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A bowl full of pappardelle bolognese covered in meat sauce and sprinkled with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Bolognese (Authentic Bolognese Sauce : 2 Local Recipes)

There is a world where you can be in love with two Authentic Bolognese Recipes at the same time — and this is it. Bolognese sauce is one of the coziest most delicious pasta sauces you’ll ever eat. Luckily for us, we live just 1 1/2 hours from the birthplace of this beloved ragù and have learned a few Bolognese ‘secrets’.

With Bologna and the greater Emilia-Romagna region just a stone’s throw away, we often get to enjoy traditional pasta Bolognese. And we’ve found 2 different styles that we love equally. The best part — there are few things more rewarding than actually making it yourself at home! In this post, you’ll get not one but my TWO Best Bolognese Sauce Recipes (each slightly different but authentic in every way), plus plenty of tips from the locals to help you make the real deal at home. 

This information here will help you make homemade Bolognese that tastes just as delicious (or even better) than what you’ll find in Bologna. The real deal king of ragùs is delicious and absolutely one of the easiest recipes you’ll ever make. Sound too good to be true? It’s not.

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to research Bolognese sauce and how it’s traditionally made in its birthplace — learning from locals, tasting my way through countless provincial interpretations, testing recipes, and honing in on the attributes we love most about our favorite versions and have settled on two best Bolognese recipes. This is the Ultimate Bolognese Sauce Guide for anyone who wants to make traditional Bolognese ragù that tastes like it does in Italy.

Why You Can Trust These Recipes

We love each of these recipes and I hope you make them both so you can decide which one is the ‘Best Bolognese sauce’. Here’s why you can trust these recipes:

First, we’ve done more than our fair share of research on this ragù in the city and region where it was born. We’ve tasted and eaten countless bowls and plates of pasta throughout Bologna and the rest of the Emilia Romagna region for years and asked locals to share their secrets for making the best Bolognese.

Second, Luca is from Northern Italy and grew up eating traditional Bolognese sauce and can decipher between the good, the great, and the ‘no thanks’. He loves both of these Bolognese recipes and says they’re at least better than two of the most recent ‘new’ places we tried in Bologna and they’re as good as our favorite trattorias. And just in case you think he’s biased — he’s not. He’s the first to let me know when I haven’t quite hit the ‘molto gusto’ mark when it comes to his native cuisine.  He’s very honest this way and it keeps me working hard to get things right.

Plus, I can’t really take credit for these recipes — the Italians invented this easy meat sauce recipe and I’ve been lucky enough to learn from them.

Overview: The Ultimate Bolognese Sauce Guide

  • What is Bolognese?
  • How to Pronounce Bolognese
  • Two Bolognese Sauces (What’s the Difference?)
  • Dispelling a Couple of Myths About Bolognese Sauce (In Italy & Online)
  • What Makes an Authentic Bolognese Sauce?
  • Bolognese Ragù (The Traditional Cooking Method)
  • Ingredients You Won’t Find in Authentic Bolognese
  • Overview: Bolognese Sauce Ingredients Recipe #1
  • Overview: How to Make Bolognese Sauce Recipe #1
  • Bolognese Sauce  Step-By-Step Recipe Photos Recipe #1
  • Overview: Bolognese Sauce Ingredients Recipe #2
  • Overview: How to Make Bolognese Sauce Recipe #2
  • Bolognese Sauce  Step-By-Step Recipe Photos Recipe #2
  • Best Pasta to Pair With Bolognese
  • Bolognese Sauce (Best Tips For Success)
  • How to Store Bolognese Sauce
  • Real Pasta Bolognese Photos From Italy
  • Bolognese Variations & Substitutions
  • Bolognese Sauce vs Spaghetti Sauce
  • Bolognese vs Ragù


What is Bolognese?

Bolognese sauce, referred to in Italy as ‘Ragù alla Bolognese’, is a sumptuous, savory, hours-long slow-simmered Italian ragù that originated in Bologna, Italy. Simply put, it’s ragù made in the Bologna style. It’s also found in its authentic form throughout the surrounding area of Emilia Romagna (including Modena, Parma, and Reggio-Emilia).

This ‘sauce’ is technically a ragù and is used most often to create ‘Lasagna Bolognese” and ‘Tagliatelle alla Bolognese” (simply known as ‘tagliatelle al ragù in Bologna), but you can find it used in many other ways. The special thing that’s hard to wrap your head around is that even with its simple list of ingredients, no two ragùs (in Bologna or the larger province) ever taste the same, yet somehow when prepared traditionally, they all miraculously still taste just like ‘Bolognese”. 

