Home » Italian Pasta Recipes » Authentic Bolognese Sauce

Authentic Bolognese Sauce

This Authentic Bolognese Sauce uses my father’s secret ingredient that makes all the difference.

Plus long, slow cooking to draw out all the flavours of the different meats, vegetables and seasonings. And the bonus is this is a BIG batch bolognese sauce for pasta so you’ve got lots to freeze for later!

Saucepan of ragu spaghetti sauce with wooden spoon resting across the saucepan with some ragu pasta sauce on the spoon.

PIN NOW TO SAVE FOR LATER

Why you’ll love this recipe

Every Italian family has their own version of traditional Bolognese sauce. Often a recipe like this is made early on a Sunday morning and simmers away until lunchtime tempting everyone in the house.

My dad was from a small town in Emilia Romagna not far from Bologna and learnt to cook by his mother’s side. And in this way he also passed recipes on just like this one!

This authentic Bolognese sauce is a family staple in our household and because it is a BIG batch recipe there will always be a container or three in the freezer ready for a quick meal. It’s a recipe that makes over 20 cups of sauce which will easily feed 25 people. It’s a great crowd pleaser as well.

This Italian ragu recipe is perfect with homemade pasta. I have several you can choose from such as tagliatelle, garganelli, cavatelli, tonnarelli or busiate. If you have this in the freezer, it’s quick to whip up a batch of Italian rice balls (arancini) using this instead of the meat sauce in the recipe.

If you’re looking for a smaller quantity of sauce, my tagliatelle bolognese is ideal. It’s another version of this Italian classic but no less delicious.

For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.

Ingredient notes

ingredients as in the recipe card laid out and viewed from above.

I very rarely make this authentic Bolognese Sauce in small batches because it needs to simmer for hours whether you make a small batch or a large one. The long, slow cooking is also one of the keys of this recipe but the ingredients are important too.The ingredient list is lengthy but all the ingredients you can find in your supermarket. Let’s talk about some of the main ingredients.

  1. Beef and pork mince (ground) – I like to buy beef and pork neck and mince  it myself because I have a nifty attachment for my stand mixer. But use good quality beef and pork mince or you can finely cut the meat and use that instead.
  2. Sausages – please don’t buy your standard supermarket sausages. If that’s all you can get, leave the sausages out. They are full of fillers like breadcrumbs. Go to a butcher who makes good sausages. Look for continental sausages or other Italian sausages. Good sausages have all the flavour of meat, fat and spices.
  3. Pork ribs – it’s important to have bones in the sauce. Long slow cooking releases amazing flavour that only bones can give. If not pork ribs, use another pork cut with bones such as pork chops.
  4. Other meats – you can include pork rashes or pork spare ribs even some chicken if you like.
  5. Parmesan rind – this is something I use frequently. I buy Parmesan buy the block from my local delicatessen and save the rinds. But if you don’t, call in to the delicatessen and ask them to save the rinds for you. The flavour Parmesan rind gives is amazing!

Herbs are optional and not always used. This is a personal preference. You leave them out. The other ingredients are self explanatory but don’t hesitate to contact me if there is something you are not sure of or you have a question.

Variations

  • Pork ribs can be replaced with any bone in pork just as pork chops.
  • Italian sausages can be replace with any good sausage you enjoy. 
  • Beef stock can be homemade or store bought – in liquid or powder form.
  • Sugar is added to taste. You may need to add a bit more once you taste it after two hours.

Secret Ingredient

The secret ingredient is a potato. Potato is not a typical ingredient in an authentic Bolognese sauce. However just a small potato makes all the difference and everyone notices if I don’t put it in.

Dad would say that it reduced the acidity and smooths out the flavour. He always added a potato (“just one, you don’t need a lot”) and crushed it through the sauce at the end of the cooking time. I don’t know what the science is in it but it works to improve the sauce every time.

Instructions

  1. Gently cook the finely chopped vegetables in olive oil and butter.
  2. Begin adding meat slowly and browning off.
  3. Once all the meat is brown, add wine and simmer for a few minutes.
  4. Add remaining ingredients.
  5. Simmer long and slow for 4 to 5 hours.

Tips for success and FAQ’s

blue bowl overflowing with bolognese sauce, spoon in the sauce and herbs in the background.

