Recipes

simple, essential bolognese

The very first thing I cooked in our Inside Days was ragú bolognese. Previous to having all of the time in the world, I didn’t make it very often; we were too busy during the week and on the weekend, I preferred to be away from the stove. But that weekend! Our apartment smelled phenomenal as it gently bubbled on the back burner all afternoon, and I realized it had been way too long since we’d had the luxury of a multi-hour buildup to an anticipated meal.


I also remembered I’d been cheating on this site’s bolognese recipe for many years, and it was time to come clean. Previously, my go-to recipe was embedded in the lasagna bolognese, and to echo that recipe’s caveat: I think there are as many interpretations of Bologna’s famous braise there are people who make it — if you’ve found yours, I see no reason to veer from it. Marcella Hazan’s in The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking has long been what you could call an industry leader, but I loved Anne Burrell’s, a milk-free, red wine-forward version that put the utmost care into building base layers of flavors.

what you'll needcube-free bolognesea well-cooked mirepoixa little milkwhen it's donedrained, al dente

But tastes shift. These days, the SK house bolognese is a little bit Hazan, a little bit Burrell, and bunch of things I’ve found I prefer: a moderately tomato-forward flavor (which is less traditional), white wine instead of red (which can give off too much of a bourguignon vibe), and enough milk to give the bolognese some body but not so much that it’s pale. If I have pancetta, I might add it first; if I don’t, I’ll start with olive oil. I look out for less lean beef (80/20 or 85 works well here), which holds up better to long cooking times. And apparently — and my family finds this funny but we all have our Things — I cannot abide cubes of anything in my bolognese. All of my bad ragú memories come from versions where the canned dice of tomatoes,* carrots, and/or celery were still intact in the final sauce, confettied throughout. I prefer a more harmonious ragú, and so I use tomato paste instead of whole or chopped tomatoes, and I roughly mince my vegetables. Neither garlic nor pepper flakes are accepted on the Italian Academy of Cuisine ingredient list for ragù alla bolognese, but I like to live on (er, timidly approaching) the edge.

Finally, once you’ve built the foundation of flavor you must — there is no negotiating here — braise your bolognese for three to four hours. Beef takes three hours to cook to that wonderfully mellow, collapsed texture (it’s why you see similar cooking times for stew, short ribs, and brisket). Some recipes call for up to six hours, and although I don’t find I need it to get the ragú of my dreams, given that time is an abstract concept these days, you’re welcome to let it glurp longer on the stove. While the cooking is mostly hands off, you’ll want to visit the pot every 30 minutes and check the water level. Water is added gradually during the cooking time because we are braising, not boiling (shudder), the meat. Go ahead and taste it too, adjusting the seasoning as you need to, so by the time you’re ready to serve it, it’s absolutely perfect. You deserve nothing less.

* many are, in fact, treated so that they hold their shape

bolognese + pasta water + pasta

Previously

Six months ago: Roasted Cabbage with Walnuts and Parmesan
One year ago: Austrian Torn, Fluffy Pancake
Two years ago: Chilaquiles Brunch Casserole
Three years ago: Rhubarb Upside-Down Spice Cake
Four years ago: Perfect Garlic Bread, Shaved Asparagus Frittata and Palm Springs Date Shake
Five years ago: Potato Scallion and Kale Cakes, Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies, and Crispy Broccoli with Lemon and Garlic
Six years ago: Blue Sky Bran Muffins and Fresh Spinach Pasta
Seven years ago: Spring Vegetable Potstickers and Essential Raised Waffles
Eight years ago: Bacon, Egg and Leek Risotto
Nine years ago: Sour Cream Cornbread with Aleppo and Ribboned Asparagus Salad with Lemon
Ten years ago: Radicchio, Apple, and Pear Salad, New York Cheesecake and Shakshuka
Eleven years ago: Black Bread and Ranch Rugelach
Twelve years ago: Chocolate Walnut Cookies + More Flourless Dessert, Almond Cake with Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote
Thirteen years ago: Corniest Corn Muffins and Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Simple, Essential Bolognese

  • Servings: 4 to 6; makes just shy of 4 cups ragú
  • Source: Smitten Kitchen, with inspiration from Anne Burrell and Marcella Hazan
  • Print