How to Say Bolognese

The proper way to pronounce ‘Bolognese’ is ‘bōh-luhn-ny’ay-zeh’ or put another way ‘bōh-luhn-yay-zeh’. The ‘g’ is silent when coupled with an ‘n’ and takes on an ‘n’ya’ sound like in gnocchi. It is never pronounced ‘bōh-luh-naze’ or ‘bōh-luhn-aize’ in Italy. 

Two Best Bolognese Sauces (What’s The Difference?)

Both of these Bolognese recipes produce the unmistakable hallmark flavors and aromas of classic Bolognese sauce just like what you’ll find wafting from windows and restaurants throughout Bologna. They’re different but equally delicious! As you’ll learn in this post — there’s plenty of room for you to create your own interpretation while still maintaining tradition. I’ve taken what I love most about the ones we’ve eaten and developed these recipes:

Bolognese Recipe #1 (aka Bolognese Numero Uno – Healthy Bolognese)

A robust, refined, rich, luscious, and naturally sweet ragù with undertones of wine. If it had a personality, it would be the Higgins (Magnum PI, not Jimmy Fallon) of Bolognese sauces. This is what I consider a healthy Bolognese sauce because it contains leaner beef, less pancetta, no butter, less milk, and much less olive oil than Bolognese Recipe #2. Overall, this sauce has an intense and refined flavor with discernable bits of pork and vegetables in each bite.

Bolognese Recipe #2 (aka Bolognese Numero Due)

A creamier, slightly fattier, and brighter-tasting, yet perfectly balanced ragù with undertones of wine and totally unctuous. If it had a personality, this would be the cool kid of Bolognese sauces — with a slicker, smoother mouthfeel than Bolognese Sauce #1 and no discernible bits of vegetables or pancetta.  This is similar to the Bolognese sauces we’ve been gravitating towards on our trips to Bologna and the greater Emilia Romagna region over the past year and a half. It’s just as soul-satisfyingly delicious as my original Bolognese Sauce #1, but it uses slightly different ingredients and a little different cooking sequence.

Dispelling a Couple of Myths About Bolognese Sauce (In Italy & Online)

Not all Bolognese sauces in Bologna are delicious or even that good. If you’ve ever unwittingly dined at one of the countless tourist traps or ‘must-try’ YouTube-reviewed restaurants, takeaways, or trattorias and been disappointed, then you already know it’s really easy to get subpar Bolognese sauce…even in Bologna.

  • Why? The short answer is that too often shortcuts and subpar ingredients take the place of passion and authenticity. There are plenty of savvy business owners who care more about their bottom line than abiding by that tasty thing we call ‘tradition’. They’re running a numbers game and they know there’s an endless turnover of tourists just waiting to try this iconic ragù at a premium. Rinse, wash, repeat — it’s like this with any regional dish in any highly touristed city in the world.

  • Traditional pasta Bolognese in any form typically costs anywhere between €9-€18 per portion depending on whether you’re ordering it from a d’asporto (takeout place), a butcher shop to be reheated at home, or dining in a restaurant or trattoria). Lasagna will not be served in ginormous portions like you’ll find in The States. Instead it’s usually served in 250g to 330g portions.  And sometimes even when it looks perfect and is made from scratch (like in the photo above), it can still have a totally lackluster flavor compared to others in the city.

Bolognese Recipe Imposters 

Not all recipes online claiming to be Bolognese sauce are even close to a real Bolognese. Many bear no resemblance to the real deal at all (you know the ones...that call for countless herbs, beef bouillon, and Worcestershire sauce).

Maybe you’ve never been to Bologna and care nothing about it, but you are curious about what all the buzz is about with this sauce. But if you want to make a true genuine Bolognese sauce you’re in the right place. Because one of my biggest pet peeves is people getting scammed (even if it’s with a recipe).

Many recipes online don’t live up to the hype because…

  • They include unnecessary ingredients you’ll never find in authentic Bolognese (i.e. Worcestershire sauce, herbs like thyme, oregano, basil, etc.) but they’ll still call it a “proper authentic Bolognese recipe’. Often these recipes will also omit mandatory ingredients (like all or part of the soffritto) altogether.
  • Some recipes include shortcuts and don’t simmer the Bolognese long enough which is 100% necessary (we’re looking at you 30-minute weeknight Bolognese). Often these recipes are super tasty meat sauce recipes, but not anywhere close to a Bolognese. I wish they’d just give the pasta another name like this recipe does

To avoid any confusion, in this post, you’ll learn how to identify whether or not a recipe is a real Bolognese ragù or something that more closely resembles a really delicious spaghetti sauce before you invest your time and money to make it. Not all of you care about tradition and that’s ok. But for anyone who does, I’ve got you covered!