Over the years I learnt many tips to make this authentic Bolognese sauce in the quickest way possible. The first is to gather all the ingredients so that when you start, you’ll move through the recipe quickly.

Use a food processor to chop vegetables quickly. Cut into large chunks then use a food processor to pulse and finely chop. Also use the same method for the bacon. If you are using whole tomatoes, whiz them too!

Be sure to taste, taste and taste again. Season this authentic Bolognese sauce with salt properly. By this I mean that salt brings out the flavours of food. If there’s not enough salt – everything will taste bland.

My tip for using this authentic Bolognese sauce and other cooked sauces with pasta is to allow the sauce time to meld with the pasta. This is how-:

  1. Drain the pasta and return to the saucepan it was cooked in.
  2. Add the hot sauce to the pasta and mix in well.
  3. Put the lid back on the saucepan for a minute or two even three this is where the magic happens.
  4. Open the lid. Give it a gentle mix and you should notice that the pasta has more sauce clinging to it. 
  5. This method is similar to when you see TV chefs adding the cooked pasta to the pan of sauce. However if you are cooking for more than one or two, it’s difficult to do this unless you have a really large skillet.
  6. Now time to serve and enjoy!
Can this recipe be halved?

Yes, it is easy to halve this recipe.

How long will this authentic Bolognese sauce keep?

This sauce will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

How do I freeze this sauce?

Allow to cool slightly, then ladle into container (I use 4-cup capacity lidded containers), seal and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight.
Or if you are in a rush like I always am, pop frozen authentic Bolognese sauce out of container and into a saucepan. Put a little bit of water in the saucepan (just so the sauce doesn’t burn before it defrosts) and warm over gently heat. Stir regular until defrosted, then bring to the boil before combining with pasta.

Serving suggestions

white bowl of gnocchi on blue cloth

This is my go to authentic Bolognese sauce. I use it for all types of pasta but it is particularly good with pappardelle as in “pappardelle al ragu”.

You can make you own pasta following my recipe. I have several step by step pasta recipes on my site if you have never made pasta before. It’s also great with pesto gnocchi. Really, gnocchi are not that hard and so delicious homemade!

Made this recipe?
Please let me know if you liked it by leaving a ★★★★★ star rating and a review below. And remember to subscribe to my newsletter – it’s free!

blue bowl overflowing with ragu pasta sauce, spoon in the sauce and herbs in the background

Authentic Bolognese Sauce Recipe

This authentic Bolognese sauce uses my father's secret ingredient that makes all the difference. Plus long, slow cooking to draw out all the flavours of the different meats, vegetables and seasonings. And the bonus is this is a BIG batch traditional Bolognese sauce so you've got lots to freeze for later!
5 from 33 votes
Print Pin Review
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 5 hours
Servings:20 servings
Author: Marcellina

Ingredients

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons (60 grams)salted butter
  • 2 onions
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 8 ounces (250 grams) bacon
  • 2 pounds (1 kilogram) ground beef
  • 1 pound (450 grams) ground pork
  • 12 ounces (350 grams) pork ribs see notes
  • 2 Italian sausages see notes
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 Parmesan rind optional
  • 5 cups tomato puree (passata)
  • 12 ounces (800 grams) canned whole tomatoes see notes
  • 4 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cups beef stock see notes
  • 1 potato peeled and cut in half
  • 1 teaspoons allspice optional
  • 5 stalks fresh rosemary (or 3 teaspoons dried rosemary) optional
  • 1 teaspoons dried oregano optional
  • 3 bayleaves optional
  • freshly ground pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon sugar see notes

