8:58 am

          Mean to say sweet “spot” not post 🙂

  • Reply
    Josette Manino
    December 24, 2020 at 9:29 am

    Made this recipe a few nights ago. So delicious!! The best Bolognese sauce I have ever had. This will be my go-to red sauce from now on. Yum!

  • Reply
    Berni
    November 17, 2020 at 5:16 am

    5 stars
    I made this yesterday for dinner it was delish and we are excited we have enough for dinner again tonight!

    • Reply
      Sue
      November 17, 2020 at 6:01 am

      Enjoy Berni 🙂

  • Reply
    Debbie
    November 8, 2020 at 8:10 am

    5 stars
    I made this bolognese yesterday for dinner and it was wonderful. Only 2 of us so we had a huge serving each and I froze the rest for a day that I am working. This has just the right amount of spice for me as I do not like bland sauces, but not too much for my husband. By the way, I love the alligator chopper you recommended a while back—I had a technique for onion chopping that I thought was pretty good but this chopper is even better!

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