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
4.16 from 52 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
Yield 6 -8 servings
Author Sue Moran


  • 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)
  • 4 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, not traditional, but my secret ingredient
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound papardelle pasta


  • fresh Parmigiano Reggiano
  • fresh thyme leaves


  • 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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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • 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
    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
      November 17, 2020 at 6:01 am

      Enjoy Berni 🙂

  • Reply
    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!

  • Reply
    November 7, 2020 at 6:09 pm

    Made this for a celebration today! It was a hit.

    • Reply
      November 7, 2020 at 6:21 pm

      So happy to hear it!

  • Reply
    Nikki Moranville
    November 4, 2020 at 10:00 am

    5 stars
    This was dinner last night! Delicious! Froze the sauce that was left, so we’ll enjoy it again on a busy day!

    • Reply
      November 4, 2020 at 10:27 am

      I’m so glad Nikki, thanks 🙂

  • Reply
    November 3, 2020 at 7:12 am

    5 stars
    We weren’t big fans of Bologna’s but this recipe changed that. My husband and I and our two boys loved this version. The addition of Worcestershire sauce was genius! Thanks for another great recipe ?

    • Reply
      November 3, 2020 at 7:17 am

      You’re welcome Leah, glad you and the boys loved it!

  • Reply
    November 2, 2020 at 8:39 am

    5 stars
    Absolutely delicious! My family enjoyed every bite. Will double it next time and freeze half. Thank you for another wonderful recipe.

  • Reply
    November 2, 2020 at 8:14 am

    5 stars
    Have you heard of adding cinnamon to your pasta sauce?

    • Reply
      November 2, 2020 at 9:10 am

      No, but love that idea, cinnamon in savory dishes is amazing.

  • Reply
    August 20, 2020 at 10:25 am

    Do you know if this sauce freezes well?

    • Reply
      August 20, 2020 at 11:02 am

      Yes, fabulously!

  • Reply
    April 1, 2020 at 9:07 am

    5 stars
    This recipe was delicious, my whole family loved it and there were no leftovers! The cream at the end surprised me, I have made a lot of spaghetti sauce but not bolognese. Pretty sure I can’t go back:)

    • Reply
      April 1, 2020 at 9:09 am

      Thanks Michelle, and I know just what you mean about the great surprise of the cream in this recipe, what a difference it makes 🙂

  • Reply
    February 9, 2020 at 3:04 am

    5 stars
    The local meat market did not have ground angus, so I used ground wagyu. The sauce was so velvety and luxurious! My picky husband said it was the best fish I ever made! Thanks for the recipe.

  • Reply
    October 18, 2019 at 5:15 pm

    5 stars
    Made this yesterday for the hubby and kiddos. We loved it! Definitely adding to our meal rotation. I added mushrooms just because we had them in the refrigerator and they needed to be used. Also used ground pork and ground turkey (1 lb each). Froze half of it for future meals. Thanks for the great recipe!

    • Reply
      October 18, 2019 at 7:24 pm

      There’s nothing more comforting than Bolognese…you’ve just made me hungry!

  • Reply
    June 2, 2019 at 8:37 am

    5 stars
    This was the best we loved it. After 50 years of cooking I am always looking for simpler recipes. I put the leftovers in the freezer for busy days. It’s so nice to come home after a busy day and have something easy and delicious for dinner. Thank you so much.

  • Reply
    November 14, 2017 at 5:59 pm

    5 stars
    I’m dying over here because I want to face plant into that bolognese sauce. I haven’t made bolognese is what feels like forever. Whelp, that’s about to change with your recipe! I’m definitely pinning this for later!

    • Reply
      November 15, 2017 at 6:20 am

      Glad I could inspire you Christina 🙂

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving Room for Dessert
    November 10, 2017 at 5:57 am

    5 stars
    So glad you shared this one again because I am putting it on my list. It looks fantastic and so simple too. Perfect for this time of the year! Sharing 🙂

  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Seasons and Suppers
    November 9, 2017 at 5:15 am

    A great bolognese is a thing of beauty and yours looks perfect! Great Fall comfort food 🙂

  • Reply
    November 9, 2017 at 4:14 am

    I really don’t know why I am not eating this right now. I certainly will be soon: it looks cozy and perfect.