Instructions

  • Finely chop the onions and garlic, peel and finely chop the carrots and finely chop the celery. For fast chopping, chop coarsely then use a food processor to pulse and finely chop. Set aside.
  • Heat a large saucepan over medium high heat. It will need to hold over 1 ⅓ gallons which is about 5 litres.
  • Add the oil and butter.
  • When the oil is hot, add the onion, carrot and celery.
  • Turn the heat down a tad so they don’t burn.
  • Fry until starting to become golden and catch a little on the bottom of the saucepan.
  • In the meantime finely chop the bacon. And chopped the garlic.
  • When the onion, carrot and celery are golden add the bacon and garlic and stir well. Continue to cook for a few more minutes.
  • Now start adding the ground beef a bit at a time. Stirring well and allow the meat to colour.
  • Then add in the ground pork a bit at a time. Repeat the same as the ground beef.
  • Once the ground meat is well cooked, add the sausages and pork ribs. You can add other meats as I have mentioned in the Notes below.
  • Pour in the wine and allow to boil and simmer for a few minutes.
  • Now you can add the remainder of the ingredients – Parmesan rind (if using), tomato puree (passata), canned tomatoes which have been crushed with a fork, tomato paste, stock, potato, herbs (if using) and seasonings.
  • Add half of the sugar and you can taste later if the sauce needs more.
  • Bring to the boil then lower the heat to a gentle simmer.
  • Cover the saucepan and check and stir regularly, You may need to adjust the heat to achieve that sweet spot of a gentle simmer. This is going to be cooking for a long time so a very gentle simmer is what we are looking for here.
  • Once you have achieved that perfect simmer, allow to cook for about 4 to 5 hours.
  • Check regularly that the sauce is not drying out. If so, add a little boiling water.
  • After about two hours of simmering. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You will be surprised at how much salt you need to add and you may need a bit more sugar. Recheck the seasoning towards the end of the cooking time.
  • When the sauce is done. Remove the sausage and the ribs. Cut up the sausage finely, shred the meat from the pork ribs and add the sausage and meat back to the sauce. Find the potato pieces and crush against the side of the saucepan with a wooden spoon. Stir thoroughly.
  • Allow to cool a little, then transfer to freezer containers for storage in the freezer.
  • Don’t put the sauce in the freezer when it’s hot. Instead refrigerate until cold then freeze.
  • If properly stored in the freezer, this sauce will keep for 4 to 6 months.

Notes

Tips for Success

Use a food processor to make quick work of chopping vegetables, bacon and whole canned tomatoes.
  • Pork ribs can be replaced with any bone in pork just as pork chops.
  • Italian sausages can be replace with any good sausage you enjoy. 
  • If using whole tomatoes, crushed with your fingers or use a food processor.
  • Beef stock can be homemade or store bought – in liquid or powder form.
  • Sugar is added to taste. You may need to add a bit more once you taste it after two hours.
  • Be sure to taste, taste and taste again. Season with salt properly. By this is mean salt brings out the flavours of food. Not enough salt – everything will taste bland.
  • My tip for using this and other cooked sauces with pasta is to allow the sauce time to meld with the pasta. This is how-:
    1. Drain the pasta and return to the saucepan it was cooked in.
    2. Add the hot sauce to the pasta and mix in well.
    3. Put the lid back on the saucepan for a minute or two even three this is where the magic happens.
    4. Open the lid. Give it a gentle mix and you should notice that the pasta has more sauce clinging to it. 
    5. This method is similar to when you see TV chefs adding the cooked pasta to the pan of sauce. However if you are cooking for more than one or two, it’s difficult to do this unless you have a large skillet.
    6. Now time to serve and enjoy!
 
Tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and leave a comment below!

Nutritional Estimate Per Serving

Serving: 0g | Calories: 457kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 86mg | Sodium: 392mg | Potassium: 846mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1555IU | Vitamin C: 14.3mg | Calcium: 60mg | Iron: 3.8mg

Nutritional Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.

Similar Posts

5 from 33 votes (28 ratings without comment)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




25 Comments

  1. Hi Marcellina, Thanks for responding concerning the ribs. I bought everything to make this sauce tomorrow. I have looked at several bolognese recipes and they call for milk or cream? Im curious as to whether or not this is common or what the reason is. If you have any knowledge or thoughts on this, please share. Thank you.

    1. Hi Scott, yes that’s true some bolognese sauces add milk or cream. It was never something my dad did. He was from Piacenza near Parma and Bologna but it was not how his family made this sauce. I did try adding it a few times and didn’t think it made my sauce any better. My dad’s secret is the potato which does what milk does – cutting the acidity of the tomato and the red wine and plus the starch in the potato adds a creaminess to the sauce.
      Adding milk or cream is a personal preference and some families in the area do add it. If you like you can reduce the stock by 1/2 cup then add 1/2 cup of milk towards the end of the cooking. Cook for another 30-45 minutes after adding the milk.

