Authentic Bolognese Sauce

Authentic Bolognese Sauce

I’m sharing one of our house favorites today. An authentic Bolognese sauce.

First things first – I want to be clear. If you’re looking for a “tomato sauce with ground meat” recipe, this isn’t it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, it was my go-to dish all throughout college and the early years of my marriage. I’d chop up some onion and garlic, brown it with ground meat, dump in a few jars of marinara sauce, sprinkle in some oregano, and bam! An easy, delicious weeknight meal.

But authentic Bolognese is something entirely different. A few years ago, my husband took me to Italy to celebrate my birthday. And one of the first meals I tasted was Ragu alla Bolognese. It was delicious. And unlike anything I had ever eaten before. I was hooked. I wanted to recreate it at home. As I researched, I found variations in recipes, but all were vastly different from the “tomato sauce with ground meat” that I grew up with in the United States.

Here’s the thing about authentic Bolognese. (Vegetarian friends, please avert your eyes!) It’s primarily a meat sauce and the rest of the ingredients may even seem a bit odd. Milk, white wine, chicken stock, carrots and celery? You also might be surprised by what the recipe lacks – aromatics like oregano or basil, or an abundance of tomato.

The flavors are built slowly and deliberately. You will start out with a soffrito. Similar to French mirepoix, except soffrito is traditionally cooked with a bit of salted pork (bacon, pancetta, prosciutto, etc.)

Ready to get started?

Authentic Bolognese Ingredients:

2 Strips bacon, chopped

1 pound LEAN ground beef (I used 93% lean)

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 large carrot, minced

1 medium white onion, minced

2 stalks celery, minced

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup white wine OR sub extra chicken stock

8oz can of plain tomato sauce

1/2 cup chicken stock

1 package wide pasta – pappardelle, tagliatelle or fettuccine

Freshly shaved parmesan cheese.


Authentic Bolognese Instructions:

  1. Chop up the bacon and add to pan over medium heat. As the fat renders, remove all but a 1/2 tablespoon of the fat. 
  2. Mince the garlic, carrot, celery and onion. Add to the pan, and cook over medium heat until vegetables are soft and aromatic. 
  3. Add in the ground beef and break it up, cooking slowly. (Please note: it’s very important to use a lean ground beef as you don’t want to have to drain any extra fat) 
  4. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. I’ll leave this up to your personal tastes as some brands of bacon are saltier than others. It’s best to season conservatively at this point and add in more before serving if needed.
  5. Once the meat is mostly browned, add in a 1/2 cup of milk. Stir and continue to cook for about 2 minutes until the milk evaporates. (Sounds weird, but the milk tenderizes the meat and lends to the flavor)
  6. Add in the white wine and cook until evaporated. (If you’re not using wine, skip to next step)
  7. Add in chicken stock and small can of tomato sauce and simmer for a few minutes. If the sauce dries out quickly, add in a bit more chicken stock. Taste and add in more salt and pepper if desired.
  8. Authentic Bolognese should be a thick, hearty, chunky sauce and is best served with a wide noodle like pappardelle, fettuccine, or tagliatelle. 
  9. Serve with freshly shaved parmesan cheese. Don’t skimp on the cheese! (Tip: I like to use a vegetable peeler to peel off wide strips directly into the bowl.
  10. Dig in. 

Our little one LOVES this dish. Hence this glare when I asked her to stop eating for a second so I could take her picture.

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