So, now that we’ve got this out of the way, let’s get on to the ‘meat’ of what actually does make a Classic Bolognese!


What Makes Bolognese Sauce Authentic?

The short answer — the ingredients and how long it’s cooked. There are as many variations of authentic Bolognese as there are Nonna’s making it. This is because there’s a lot of flexibility within the parameters of traditional ingredients used and the order in which they are added to the sauce. This means you can create your own Authentic Bolognese but still make it totally your own. Below is a list of traditional ingredients (some must be included while others are optional).

Authentic Bolognese Ingredients:

  • beef (must be included: usually the neck, skirt, or well-marbled chuck works great and even better if you can get your butcher to grind it twice–some recipes include a little veal but this really isn’t seen much and it’s not necessary or worth the higher price when making Bolognese)

  • pork (you will almost always find some type of pork in bolognese, but it’s ok to leave. it out especially when making a kosher Bolognese — typically pancetta is used, but prosciutto di Parma, pork belly, and ground pork may also be added although it’s not as typical — and when pork meat is not added, you’ll usually find that ‘strutto’ (lard) is added)

  • soffritto (must be included: the holy trinity of Italian cooking: onions, carrots, and celery usually finely diced, but more rustic versions use a regular dice)

  • tomato (must be included but not too much because Bolognese is not meant to be a ‘tomato sauce with beef’: tomato paste, canned tomatoes, or tomato passata)

  • fat (extra virgin olive oil, or a combination of extra virgin olive oil and butter, or ‘strutto’ (lard) is used although much less often — I have never seen canola oil or any other fat besides EVOO, butter, or lard used in a real Bolognese recipe)

  • milk or heavy cream (optional and almost always used: whole milk is used most often, but occasionally a little heavy cream can be added just before tossing it with the pasta — and to make a kosher Bolognese you’ll need to leave it out)

  • wine (red wine and white wine are both used with red wine being our favorite because its robust flavor compared to the more delicate white wine bolognese —  stick to a dry red wine like a Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet, Pinot Nero, or a dry white like Pinot Grigio)

  • homemade meat broth (beef broth is used most often, but chicken broth is also used and delicious — it’s worth it to make your own from scratch (I make mine in a pressure cooker in 45 minutes), but any low-sodium store-bought broth will work)

  • freshly grated whole nutmeg (optional and rarely used, this spice adds a little warmth to the sauce but isn’t required — a little goes a long way, and  try not to use pre-ground nutmeg because it doesn’t taste the same)

  • bay leaf (optional and rarely used as a subtle addition of flavor, but don’t leave it simmering in the sauce too long, because it can overpower the other flavors)

  • chicken livers (this has historically been used in some traditional Bolognese sauces but isn’t used as often as perhaps it once was)

I’ve also included the Official Bolognese Recipe (courtesy of the Bologna Chamber of Commerce) towards the end of the post for you to reference. 

Traditional Cooking Method for Authentic Bolognese

Here are the basics for cooking Bolognese that’ll give you the melt-in-your-mouth quality it’s known for.

  • Cook it in an earthenware pot or enameled cast iron pot (but don’t let it be a deterrent if you don’t have one, just use stainless steel)

  • Cook it on the lowest flame possible while still maintaining a gentle simmer. (Bolognese needs to be gently simmered so it can withstand the longer cooking time that’s necessary to go from ‘sauce’ to a bonified ‘ragù’)

  • Cook it for an absolute minimum of 2 1/2 hours (but even better for 4 or 5 hours — both of my bolognese sauce recipes usually take 4 to 4 1/2 hours total from beginning to end starting from when I first start sautéing the vegetables to the finished ragù)

  • Allow ample time in between the addition of each new ingredient (the vegetables, pork, beef, and wine) in order to allow the moisture to evaporate from each ingredient before adding the next (this helps concentrate the flavors in the finished sauce)

  • Allow adequate time for the alcohol to burn off before adding the next ingredients (A major mistake often made when cooking with wine is not knowing how long to let the alcohol cook (to evaporate) before adding the next ingredient (usually another liquid like stock or tomatoes). If you don’t give the alcohol time to burn off, you can easily ruin the dish. Below is a good rule of thumb that works great and will help keep you in the safe zone for this sauce or any recipe calling for wine:
    • When you’re adding around 1 to 3 tablespoons of wine to a sauce and working in a sautê pan or skillet, give it 3 to 5 minutes for the alcohol to cook off.
    • When you’re adding 1/2 to 3/4 cups give it about 10-15 minutes to cook off.
    • When you’re adding 1 cup or more to a sauce, give it anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes to cook off before adding any other liquid. 

