I want to start by telling you to double this recipe. Originally, the recipe was in fact twice the amount that you see here, but because not everyone feels the need to hoard pasta sauce like they live in a very specific and slightly disturbing reality show, restraint was exercised, and you see before you a dignified Bolognese sauce recipe designed to make enough sauce for 6 people, one pound of pasta, the amount that normal people most often are looking for.
(Psst….. double this recipe. Invite over a lot of people, or freeze half).
The definition of true Bolognese sauce, like all Italian pasta sauces, is a matter of opinion. My family’s opinion is that this was great, and my opinion is that this is very easy and quick, and that it’s a great make ahead dish. Traditional Bolognese usually involves a much longer cooking period but this is a weeknight version.
If you’d like to make it with half ground beef and half ground pork, that’s also a classic Bolognese meat sauce combo. This quick Bolognese recipe makes a sauce is very thick, truly a ragu, and intended to be that way.
This is the kind of food I think of as snow day food—wonderful to make and scent your house on a snowy day, amazing to come home to after a day of sledding or shoveling or skiing, and when extra kids trail into your house with their wet boots, just make more pasta, maybe add some more tomato puree or sauce to the pot, and watch the sauce magically expand.
If you want to get the kids involved, let them peel the carrots, measure ingredients, stir the sauce with supervision. When he was 14, my older son Jack made this entire sauce start to finish—yes, I was there to guide—and felt pretty pleased about it.
You can make the entire thing up to 3 or 4 days ahead of time, or you can make the sauce through Step 2 and keep it in the fridge for the same amount of time, and then heat it up and finish with the milk and the Parmesan.
Leftovers heat up beautifully in a pot over low heat—you may want to add a bit of chicken broth or even a bit of water to loosen up the sauce, which will thicken even further. You can also freeze the sauce after Step 2, and then defrost it, heat it, and add the milk and cheese when you are ready to serve.
Pasta Bolognese: What Pasta to Pair Bolognese Sauce With?
Ooh, pasta bolognese a topic come people can get a little heated about, or at least have firm opinions on. Tagliatelle is a typical pairing for Bolognese sauce in restaurants, as is spaghetti – but any long flat noodle is good, from fettuccine to linguine. On the other hand, chunky tubular shapes also work very well, and can catch up some of the sauce in their centers which is nice. Ziti, rigatoni, even penne. The only shapes I would stay away from is very skinny pasta, like angel hair, or tiny pasta shapes, which will get a bit lose in the thick meat sauce.
Other Things to Make with Bolognese Sauce:
- Instant Pot Ziti “Lasagna” with Bolognese Sauce – The Instant Pot quickly makes cooked pasta, sauce, and cheese come together in a layered pasta dinner.
- Simple Baked Pasta with Bolognese Sauce – A super solid, super satisfying cold weather pasta casserole—kind of a deconstructed lasagna.
Just in case: 10 Things To Make With Leftover Ground Beef!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 ½ pounds ground sirloin
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 2 carrots peeled and finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- Coarse or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 35-ounce can tomato puree
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- Generous pinch red pepper flakes optional
- ¾ cup whole milk
- ⅓ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus extra for serving
- 1 pound dried linguine
- ½ cup slivered fresh basil leaves for serving optional
- In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat one tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the beef and sauté for 6 to 8 minutes, until it is browned, then drain in a colander and set aside.
- Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the same pot, then add the onions, carrots, and celery for 5 minutes until tender and lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for another minute until you can smell the garlic. Season with salt and pepper, add the red wine, and stir and scrape any bits from the bottom. Add the tomato puree, tomato paste, oregano, and red pepper flakes if using. Return the browned beef to the pot and simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce is nicely thickened.
- Add the milk and ½ cup Parmesan and cook for another 10 minutes until the sauce is creamy and thick.
- Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water over high heat until it is boiling, salt the water generously, return the water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta, and return it to the pot. Add the Bolognese sauce and stir to coat the pasta well with the sauce. Serve hot, sprinkled with fresh basil if desired.
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