This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.
This flavorful bolognese sauce tastes like it simmered on the stove all day long. Bolognese is a tomato based meat sauce made flavorful with the addition of onion, carrot, and celery. It is a rich and hearty sauce that quickly turns a box of pasta into a meal.
Pasta with bolognese sauce is one of my favorite meals. Serve it with a simple mixed green salad and garlic bread, and you have a delicious dinner everyone will love. Some bolognese sauces require simmering all day on the stove, but not this one.
While this homemade meat sauce takes a little longer than my ground turkey meat sauce, it only requires about 20 minutes of hands on time – the rest of the time it just simmers and thickens on the stove, making your kitchen smell delicious in the process.
This sauce is robust and flavorful. Ground beef is sauteed with a mixture of aromatic vegetables, richly flavored with wine and chicken stock and gets an extra flavor punch from chopped anchovies. Don’t skip these! Finely chopped, they practically melt into the sauce. There is no fishy taste – just rich flavor.
I love to make a double batch of this recipe and keep some in the freezer for nights when I don’t have enough time to cook. I take the container out in the morning and let it defrost in the fridge. Then all I need to do is cook some pasta and pull together a salad, and dinner is done!
If you love pasta sauces, like I do – you may also want to try some of my other favorites. My authentic Italian gravy is rich and hearty. My eggplant tomato sauce is a great choice if you want a hearty vegetarian sauce. My alfredo sauce is creamy, rich, and delicious. Creamy basil pesto is perfect in the summer when gardens are overflowing with fresh basil.
Table of Contents
- Extra-virgin olive oil – Especially in sauces, use the highest quality you can find.
- Aromatics – Onion and garlic, both finely chopped.
- Celery – Minced for flavor.
- Carrot – Peeled, grated.
- Anchovy filets – These will add flavor to the sauce, chopped roughly they’ll practically melt into the sauce.
- Ground beef – I used ground chuck and I find the 80/20 blend is the right balance of fat and flavor.
- Dry white wine – Someone once told me never cook with anything you wouldn’t drink – words to live by.
- Tomato paste – This is thicker and richer than tomato sauce – it adds flavor and richness. Don’t use sauce.
- Bay leaf – These are dried and will be removed
- Chicken stock – Stock is more richly flavored than broth, but chicken broth will work here too.
- Half and half – This adds creaminess to the sauce.
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Grated Parmesan – For finishing.
How to Make Bolognese Sauce
Some bolognese simmers all day on the stove, but not this one. While this requires a bit of chopping, the hands-on time is relatively short. It simmers for a few hours – less than all day – but long enough to make your house smell amazing!
- Sautee the aromatics. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion becomes soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the celery, carrot, and anchovy. Cook for about 5 minutes while stirring.
- Add ground beef. Add the ground beef, stirring frequently, breaking up any large clumps, until the meat is browned.
- Add the liquids in three phases. Add the wine and cook while stirring until the wine has completely evaporated, about 12 minutes. Add the tomato paste and bay leaf and cook until tomato paste begins to brown. Finally, add the chicken stock and half and half, and season with salt and pepper.
- Simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours or until the mixture thickens and resembles sloppy joe sauce.
- Finish. Remove the bay leaf and adjust salt and pepper to taste and finish with grated parmesan before serving.
This bolognese sauce recipe is, like most Italian recipes, pretty versatile. If you don’t eat red meat, you can make this with ground turkey or chicken instead of ground beef. If you prefer your meat sauce with ground pork, you can use a combination of beef and pork.
For those of you who are dairy-free, try making this with oat milk or coconut milk instead of half and half – I find those to be the creamiest non-dairy milks available. Coconut milk will change the flavor of the sauce.
This bolognese sauce doesn’t require much by way of special equipment. As always, I recommend a good and quality set of knives. And this heavy bottom sautee pan (affiliate link) gets more use than almost anything else in my kitchen. I love it.
Use right away or cool to room temperature, then refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 4 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Anchovies: They won’t make the sauce tasty “fishy”. Instead, they bring out the flavor of the meat. Use 2 fillets from a can of anchovies packed in oil.
Red wine: Bolognese meat sauce recipes usually call for some amount of red wine. I didn’t use it in creating this recipe, but if you like the extra depth of flavor it brings, add a splash or two of your favorite drinking wine when you add the half and half.
Serve: This recipe makes enough sauce to serve with 1 pound of fresh tagliatelle or pappardelle, or dry rigatoni.