  • The ragù should be cooked until the fat noticeably separates from the meat and the rest of the sauce. (You’ll see in the photo below that even with my #1 (healthy) Bolognese recipe that uses leaner beef and very little added olive oil, the fat still separates nicely when the ragù is ready. The fat separation is a lot more noticeable in my #2 Bolognese recipe because I add more olive oil and it also contains butter.) 

Ingredients You Won’t Find in Authentic Bolognese Recipe

The purpose of this post is to get down to the nitty-gritty of what is and isn’t in a true Bolognese sauce. Of course, you can happily break all the rules when you’re cooking in your own kitchen (I do it all the time!), but maybe give your ragù a fun, slightly different name if you do.

  • garlic (although not found traditionally home cooks sometimes use it — 1 or 2 smashed garlic cloves (not minced) added to the sauce and removed just before serving, tastes great and doesn’t make the ragù garlicky, ruin, or overpower the authentic flavor of the sauce)
  • oregano
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • thyme
  • basil
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • beef bouillon (although if you need it to make a low-sodium beef broth go for it)
  • American bacon (although I’m positive it would taste great and lend a really nice smokiness to the sauce much like a ‘pancetta affumicata’ or smoked pancetta)

#1 Bolognese Sauce Ingredients 

Both Bolognese recipes require just a few basic ingredients that are easy to find feel free to add a couple of cloves of smashed garlic cloves, just be sure to remove them before serving.

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • pancetta
  • onions
  • carrots
  • celery
  • ground beef (lean but not too lean 90/10 or 85/15 beef)
  • dry red wine such as Sangiovese di Romagna (sub cabernet, merlot, pinot nero or other dry red wine)
  • canned chopped tomatoes
  • tomato paste (double concentrate) (sub regular tomato paste)
  • beef broth
  • milk
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Overview: How to Make Bolognese Sauce (Best Bolognese Recipe #1)

I call version #1 the easy bolognese sauce recipe because there’s even less hands-on time needed before its ultimate low and slow simmer, but If I were making Bolognese for the first time, I’d probably make Bolognese Sauce #2. 

  1. Render the fat from the pancetta with olive oil.
  2. Sauté the vegetables until they lose their moisture and the onion is translucent. 
  3. Cook the beef until no longer pink and it’s lost its moisture. 
  4. Deglaze the pan with wine, add tomato paste and beef stock, and simmer over low heat for about 2 hours. 
  5. Add the milk and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour — use ragù right away or cool and store. 

Bolognese Sauce Recipe #1 Step-By-Step Recipe Photos

#2 Bolognese Sauce Ingredients 

This recipe requires butter and uses a lot more olive oil than recipe #1, but if you’ve never made this ragù before, I recommend making this one first!

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • unsalted butter
  • onions
  • carrots
  • celery
  • pancetta
  • ground beef (well-marbled cuts like the neck, skirt, chuck, or sirloin)
  • dry red wine such as Sangiovese di Romagna (sub cabernet, merlot, pinot nero, or other dry red wine))
  • chicken broth
  • milk
  • tomato passata
  • tomato paste (sub regular tomato paste))
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Overview: How to Make Bolognese Sauce (Best Bolognese Recipe #2)

This recipe takes slightly more time up front during the vegetables sautéing, browning of the meat, and cooking off the wine, but other than that it’s a cinch and just as easy as recipe #1.

  1. Sauté the vegetables in butter and olive oil adding them one at time and allowing them to cook a few minutes before adding the next.
  2. Add the pancetta to the vegetables and cook (about 10 minutes).
  3. Add 1/2 the beef and cook until no longer pink and it’s lost most of its moisture (about 5 minutes). 
  4. Add the last 1/2 of the beef and cook until no longer pink and it’s lost its moisture (about 10 minutes). 
  5. Deglaze the pot with wine and cook for 20 minutes.
  6. Add the tomato passata and the tomato paste diluted in chicken stock and milk. Cover, and simmer for 2 1/2 hours.  Use right away or cool it and store it. 

