Bolognese sauce is heavenly and boy is the texture something to write home about! With some love and patience, this sauce will turn out to be a work of art and TOTALLY worth the time you put into it!
It doesn’t take much to make the very best bolognese sauce as long as you carve out a little bit of time to make it! It will be such a delightful surprise to your taste buds and you will be talking about how much you love it for days after! If you love this Italian-inspired dish, then try my alfredo, shrimp, or this gnocchi!
What is Bolognese Sauce?
If you aren’t quite sure what bolognese sauce is, I am here to tell you it is something that you MUST try! Bolognese sauce is a meat sauce that originated from, you guessed it, ITALY! It’s a lot different than your traditional spaghetti sauce that is usually tomato-based. This sauce is much creamier and thicker (because milk is one of the main ingredients). In addition to traditional ingredients like garlic and onion, it also has some carrots and celery. That sounds unusual but all of these things mixed together add up to make an absolutely savory, delicious flavor with a hint of sweetness!
This sauce is fantastic over pasta but you can also make it and use it in lasagna or casseroles that call for some marinara sauce to switch things up! This sauce will take some time to make but it is actually very hands-off and super simple! My family drools over this swoon-worthy sauce and it is requested often! I love that the texture is thicker than a normal marinara sauce making it hearty and different. Cook this with some gnocchi and top with some fresh parmesan, add in some breadsticks and you will feel like you are touring Italy! You should definitely try this, you won’t regret it!!
Ingredients for Beef Bolognese Sauce
Though this requires quite a few ingredients, you will be happy to know that you probably already have most of them in your kitchen!! Put them together to make this sauce and I can guarantee that you will absolutely love the result! See the recipe card below for full ingredient measurements.
- Carrots: Chop your carrots up into small cubes. You want the flavor but not large chunks!
- Onion: The onion will add so much flavor to this sauce! Make sure to chop it up finely.
- Celery: Chop the celery up into fine pieces.
- Garlic: This recipe calls for fresh cloves of garlic. If you don’t have any, you can use minced garlic from your fridge. ½ tsp equals about 1 clove of garlic.
- Pancetta: Delicious and not commonly used, this will bring a great flavor and texture to this sauce!
- Ground beef: If you can, I suggest getting 80/20 ground beef!
- Ground pork: This will be in addition to the beef. Using both makes this sauce unique in its taste.
- White wine: The wine will add a lot of depth to the sauce and the alcohol will evaporate.
- Crushed tomatoes: I use canned tomatoes because they help bring a thicker consistency than diced tomatoes!
- Tomato paste: This helps to thicken the sauce.
- Chicken broth: Used as a base, it will help combine all of the ingredients.
- Whole milk: This is an absolute must as this is what makes bolognese sauce so different!
- Salt and pepper: Add these in at the end to your preferred taste!
How to Make Homemade Bolognese Sauce
This recipe takes some time but not a ton of effort! You can get this mixed and ready to simmer in about 20 minutes. The remaining time is just monitoring it! You can totally do this and you will be so glad that you did!
- Pulse vegetables: In a food processor add the carrots, onion, celery and garlic. Pulse until crossly chopped. Be careful not to pulse it too long so that it turns into mush. Remove and set aside on a plate.
- Pulse the meat: Add the pancetta to the food processor and pulse until it is coarsely chopped.
- Cook pancetta: Add to a large skillet and cook the pancetta for 5-6 minutes over medium high heat or until it starts to crisp. Remove and set aside on a plate.
- Cook and crumble: Add in the ground beef and ground pork. Cook and crumble until it is cooked throughout. You want the crumbles to be pretty small so it might take some extra work.
- Deglaze: Add the veggies, pancetta, white wine to the skillet. Allow it to deglaze.
- Add: Add in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and chicken broth.
- Milk and seasoning: The last 15 minutes of cooking add the milk. Season to taste.
- Simmer and serve: Let it simmer on low for 2 hours for the flavors to blend and for it to thicken. You can serve immediately if needed.
Since bolognese sauce may not be as familiar to you, here are a few tips and substitutions to help you out! Keep in mind that this is just the sauce recipe which leaves it wide open for you to use on whatever you see fit! Get creative, have fun and enjoy!
- Meat substitutions: Pancetta is sometime difficult to find at your local market. If you can’t find it at your grocery store, you can use proiscuitto, bacon, salted pork or smoked susage as a substitute.
- Wine: The alcohol in this dish will burn off but if you don’t have wine or are uncomfortable using it, you can substitute it with a bit of beef broth. Just keep in mind that this will slightly alter the taste.
- Crushed tomatoes: If you don’t have any crushed tomatoes available, you can dice up some tomatoes instead. The taste will remain the same but the consistency, however, will be slightly thinner.
This sauce is great because it can be made ahead and stored or you can store or freeze any leftovers you may have! Because this recipe takes a bit longer, I love to double or triple the recipe and freeze it for later!
- Refrigerator: Store this in an airtight container and it will last in the fridge for 4 days.
- Freezer: This sauce will expand when frozen so keep that in mind when you are storing. Place it in an airtight container or a ziplock bag and freeze for up to 3 months. (Don’t forget to write the date on your container so that you know when you put it in the freezer!)
- Reheat: This is the easy part (and why I suggest at least doubling your recipe). You just take the sauce out and let it thaw in your fridge. Then, you can cook it on the stovetop or microwave, stirring every 20 seconds, until heated through!
The Very Best Bolognese Sauce
- 2 small carrots chopped
- 1 small onion chopped
- 2 celery stalks chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- 8 ounce pancetta
- 1 pound ground beef 80/20
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 29 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 4 ounce tomato paste
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup whole milk
- salt and pepper to taste
In a food processor add the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic. Pulse until crossly chopped. Be careful not to pulse it too long so that it turns into mush. Remove and set aside on a plate.
Add the pancetta to the food processor and pulse until it is coarsely chopped.
Add to a large skillet and cook the pancetta for 5-6 minutes over medium-high heat or until it starts to crisp. Remove and set aside on a plate.
Add in the ground beef and ground pork. Cook and crumble until it is cooked throughout. You want the crumbles to be pretty small so it might take some extra work.
Add the veggies, pancetta, white wine to the skillet. Allow it to deglaze.
Add in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and chicken broth.
The last 15 minutes of cooking add the milk. Season to taste.
Let it simmer on low for 2 hours for the flavors to blend and for it to thicken. You can serve immediately if needed.
The Recipe Critic