  2. I’m planning to try your recipe. My only question is do you trim fat off the pork ribs?

    1. Ciao Scott! There shouldn’t be too much fat on the ribs that need trimming. To be clear on the cut that is required in this recipe, please scroll to the top of the page to have a look at the ingredient photo. Pork ribs should be rows of rib bones with meat and cartilage holding the bones together. Any pork cut that is quite boney is also good. It’s the bones that give an amazing flavor to this sauce. If there’s excess fat on the cut of pork that you choose, certainly trim off the excess. Enjoy!

  3. We just returned from a luscious month in northern Italy … and I’m delighted to have found your website/blog with so many delicious recipes.

    I have one quick question regarding this recipe: If I make this using fresh tomatoes from my garden (next summer), should I skin/seed the whole tomatoes (as I would in making the passata)?

    1. Ciao Mike! Welcome and I’m glad you’ve discovered Marcellina in Cucina! Yes, if making my authentic Bolognese Sauce with fresh tomatoes be sure to skin and seed the whole tomatoes. When using fresh tomatoes, hold back some of the beef stock because there can be additional water coming from the tomatoes depending on the variety.

  4. 5 stars
    My favorite Italian restaurant was closed during my vacation and I really was craving their tagliatelle bolognese.
    I really wanted it and came across your recipe.
    Words cannot express how delicious, tasty and absolutely phenomenal this dish tasted from the first bite!
    It wasn’t really that much work and once the flavors began to come together, I was floored that it was so, so good!
    I am going to make the large batch that serves 25 , but I’ll probably eat 6 servings myself!!!
    Thank you for this Fabulous recipe!

    1. Peachy, I’m so happy to hear this! I know my family absolutely adore this tagliatelle bolognese but I’m glad that you loved it so much too!

  5. Quick question. Is Allspice a traditional ingredient in Bolognese? What does it bring to the party as far as the overall flavor?

    Tomato passata. There’s a wonderful grocery store where I can buy plum tomatoes. But this is winter and not the best as summer would be. Any ideas to sweeten them up or alternatives like off the shelf tomato passata?

    Thank you in advance!

    I’m planning to make the Bolognese this coming week.

    1. Hi Jon! No, I don’t think allspice is particularly traditional however my mother-in-law (who is from Piedmont) uses it all the time and I like the background warming notes it brings to the sauce. Allspice is entirely optional and I will add that in my notes.
      As far are passata goes, I do like to use store bought passata. I particularly like the Mutti brand. My family always bottled their own passata using homegrown ripe tomatoes and I do the same but I never grow the quantity my family did so I have to use store bought. Also use good canned tomatoes, again I like Mutti but any good Italian brand will do. As far as sweetening the tomatoes, you find when you make this sauce the potato is the secret to sweetening it. This is what my father did and it always works to give a smooth taste on the palate. Remember to add half of the sugar and then taste again and adjust it necessary with salt or/and sugar.
      Hope this helps!

  6. 5 stars
    Thank you. What a fabulous ragu. Have just come across your website, which I will be visiting regularly. Would this ragu work well with lasagna and white sauce?
    Marcellina, thanks again ????

  7. Interesting about your secret ingredient. I’ll have to give it a try.

  8. Thanks for that tip about the potato. I would never have guessed it. I like to make a big batch of ragu’ too, for the freezer, and will add a potato next time.

    1. Linda, I know you are a fabulous Italian cook, I’m wondering if you have ever heard of the potato tip? It seems that dad was the only one to use it. His mum was a chef so he picked up lots a great cooking techniques which we didn’t appreciate when we were younger.

    1. Yes, Lee-Ann, it was Dad’s trick. I love the difference it makes. Not a lot… just a small to medium potato for that big batch. Thanks for stopping by xx

  9. This is beautiful sauce, and so smart to make a big batch of it. Love all of the different meats in it!

  10. 5 stars
    Marcellina dear, I am so happy to find so beautiful dishes at your place ! I can even imagine the flavours coming out through the opened window ( and people gathering, under 🙂 Grazie mille and enjoy the day 🙂

  11. 5 stars
    This is a must cook! Simply amazing and well worth the time. How I love generational recipes – full of everlasting culture and love! Thank you for sharing this with the rest of the world Marcelina…