  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1 slim carrot
  • 1 rib celery
  • 2 cloves garlic (optional)
  • 2 ounces pancetta, diced (optional) or 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper and red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound ground beef (80/20 or 85/15)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, or 3/4 cup of a low-fat one
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • Water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • A few gratings of fresh nutmeg
  • 1 pound dried tagliatelle

    Prepare your vegetables: Cut the onion, carrot, and celery into big chunks. If you have a food processor or high-powered blender, pulse the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic (if using) in the machine they’re chopped into chopped very small, ranging from couscous to pea-sized. If you don’t have a machine, just continue to run your knife back and forth over the mix of vegetables, adding the garlic, until they’re chopped very small.

    Build the base flavor: Heat a medium/large heavy pot or Dutch oven (4- to 5 quarts) over medium-high heat. If using pancetta, add it to the pan dry and let it cook and crisp, rendering a puddle of fat. If you’re not using pancetta, coat the bottom of the pan with the olive oil and let it warm up. For both approaches, add the vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper, and add a pinch or two of pepper flakes. Cook the vegetables until they are evenly brown, stirring frequently and not fretting if they stick, it will all work out, about 10 minutes. Add your ground beef, season it generously with salt and pepper, and cook it until it’s very well-browned, about 10 minutes. Add the milk (which I do out of order in the photos, and regretted) and cook it until it has disappeared, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping up any stuck bits. Add the wine and do the same. Add the tomato paste and cook it for 3 to 4 minutes. Add 2 cups of water, a bay leaf, and nutmeg and bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low. Congratulations, you’ve now reached the “walk away” portion of the recipe.

    Cook the ragú: Here’s how the next 3 hours (or more) hours will go: You’ll keep a carafe of water near the stove. You’ll stir the sauce from time to time, I find checking in every 30 minutes is about right. As the water in the sauce cooks off, you’ll want to add more but you don’t want to add more than 1 cup at a time or you’ll end up boiling the meat (shudder) rather than creating a thick, robust ragú. Taste it from time to time and add more seasoning if needed. Simmer for 3 hours — longer if you wish, but I promise that 3 solid hours will suffice. Remove and discard the bay leaf.

    To finish: Cook your pasta to 1 to 2 minutes shy of done in well-salted water. Before you drain it, ladle 2 cups cooking water into your carafe. Drain the pasta and add it directly to the ragú, along with 1/2 to 1 cup of the reserved water. Cook the pasta and sauce together for 1 to 2 minutes, adding more pasta water if needed to keep it moving. Serve in wide bowls. Grated parmesan is not traditional to finish, but as the Academy is probably not coming to dinner tonight, I say you eat it in the way that makes you happiest.

    Do ahead: If you don’t want to use all of the bolognese right now, it freezes fantastically in a bag with any extra air pressed out. Defrost in the fridge and bring back to a simmer in the same pot; you’ll usually need a couple extra splashes of water to loosen it.

    Additional notes:

  • Fresh tagliatelle is the traditional pasta for bolognese, but I used what I could get, a loosely twisted trivelle. Even Hazan calls using boxed, dried pasta “irreproachable,” as I’m sure she would understand the accommodations a pandemic kitchen requires. Here’s a rich fresh pasta dough, should you wish to make your own tagliatelle; for a simpler one, use the pasta dough recipe within the lasagna bolognese recipe.
  • I suspect you’re about to ask me about making this in the InstantPot, which I have not tested. However, this recipe has decent reviews and suggests that once you build all of your base flavor layers on the sauté function, 20 minutes on high will do the trick.
  • I suspect you’re about to ask me about turkey as well, which I have also not tested. I do know that you’ll want to use ground dark meat and that the braising time will be, at most, a fraction of the three hours here — I suspect that 30 minutes will about as far as you can take it without it seeming over.
  • If you like everything about this recipe but prefer a less tomato-forward bolognese, it’s as simple as using half a can of tomato paste instead of all, and doubling the milk. You won’t hurt my feelings.
  • If you need to make this dairy free, you can use a dairy-free milk instead of whole milk.
  • If you need to make this without wine, I’d deglaze the pan with 1 to 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar instead.