Bolognese Sauce Recipe #2 Step-By-Step Recipe Photos

Best Pasta to Pair With Bolognese Sauce

Bolognese sauce is typically served with fresh egg pasta and spinach lasagna as the gold standard but also tastes great with twirly shapes and shorter semolina pasta shapes as well.  Here’s a list of the most common pasta shapes it’s served with: spinach lasagna (lasagna verde), tagliatelle, pappardelle, and gnocchi. I’ve included some photos below of all the pasta (egg and semolina varieties as well as homemade and store-bought pasta) we enjoy eating.

Bolognese Best Tips For Success

Throughout the post, I’ve pretty much given you all the details I’ve learned for how to make the best Bolognese sauce. But if I were to list a few of the most important tips it would be the following:

  • Use a combination of beef and pork for the best flavor.
  • Use red wine instead of white wine which creates a more robust Bolognese (white wine is more delicate).
  • Save your fresh or dried herbs for a different sauce. They’re not needed in Bolognese.
  • Don’t cut the simmer time down to anything less than 2 hours.
  • Use the best quality canned tomatoes, tomato passata, and tomato paste you can find.
  • Avoid over-salting the ragù in the early stages of cooking. As it cooks for 2 + hours the flavor reduces and concentrates and you can end up with ragù that’s too salty.
  • If you end up with Bolognese that’s too salty, you can try to fix it by added more tomatoes, unslated or low-sodium broth or even milk.

How to Store Bolognese Sauce (Portion, Freeze, Reheat & Eat)

Bolognese sauce tastes even better the day after it’s made. If you want to meal prep it you can make it up to 3 days in advance, allow it to cool completely, and refrigerate it in an airtight container until ready to use.  Bolognese sauce also freezes really well. Portion it into 225-250g (about 1 cup) portions in an airtight container, cover the top with parchment paper or wax paper, and freeze it for up to 6 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and when ready to use it, reheat it slowly over low heat.


Pasta Bolognese Photos (From Bologna & Greater Emilia Romagna Region)

Pasta Bolognese varies from restaurant to restaurant and home to home, and these photos of real Bolognese from the region are proof of that. Hopefully, this will help give you a better idea of what to expect if you travel there, or just want to make it at home. For the most part, the sauce is very creamy and has an orangeish-red color from the addition of tomato paste or tomatoes and sometimes milk or butter.

The ragù itself typically has small bits of beef and pancetta, and vegetables that seem to mostly melt into the sauce. If you want to mimic this style be sure to finely chop or grind the beef and pancetta, finely dice the soffrito, and add plenty of milk.

Bolognese Variations & Substitutions

  • Make a slow cooker Bolognese. Transfer the bolognese sauce mixture from the stovetop to a slow cooker once you’ve added the tomatoes and broth in Recipe #1 and cook on low for 5 hours at which point you’ll add the milk and then cook on low for an additional 1 hour. For Recipe #2, you’ll transfer the bolognese sauce from stovetop to the slow cooker after you’ve added the milk, tomatoes, and broth and cook the mixture on low for 6 hours.
  • Make a No-Wine Bolognese Sauce. Substitute wine with equal amounts of chicken broth or beef broth to make
  • Make a No-Pork Bolognese Sauce. Omit the pork and continue with the recipe as is or substitute the pork with equal amounts of beef.
  • Make Dairy-Free Bolognese Sauce. Omit the butter and sub extra virgin olive oil and substitute the milk with chicken or beef broth.
  • Make a Kosher Bolognese Sauce. Omit any dairy called for in the recipe (butter or milk) and any pork and instead use only olive oil and beef.
  • Make a turkey ‘Bolognese’. Okay, if we’re being technical, there’s no such thing, but if you’re trying to eat less beef substitute it with ground dark turkey meat and give it a great name like “Gobbler Ragù”.

Bolognese Sauce vs Spaghetti Sauce

Spaghetti sauce and Bolognese sauce share nothing in common except that they both make delicious pasta dinners! From the above photos, you can immediately see the differences between spaghetti sauce and traditional bolognese sauce, but let’s dig into the most important factors below:

  • Ingredients: Spaghetti sauce is a tomato-based sauce with beef in it whereas, Bolognese is a beef (or beef and pork) based sauce with just some form of tomato in it. Although I often add a splash or two of wine to homemade spaghetti sauce, it’s not a typical ingredient in most recipes. Whereas, it’s the standard to add red or white wine to Bolognese.

