Bolognese Sauce – rich, meaty, hearty with deep aromatic flavors. The best bolognese sauce you’ll ever have by far! Whether served for midweek or weekend meals, this sauce will always amaze everyone around the table! PLUS some tips on other ways to serve it.
Hey guys, happy Friday! I know that you’re still in an October pumpkin kick, but let’s forget pumpkin for now.
‘Cause right here on the blog TODAY is a product of love that I’ve been retesting over and over for almost a year. Yes! It took me almost a year to finally say “Yes, this is it” for this recipe. But trust me, it truly is the best EVER, at least for me, my family and friends.
Scroll down further to learn the secret to this OVER-THE-TOP DELICIOUS homemade Bolognese Sauce.
What is Bolognese Sauce?
Aside from pizza, bolognese is probably the most popular Italian recipe here in America. Also known in Italy as ragù alla bolognese, this meat-based thick sauce is made with ground beef, tomatoes, carrot, celery, dry wine, Italian seasoning and basil leaves. It’s saucy, rich, meaty and bursting with deep flavors; downright INDULGENT! You just want to shove your face down into the pot!
What is the Difference Between a Bolognese Sauce and Spaghetti Sauce?
These two may look and smell almost the same, but there’s quite a difference between the two. Spaghetti sauce or commonly known as Marinara Sauce here in the US is basically sauce in its simplest form – tomato sauce, olive oil, garlic and herbs. Bolognese sauce, originating in Bologna, Italy, on the other hand is made with tomato sauce, ground meat, wine and herbs. So that makes Spaghetti/Marinara sauce SAUCY while Bolognese is SAUCY AND MEATY.
What’s in Bolognese Sauce?
You might be taken aback with the long list of ingredients below, but please, don’t be. Those ingredients make this sauce rich and thick as it lovingly clings to every pasta strand.
My secret to an exceptional bolognese that would WOW your family and guests are the ones below. They are that essential that they can’t be skipped.
Bacon – adding that smokey flavor to our sauce is EVERYTHING. I made sure to use the same bacon fat (plus olive oil) to saute my vegetables. Then incorporate that flavor, too, with the minced beef. You don’t just get those nice crispy bits of bacon as an add-on, but the starting base flavor for our sauce.
Whole Roasted Garlic – for a more defined garlic flavor, I decided to throw in instead 1 medium head of roasted garlic which I flavored with olive oil, thyme and salt. You’ll not just enjoy a faint note of garlic in there, but a deeper, flavorful, and aromatic touch of garlic flavor. I’ve tried using this and regular minced garlic and I must say that you can really spot the difference.
Half and half – although I wrote it there as an optional, I love adding half and half (or 1/2 tbsp melted butter drizzled on 1/2 cup milk – since recipe calls for 1/2 cup only) in my sauce just to make it creamy. And that slight touch of milkiness is another great layer of flavor, too.
Dry white wine – using dry white wine to deglaze, adds a nice punch of flavor to our sauce. The alcohol evaporates as the sauce gets cooked, leaving only traces of the wine flavor. You can choose from Pinot Grigio , Pinot Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc. If you’re uncomfortable using wines, simply replace it with the same amount of low-sodium broth.
Italian Seasoning – for that well-defined herby and aromatic flavors, I use my homemade Italian seasoning (recipe HERE). You can prepare a big batch of this just in time for the holidays.
How Do You Make Bolognese Sauce Thicker?
Not too thick to your liking?? Reduction is the most natural and easiest way to thicken up your sauce. So add a few more simmering minutes while stirring occasionally (to avoid scorching the bottom of the pan) until you achieve your desired thickness.
Another option is start adding 1/4 cup of the pasta water into the sauce as it has the presence of starch from boiling your pasta. Work your way up until you reach your desired consistency.
Can I Make it in Advance?
Yes, you can! Bolognese sauce taste better the next day. After cooking, let it cool completely before storing in the fridge for 1-2 days. Moreover, this sauce also freezes beautifully! Just simply transfer the sauce to a freezer-safe container or freezer bag in portions, seal and label. It’ll keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, thaw it the overnight in the fridge and gently heat over the stovetop as you cook your pasta. And voila! Easy dinner in just a few minutes!!