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156 comments on simple, essential bolognese

        1. Cathy yuill

          Made tonight it was wonderful! Enough for an army!!was well worth the time👩‍🍳👩‍🍳👩‍🍳

      1. Melissa

        This is pretty much my go-to “quick” sauce recipe when made with ground lamb (we raise sheep). I generally find letting it simmer for a half hour or so is adequate with ground lamb.

        If I have the forethought to plan ahead, it’s also excellent with a bone-in lamb shoulder! I follow your recipe as written but add in a large can of crushed tomatoes, and then pop the whole mess into a 325 oven for several hours.

        My husband also has your “I can see the chunks of tomato!!!” aversion, so I usually blitz those through the food processor too. Serve it over noodles with some crumbled ricotta salata on top, and you’ve got something that probably doesn’t even vaguely qualify as “ragu” anymore, but it’s soooo good…

  1. Naomi

    This sounds delicious and is on my menu for tomorrow! To make it dairy free/kosher – would you sub a dairy free milk (soy? oat? almond?) or something else (stock? water?) – thanks!

  2. Tamsin

    Hi Deb, I’m sure you’ve already told us before so apologies for asking again! Where is the black pan from? It’s just what I’m after.

    1. deb

      It’s my favorite pan (or at least a top three), the 4-quart braiser from Staub. I’m having trouble finding it online right now but I’ll email Staub and see if they can make a suggestion.

      1. A

        This is the Stuab 4qt braiser I have (wedding present 5 years ago). Looks a little flatter than the pictures, but an excellent risotto pan, scalloped potato baker, and I imagine bolognese pan. https://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/staub-braiser/?catalogId=22&sku=2507937&cm_ven=PLA&cm_cat=Google&cm_pla=Cookware%20%3E%20Dutch%20Ovens%20%26%20Braisers&cm_ite=2507937&gclid=CjwKCAjw5Ij2BRBdEiwA0Frc9atwN5WWOpx0KDi3DYz8hMdJntMN9X3twwudH5SZ7_wrpmn8ZmxksxoCucsQAvD_BwE

      1. Nicole

        I usually use a can of whole or diced tomatoes (and then no added water) that I blitz, juice and all, in a food processor. By the end of the braise, the tomato has reduced heavily.

  3. Tamar

    Sorry if I missed a suggestion in the recipe, but if we want to make this dairy free, would you recommend using a different liquid to sub or better to just leave out?

    1. deb

      I haven’t been having an issue — has anyone else? Does it help to clear your cache or fully close and then reopen your browser? About 2.5 weeks ago, SK moved servers and any oddities might just need a cache clear to straighten them up. (Photos are actually hosted off-site so they technically weren’t moved.)

        1. deb

          That’s not good. If you’re on Chrome, here are the cache-clearing directions:
          On your computer, open Chrome.
          At the top right, click More ⋮
          Click More tools > Clear browsing data.
          At the top, choose a time range. To delete everything, select All time.
          Next to “Cookies and other site data” and “Cached images and files,” check the boxes.
          Click Clear data.

  4. Caroline

    I want to make this over the weekend! I have everything except I only have the sad end of a tube of tomato paste. Would a couple of canned peeled tomatoes work? Thanks!

        1. deb

          From Wikipedia: The Italian Academy of Cuisine (Accademia Italiana della Cucina) recipe confines the ingredients to beef cut from the plate section (cartella di manzo), fresh unsmoked pancetta (pancetta di maiale distesa), onions, carrot, celery, passata (or tomato purée), meat broth, dry white wine, milk, salt, and pepper.

    1. Barbara

      Yes, Emily! My original bolognese — made now for more than 40 years — came from Vincent Price’s wonderful “Treasury of Great Recipes.” His is much like Deb’s except is uses 2 minced chicken livers in addition to the beef and cream instead of milk. The chicken livers add an indescribable umami to the taste of the sauce.

    1. Lucy

      Yes, I would like to try crock pot as well. Would you still have to add water slowly?
      Could you just add more water and let it simmer away? If anyone has any suggestions, that would be great!

  5. Francoise

    Ha! I love how you’ve tried to anticipate people’s substitution questions! That said I love a good long simmered ragu but with a vegetarian daughter they are sadly few and far between

  6. Kelly

    I have made the bolognese for your lasagna bolognese recipe in the instant pot before by loosely following the instructions in the serious eats recipe for pressure cooker bolognese. Basically follow all the early instructions using the saute function, then add enough water to cover, seal and pressure cook for 30 mins, then remove the lid and simmer til it reaches the consistency you desire. I suspect that would work well here too!