  • Cooking Time: Bolognese sauce isn’t really a sauce, but instead is considered a ragù. Because unlike spaghetti sauce which is typically cooked for just 30 minutes or so, ragù (Bolognese in this case), needs a minimum of 2 1/2 hours to cook.

  • Texture: Typically, spaghetti sauce is a much looser sauce than Bolognese which is much more concentrated and less ‘wet’ due to its longer cooking time. However, you can choose to have a somewhat looser Bolognese by adding additional broth or milk to the sauce near the end of cooking time.

  • Taste: Spaghetti sauce is bright, acidic, often herbaceous (using basil, oregano, etc.), and bursting with tomato flavor. The success of spaghetti sauce relies heavily on the quality of tomatoes used.  Bolognese, on the other hand, has a beefy, porky, sweeter, deeper, richer, more nuanced flavor with underlying notes of wine. You won’t find fresh or dried herbs being used in traditional Bolognese either. Instead, its flavor depends heavily on the quality of the beef and pork used, as well as its longer cooking time.

  • Type of Pasta it’s served with: In Italy, Pasta Bolognese will typically only be served with fresh egg pasta like spinach lasagna in the classic Lasagna Bolognese or with tagliatelle, or with gnocchi, and also fresh egg maccheroni and rigatoni. It would be rare if you ever found it served with homemade tortellini and you will never find it served with spaghetti noodles (*more on this point below). These pasta shapes are paired with Bolognese because they’re better equipped to hold the sauce and they just taste and texturally feel better. However, spaghetti sauce can be successfully served with just about any kind of pasta shape you want!

A Note About Spaghetti Bolognese:

I’m going to take a minute to gently clear the air — in Italy, Spaghetti Bolognese is a pasta dish that doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as Spaghetti Bolognese Sauce, Spaghetti alla Bolognese, Spaghetti Bolonaise, Spaghetti Bolognaise, or slow cooker Spag Bol. That’s really a long list I know,but unfortunately, it’s what this time-honored ragù has been reduced to outside of Italy.

You won’t find Bolognese sauce served with spaghetti in Italy unless (unfortunately), you happen to be in a tourist-only restaurant and don’t even know it (even though in all my years here, I’ve never actually even seen the dish here). Spaghetti is considered too small of a shape without enough surface area to fully complement or hold up to the ragù. And egg pasta is considered the gold standard (not semolina) to serve with Bolognese.

If you’re a die-hard spaghetti bolognese fan, that’s cool — it’s your kitchen and this is why cooking at home is so awesome! But I recommend also trying an egg pasta like tagliatelle or pappardelle to see how the sauce complements the pasta and elevates the entire dish.

Ragù vs Bolognese 

In Italy “ragù” is a general term or umbrella category used to describe meat sauces that are simmered for hours using a low and slow cooking method similar to braising. You’re probably familiar with some of these regional ragùs like the duck ragù from here in the Veneto, or the Neapolitan ragù with its mixed cuts of meats. So, Bolgonese is a ragù from Bologna (or ragù made in the Bologna style). On the other hand, a sauce or “sugo” can be cooked in 30 minutes or less.

The Official Bolognese Recipe | Provided By The Italian Academy of Cuisine 

The original Bolognese ragù is thought to have had its start (the iteration as we know it and love today) sometime around the 1700s. The official recipe was added to the register of the Italian Academy of Cuisine at the Bologna Chamber of Commerce on October 17th, 1982.

“With a solemn decree of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina – the Italian Academy of Cuisine, the present was notarized and deposited in the Palazzo della Mercanzia, the Chamber of Commerce of the City of Bologna on the 17th of October 1982.”


300 gr. beef cartella (thin skirt)
150 gr. pancetta, dried
50 gr. carrot
50 gr. celery stalk
50 gr. onion
5 spoons tomato sauce or 20 gr. triple tomato extract
1 cup whole milk
Half cup white or red wine, dry and not frizzante
Salt and pepper, to taste.


The pancetta, cut into little cubes and chopped with a mezzaluna chopping knife, is melted in a saucepan; the vegetables, once again well chopped with the mezzaluna, are then added and everything is left to stew softly. Next the ground beef is added and is left on the stovetop, while being stirred constantly, until it sputters. The wine and the tomato cut with a little broth are added and everything left to simmer for around two hours, adding little by little the milk and adjusting the salt and black pepper. Optional but advisable is the addition of the panna di cottura or a litre of whole milk at the end of the cooking.