Ways to Use Bolognese Sauce
Bolognese sauce is pretty versatile. Aside from pairing it with pasta, you can also use it like the following below:
- for your lasagna
- stir in for some rice
- as filling for your meat pies (see my MEAT PIE DOUGH recipe)
- stuff it in baked potatoes or cabbage rolls ( Cabbage Rolls recipe HERE)
- pour it over nachos
- stuff it on roast bell peppers
- filling for your tacos
- stuff it on roasted plantains (like this Stuffed Baked Plantains HERE)
- pour the sauce in a baking dish and topped with mashed potatoes for a comfort dish Cottage Pie
- as filling for quesadillas (see the instructions in my Quesadillas recipe HERE)
- top it on the savory version of this Baked Acorn Squash HERE
- spread it over on your pizza (check my PIZZA DOUGH HERE)
What to Serve with Pasta Bolognese?
This meaty and carb-loaded Italian dish is best paired with another carb. Carb-on-carb?!? Heck, yes!! Don’t worry I’ll also include a few wholesome recipes below to go along with this hearty meal.
- Easy Dinner Rolls
- Homemade Garlic Bread
- Focaccia Bread
- Cucumber Tomato Salad
- Wedge Salad
More Italian Recipes To Try
Want to immerse yourself in the Italian way without buying plane tickets? Try these other scrumptious Italian recipes here:
Saucy Pasta Recipes That You Would Love
How To Make Bolognese Sauce
In a large saucepan, add bacon over medium. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, until bacon is brown then and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic cloves and thyme and saute for 5-7 minutes or until onions have softened.
Add the wine and mix until thoroughly combined. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the minced beef and brown for 3-4 minutes until there’s no visible pink. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, Italian seasoning, two bay leaves, and beef or chicken bouillon and ½ cup beef or chicken stock.
Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to low to achieve a simmer and cover. Cook for 45-60 minutes stirring occasionally, until you have thick sauce. If the mixture gets too thick, add more chicken stock to thin out. Add half and half (if using) and cook for a minute or two, bring to a boil and lower the heat. If the mixture gets too thick, add more chicken stock to thin out. When the bolognese sauce is nearly finished, cook the spaghetti noodles following the pack instructions. When pasta is ready, stir into the bolognese sauce. Serve with more grated parmesan, and sprinkle with a dash of basil.
- 3 strip bacon , chopped (I used thick bacon)
- 1 tablespoon (14 ml) olive oil
- 1 large onion , chopped
- 1 cup (128 g) chopped carrot
- 1 cup (101 g) chopped celery
- 1 medium head roasted garlic or (1 Tablespoon minced, garlic ) , see ingredients below for whole roasted garlic
- 2 teaspoons (2 g) fresh thyme
- ½ - 1 cup (117.5-235 ml) dry white wine
- 1 pound (453.5 g) ground beef chuck
- 2 (15-oz.) can crushed , or small diced tomatoes, with juice
- 1 6-ounce tomato paste
- ¼ cup (6 g) chopped fresh basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon (5.5 g) Italian seasoning
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 1 cup or more beef or chicken bouillon
- ½ cup (120 ml) beef or chicken stock
- ½ cup (120 ml) half and half , optional
- 1 pound pasta , cooked and drained
- Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano , cheese to serve
- salt and pepper to taste
Whole Roast Garlic
- 2 medium or 1 large garlic head
- 1 tablespoon (14 ml)Olive Oil
- 1-2 sprig of thyme
- 1-2 teaspoons (5-10 g) salt
- In a large saucepan, add bacon over medium. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, until bacon is brown then and add 1 tbsp olive oil.
- Add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic cloves and thyme and saute for 5-7 minutes or until onions have softened. Add the wine and mix until thoroughly combined. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the minced beef and brown for 3-4 minutes until there’s no visible pink.
- Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, Italian seasoning, two bay leaves, and beef or chicken bouillon and beef or chicken stock.
- Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to low to achieve a simmer and cover. Cook for 45-60 minutes stirring occasionally, until you have thick sauce.If the mixture gets too thick, add more chicken stock to thin out.
- Add half and half (if using) and cook for a minute or two. Season with salt and pepper to taste .
- When the bolognese sauce is nearly finished, cook the spaghetti noodles following the pack instructions.
- When pasta is ready, stir into the bolognese sauce. Serve with more grated parmesan, and sprinkle with a dash of basil.
Tips & Notes:
- For the Roast Garlic: Preheat your oven to 400° F. Cut the top ¼” to ½” off of a whole head of garlic, so that each individual clove should be visible. Make sure every garlic clove is exposed. Place the head of garlic on foil paper together with the thyme. Drizzle the top of the garlic with a bit of oil, about 1 teaspoon and salt to taste. Wrap it up and place it in the oven to roast for about 30 minutes or more. It should be soft, fragrant, and golden. Let the garlic cool, then squeeze individual cloves out of the skin.
- Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary greatly based on products used.