Italian Bolognese Sauce (Ragù)

This slowly simmered, rich meat sauce, originally from Bologna, Italy, is an important culinary building block. It can be used as a sauce for fresh pappardelle, tagliatelle, or other wide, ribbon-shaped egg pasta; as a component of a layered lasagne; as a topping for polenta; and in numerous other ways.

The good news is that it’s easy to make, nearly foolproof, and a cure for the winter blues. I can think of no dish I’d rather eat on a cold, blustery Northwest January night. The dense, deep mahogany sauce twirled around silky-textured, toothy fresh egg pasta, topped with a generous shaving of Parmigiano-Reggiano is perfection to all the senses.

Ingredients for LunaCafe's Bolognese Sauce

In 1982, the Bologna chapter of Italy’s gastronomic society, L’Accademia Italiana della Cucina, published a recipe for an authentic rendition of the city’s famous sauce, setting clear boundaries for what should and shouldn’t be included in this sauce. After reviewing the approved recipe, I must admit that my version is not authentic in the strictest sense. My Bellissimo Bolognese Sauce uses a lot more onion, herbs and spices, ground pork and pork sausage in addition to ground beef, chicken stock rather than beef stock, balsamic vinegar, and no celery, milk, cream, or tomato paste. For me, wine is an option and if I use it, it’s more likely to be red than white.

Ground beef, ground pork and Italian pork sausage for Bolognese Sauce

Nevertheless, through many rounds of testing over the years to eke the most exquisite flavor from the ten or so basic ingredients, the spirit of this sauce is intact. As in the authentic version, the meat takes precedence over the tomato, and long simmering creates a deep melding of favors. The resulting sauce, with its many dimensions, is dense and silky, subtly sweet and tart.

Bolognese Sauce Simmering on the Stove

PRONUNCIATION Check out the cool Forvo site for audio pronunciations of words in many languages, including Bolognese (boh-loh-NYEH-zeh), tagliatelle (tah-lyah-TELL-eh), and pappardelle (pa-par-DAY-lay).

LunaCafe's Bellissimo Bolognese Sauce

LunaCafe’s Bellissimo Bolognese Sauce

This very beautiful sauce is also very easy to make and does not, in my opinion, require the incredibly long simmering time indicated in many recipes. In fact, these lengthy times are more likely than not to get the cook in trouble. My sauce is on the stove for under an hour in most cases. The time will vary somewhat, based on the width (and thus depth) of the pan you use.

The sauce should not be dry when it is done. When it begins to stick to the pan, requiring nearly constant stirring, you have gone far enough, maybe a little too far. You can always add more stock to achieve just the right consistency though, so no worries in any case.

¼ cup cold-pressed (extra-virgin) olive oil

2 large onions, chopped (4 cups chopped)

2-3 carrots, chopped (1 cup chopped)

4-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (2 tablespoons minced)

2 teaspoons dried crumbled basil

2 teaspoons dried crumbled oregano

1 teaspoon dried crumbled thyme

½ teaspoon red chile flakes, optional

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional



½ pound ground beef

½ pound ground pork

½ pound ground Italian pork sausage (with fennel)



2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 cup dry red or white wine, optional

four 14½-ounce cans petite diced tomatoes in juice

1 cup chicken stock



fine sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

1-2 teaspoons sugar, if necessary

¼ cup minced fresh parsley



1.In a large stovetop casserole, heat the olive oil, and sauté the onions and carrots over medium-low heat until softened but not browned, about 15 minutes.

2.Add the garlic, basil, oregano, and thyme and continue cooking without browning for 2-3 minutes.

3.Raise the heat and add the ground meats. Sauté, stirring and crumbling the meat, until the meat is well browned.Drain any excess oil from the skillet.

4.Add the balsamic vinegar and reduce to almost no liquid.

5.Add the wine if using and reduce by half.

6.Add the tomatoes and chicken stock and simmer slowly, partially covered for about 45 minutes, until most, but not all, of the moisture has evaporated.

7.Taste, then season with salt, pepper, and sugar if necessary.

8.Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley.

Makes 4 cups sauce; enough sauce for 12-14 ounces of dried egg pasta or 18-21 ounces of fresh egg pasta.


Emeril Lagasse’s Spaghetti Bolognese

Epicurious: Bolognese Sauce

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

Food & Wine: Pasta Bolognese

Forvo Audio Pronunciations

Heston Blumenthal’s Spaghetti Bolognese

New York Times: Bitten: How to Cook Bolognese


Pasta Ribbons

Saveur: Anna Nanni’s Ragù alla Bolognese

Serious Ragù Bolognese

Tagliatelle al Ragú, or the ‘Real Thing’

Tastespotting: Bolognese

The Paupered Chef: Ragù alla Bolognese

The Splendid Table

Video: How to Cook Spaghetti Bolognese

Wikipedia: Bolognese Sauce

Wikipedia: Spaghetti with Bolognese Sauce

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    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Thanks Alline! This sauce is a mainstay in our kitchen. It’s hearty, so perfect for the winter weather heading this way.

  1. Jordan says

    This was amazing! This is going to be my meat sauce recipe forever. I think the sage gave it such an interesting twist, and I would’ve never thought to add milk.
    Jordan recently posted…south beach smokeMy Profile

  2. Freya says

    Got this melding in the fridge right now. It is so good. Thanks for the simple take on a recipe that can be pretty time-consuming. Delicious.

  3. ROZ MAKOWIEC says


  4. horselover says

    Made the sauce last night and it was absolutely delicious! Very easy to prepare also. I made a double batch so I can have more tonight:D Thanks for the great recipe. Can’t wait to see more.

  5. Jenny S says

    I just came across your site through a blog that I enjoy reading, and cannot wait to make this sauce! It looks very tasty. And your pictures are just beautiful. I look forward to making many of your recipes! Thanks

  6. says

    My husband, Ken, linked me to your site today and I’m so glad he did! I’ve been messing with Bolognese and now can’t wait to try yours … imagine that: it was the feature on the day that I find you!
    I’m looing forward to perusing your site more!

    • sms bradley says

      Hi Tammy! Do let me know how that sauce turns out for you. My collegue, your husband, Ken, :-) linked me to your site today also. I love your Life Stories and Art of Living theme and can’t wait to read more. It is funny/cool that your lead story today also hits upon something that I have been contemplating deeply of late and that is the role that adversity and so-called negative experiences have in shaping who we are and teaching us what we need to know. Physical ailments are so close to home that they can’t be put out of mind the way other experiences can. I had a migraine condition for a full decade and it took me years to actually ask inwardly what it’s purpose was. I don’t want a repeat of that pain, but in retrospect, I am grateful for the lessons it brought. I am a little more gentle with myself now. Wishing you many blessings as you work through your own experience.

    • sms bradley says

      Radar, make a double batch and freeze half. It’s so great to have on hand. We’ll use it to make an amazing lasagne and maybe a layered polenta later this winter.


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