Looking for More Easy Pasta Dishes to Make?

If you love pasta as much as we do, here are a few more recipes to inspire your next dinner.


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Bolognese (Authentic Bolognese Sauce : 2 Local Recipes)

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5 from 1 review

  • Author: Kelly
  • Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 8 to 10 servings 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free


Two delicious and authentic (yet slightly varied) recipes for homemade Bolognese sauce right from the heart of Bologna and the greater Emilia-Romagna region. Slow-simmered, rich, and sumptuous — these two recipes are the gold standard for Bolognese. Use them to make authentic lasagna alla Bolognese, or toss them with your favorite pasta like homemade pappardelle, tagliatelle, or gnocchi Bolognese.


Units Scale

(Best Bolognese Recipe #1 Ingredients)

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or more to taste (30g)
  • 2 medium onions, finely diced (9 1/2 ounces) (270g)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, finely diced (6 ounces) (170g)
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced (3 1/2 ounces) (100g)
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) Mutti finely chopped canned tomatoes (120g)
  • 1 pound ground beef (450g)
  • 6 1/2 ounces cubed pancetta, finely chopped (185g)
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) dry red wine like Sangiovese, Pinot Nero, Cabernet (150g)
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups low-sodium homemade beef stock, or store-bought (240g-720g)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons double concentrated tomato paste (30g-45g) (sub regular tomato paste)
  • 1 cup whole milk, or more to taste (240g)
  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
traditional ragu meat sauce (bolognese) in a dutch oven with a wooden spoon in it.
Traditional Bolognese Recipe #1 (aka Bolognese Sauce Numero Uno)

(Best Bolognese Recipe #2 Ingredients)

  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (75g)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (100g)
  • 1 medium onion (7 ounces) (200g)
  • 1 medium carrot (3 1/2 ounces) (100g)
  • 1 rib of celery (1/4 cup) (85g)
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (700g) (well-marbled cuts like the neck, skirt, chuck, or sirloin)
  • 11 ounces pancetta finely minced or chopped in a food processor (300g) (sub pork belly)
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine such as Sangiovese di Romagna (330g) (sub cabernet, merlot, pinot nero, or other dry red wine)
  • 1 cup chicken broth (plus more as needed up to 2 full cups total) (225g)
  • 1 cup whole milk (240g)
  • 17 1/2 ounces tomato passata (500g)
  • 2 tablespoons double concentrated tomato paste (30g) (sub regular tomato paste)
  • 2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or more or less to taste (8 g)
  • black pepper to taste
A creamy brighter orangish-red colored bolognese sauce with visible oil separated from the beef and pork mixture.
Traditional Bolognese Recipe #2 (aka Bolognese Sauce Numero Due)


(Best Bolognese Recipe #1 Instructions)

  1. Render the fat from the pancetta. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, add the pancetta, and cook for approximately 15 minutes to allow some of the fat to render.
  2. Cook the soffritto. Add the onions, celery, and carrots to the pot, season with a little salt, and sauté for 8-10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the moisture has evaporated.
  3. Cook the beef. Add the beef to the pot breaking it up into small pieces with the back of a spoon, season with salt, and cook until no longer pink and the moisture has evaporated, about 15 minutes.
  4. Deglaze the pan and add the tomatoes and broth. Add the wine while scraping the browned bits (the fond) from the bottom of the pan. Let the mixture cook for 3-5 minutes to allow the alcohol to evaporate. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and beef stock and stir everything well to combine. Season with a little salt and black pepper, reduce heat to low, and gently simmer covered, stirring occasionally for approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Adjust seasonings. *See recipe notes for how to season so you don’t end up with an overly salty Bolognese after it has reduced.
  5. Add the milk and finish the ragù. Add milk to the sauce, cover with the lid left slightly ajar, and continue simmering over low heat, stirring occasionally until the milk is absorbed, about 45 minutes, adding more beef stock by 1/4 cup at a time to thin it out only if needed. Turn off the heat, adjust the seasonings, and serve right away, or cool it to room temperature, and store it in the refrigerator or freezer, Enjoy!
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(Best Bolognese Recipe #2 Instructions)