  • Reply
    [email protected]'s Recipes
    November 8, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    The meat sauce is my husband’s favourite! Yours looks super yummy, Sue.

  • Reply
    Laura | Tutti Dolci
    November 8, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    Yes please, this looks incredible! The perfect comfort meal 🙂

  • Reply
    November 8, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    I agree, there is nothing better than a bolognese sauce waiting for you when back home on a cold night. I am so very lucky that my husband cooks it (and cleans the mess afterwards) . But now, this recipe will be my take on the challenge. It is mellow with a lot of depth. I love Worcestershire sauce and here has the perfect fit. Sue, thanks for the secret!

    • Reply
      November 8, 2017 at 1:36 pm

      A shot of Worcestershire makes just about everything better…now if I could just learn to type it without spellcheck!

      • Reply
        November 8, 2017 at 1:58 pm

        I know….. isn’t it great that Worcestershire shows up on your screen….

        • Reply
          November 8, 2017 at 2:50 pm

          I’m always amazed, I think it’s because no one can spell it!

  • Reply
    Chris Scheuer
    November 8, 2017 at 9:24 am

    Haha, I think I grew up with the sauce! Yes, bolognese does trump spaghetti sauce any day and this one looks wonderful!

    • Reply
      November 8, 2017 at 10:26 am

      I think most of the moms back in the day made that sauce ~ we’ve come a long way 😉

  • Reply
    November 8, 2017 at 8:46 am

    Hi Sue, what a beautiful and satisfying meal. I bet the sauce taste better the next day, looks fabulous!

    • Reply
      November 8, 2017 at 9:12 am

      It really does taste better the next day, and that’s such an endearing quality in any recipe!

  • Reply
    Karen @ Seasonal Cravings
    November 8, 2017 at 8:38 am

    Perfect comfort food!

  • Reply
    Kathie L
    November 8, 2017 at 8:25 am

    This is very similar to a recipe my sister-in-law got from her Italian friend. I love it and share it with others.

    • Reply
      November 8, 2017 at 8:30 am

      Bolognese is such a classic that most recipes have a lot in common, but I bet the Italian friend’s recipe didn’t include my secret ingredient 😉

  • Reply
    John/Kitchen Riffs
    November 8, 2017 at 7:57 am

    My mom always made spaghetti with meat balls, but meat sauce is what I really crave. Love the stuff! Yours looks excellent — thanks.

    • Reply
      November 8, 2017 at 8:13 am

      I love a good meatball, but I agree, there’s something about meat sauce…

  • Reply
    March 21, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    How many people does this feed?

    • Reply
      March 21, 2017 at 3:13 pm

      It serves 6-8, depending on portion size, Susan.

  • Reply
    June 8, 2016 at 7:30 pm

    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!

    • Reply
      June 8, 2016 at 8:42 pm

      Nice — I’ll try that next time! I know some people make a slow cooker bolognese, but I find that the slow cooker makes it very soupy, I’ll try the oven next time 🙂

  • Reply
    November 10, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    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? 🙂

    • Reply
      November 10, 2014 at 3:09 pm

      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!

  • Reply
    Sarah Westendorf
    October 8, 2014 at 7:37 am

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

    • Reply
      October 8, 2014 at 7:39 am

      Thanks for including it Sarah — this meal is the ultimate cold weather dinner, I love it too!

  • Reply
    October 28, 2011 at 1:50 pm

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

  • Reply
    October 26, 2011 at 2:18 pm

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

  • Reply
    Lea Ann
    October 26, 2011 at 11:58 am

    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.

  • Reply
    October 26, 2011 at 10:36 am

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

  • Reply
    October 26, 2011 at 4:19 am

    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

  • Reply
    October 26, 2011 at 1:28 am

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

  • Reply
    October 25, 2011 at 10:35 pm

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

  • Reply
    October 25, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    Looks delicious!

  • Reply
    A Trifle Rushed
    October 25, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    October 25, 2011 at 7:26 pm

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

  • Reply
    hostess of the humble bungalow
    October 25, 2011 at 4:28 pm

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

  • Reply
    October 25, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    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!

  • Reply
    Jane and Lance Hattatt
    October 25, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    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!!!

  • Reply
    October 25, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    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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