  1. Cook the soffritto. In a large dutch oven set over medium-low heat, add the butter, olive oil, and onions, season with salt, and sauté until translucent but not browned and most of the moisture has evaporated (about 10 minutes). Turn up the heat to medium, add the carrots, and cook for 5 minutes. Next, add the celery and cook for 5 minutes more.
  2. Cook the pancetta. Add the ground (or finely diced) pancetta to the pot and sauté until cooked through and most of the fat has been rendered (about 10 minutes).
  3. Cook the beef. Add 1/2 of the beef to the pot breaking it up into small pieces with the back of a spoon, season with salt, and cook until no longer pink and some of the moisture has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the beef, season with salt, and cook until the moisture has evaporated (about 10 minutes).
  4. Deglaze the pot with wine. Add the wine while scraping the browned bits (the fond) from the bottom of the pot. Let the mixture cook for at least 20 minutes and up to 25 minutes to allow the alcohol to evaporate.
  5. Add the milk, tomato, and broth, and finish the ragù. Add the tomato passata to the pot. Stir the tomato paste into the chicken stock and milk, and add it to the pot. Season with a little salt and black pepper, reduce heat to low, and gently simmer covered, stirring occasionally for approximately 2 1/2 hours. You may add chicken stock a 1/4 cup at a time to thin it out only as needed. Turn off the heat, adjust the seasonings, and serve right away, Enjoy! *See recipe notes for how to season so you don’t end up with an overly salty Bolognese after it has reduced.
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  • Substitute beef broth with low-sodium chicken stock or vice versa.
  • Make the ragù ahead.  It can be made up to 3 days in advance. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover in an airtight container and keep refrigerated until ready to use. Reheat and use needed.
  • Freeze bolognese in an airtight container for up to 6 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight before you need to use it in a recipe.
  • When dicing the vegetables, try and cut them the same size so that they’ll cook evenly together. For a smoother sauce like recipe #2, finely dice the veggies instead of the regular dice I’ve used in recipe #1.
  • Don’t overwhelm the sauce with too many vegetables.  According to the official Bolognese recipe, equal amounts of onion, carrots, and celery should be used (50g) of each for every 450g of total meat used. I love onion and the sweet carrots we have in Italy, so I use more of these two vegetables than the celery. Do what you prefer, but don’t overwhelm your sauce with too many vegetables.
  • If you don’t have tomato paste, substitute with 1/2 cup (120g) of finely chopped tomatoes, whole peeled whole tomatoes, or tomato passata.
  • Do not oversalt the sauce. Be sure to season the vegetables, beef, and sauce as the ingredients are added so that each layer of this ragù is properly seasoned.  However, be careful not to salt it as you would say a 30-minute spaghetti sauce because as the ragù cooks the liquid reduces all of the flavors are concentrated which intensifies the salt. Remember, you can always add salt but can never take it away.
  • If you’re looking for a small pasta bolognese recipe, simply cut this recipe in half using a scale. I’ve provided the gram measurements for each ingredient which makes it super easy to half this bolognese recipe. I would only recommend halving the recipe if you want to try both Bolognese recipes in a side-by-side comparison. Mostly because it’s so delicious and this beef ragù freezes so well, but also because of the energy consumed in preparing it (3-4 hours cooking).
  • If you want to make a slow cooker Bolognese, all you have to do is transfer the bolognese sauce mixture from the stovetop to a slow cooker once you’ve added the tomatoes and broth in Recipe #1 and cook on low for 5 hours at which point you’ll add the milk and cook on low for an additional 1 hour. And in Recipe #2, you’ll transfer the sauce after you add the milk, tomatoes, and broth and cook the mixture for 6 hours.
  • For a no-wine Bolognese sauce substitute chicken broth or beef broth for the wine.
  • For a no-pork Bolognese sub equal amounts of beef.
  • Make a Kosher Bolognese Sauce. Omit any dairy called for in the recipe (butter or milk) and any pork and instead use only olive oil and beef.
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Category: Sauces + Spreads + Dips
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • Serving Size: 4 ounces
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  1. What a delicious recipe. This takes me back to our visit in Bologna where we savored this rich and creamy sauce. Great recipe and easy to follow. Looking forward to making it soon.

    • Thanks, Rosemary! I bet you had so much fun in your Bologna cooking class (and thanks for sending me the link:). There’s nothing better than traveling, eating, and picking up a few (lifelong) skills from a local. It’s guaranteed to make your meals at home taste even better and remind you of your travel. If you decide to use your new homemade pasta-making skills and pair with this sauce, let me know how it turns out!

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