  7. Barbara

    I hate to be “that person” but no one eats beef here and two are vegetarian. Would it be awful to use portobello mushrooms instead of the beef? Or should I just dream of how lovely this tastes and move on? 😃

    1. deb

      I don’t see why you couldn’t; it definitely won’t need 3 hours to come together; even an hour might be a lot. You might want to double the mirepoix vegetables, too.

      1. Marcella

        I can assure milk is absolutely a must in ragù and also a staple in many other meat recipes – especially veal or pork.

    2. nicole

      hello! my italian family’s sugo has no meat- and instead uses the dried porcini mushrooms and then their liquid that they have reconstituted in. otherwise this recipe is exactly the same.

  8. Dani

    It’s so funny about the whole white wine vs red wine in the sauce, and what’s “officially” the proper wine to use according to the Italian Academy of Cuisine, not to mention that they have that to begin with. I don’t think we’d find that here in the US, but maybe we need it with something like NY Bagels vs everywhere else.

    But I think what I didn’t like in Anne Burrell’s bolognese was the red sauce and how bold the taste is. I’ve been making Marcella Hazan’s bolognese for some years, after Leite’s culinaria published a piece on it about 7 years ago I think, and I’ve been in love with her version ever since, preferring her technique, and the white wine. I do sneak in a clove or two of garlic just because I like the taste. Even better though, in the original article, the master herself Marcella Hazan commented how delighted she was that people were cooking it at home.

  9. Anu

    A bit random but if Hazan called using boxed, dried pasta “irreproachable,” she would mean that it was “beyond criticism, faultless.” So you have nothing to worry about quarantine or no quarantine :)

    1. Carla A

      Yes, I didn’t quite understand this — I thought, “so that means dried pasta is ok in Marcella’s eyes, right?” This is of particular interest to me because my 26-year-old son began making fresh pasta about a year ago and now is in the “how could you EVER serve anything else” camp. Insufferable. And so I’d like to have Marcella (along with the 26 years of dried pasta dinners I served that he seemed to like just fine) on my side! :)

    1. Erika Abbas

      I would make it exactly the same way and luxuriate in the deeper flavor of lamb. Our favorite ragu is lamb only, and adds 2 anchovy fillets after the mirepoix cooks down a bit. It seems to blend the lamb flavor right into the tomatoes but without losing any of the boldness of the lamb flavor.

  10. Jane Lippert

    Have you tried Rachel Ray’s version? Hers is very similar to yours but with parsley stems. I use larger can of crushed tomatoe then she does but it’s really wonderful. Can’t wait to try this version. Love all your recipes!

  11. Cynthia

    This is how I make my bolognese! When looking for recipes I settled on your recipe for lasagna bolognese and Amateur Gourmet’s and mashed them up. It is SO GOOD. The long cook time really makes a difference. The end result is silky and rich. Two thumbs up from my picky family. I know what I’m making this weekend!

    1. Ellen

      I’m no Bolognese expert, but I’m making it with bacon right now (an hour into the extended period of cooking) and am pleased with how it’s going. That said, I should have been more careful with the salt–bacon is saltier than pancetta and I failed to account for that.

  12. Shannon

    I’ll try just about any simple bolognese sauce I come across and this one sounds amazing! Just made Marcella’s for the first time a couple weeks ago and did an online search before I started to see how all the major sites interpreted it and found that some added the wine first while others added the milk first. Do you have an explanation why one way is better than the other? I’m really curious! And bless you for using white wine. We are a white (and pink!) drinking house and I never know what to buy when I need red for a recipe.

  13. Sara

    happened to be craving a bolognese earlier this week and, per usual, Deb delivers.
    I’m normally a Nigel Slater bolognese loyalist, but I stayed true to this version with two exceptions: mixed 50/50 ground beef/lean ground pork – it’s what I had – and didn’t have pancetta but knew I wanted that flavor so used about a tbsp of bacon fat.
    Fantastic! Cooked 3 hours exactly, perhaps my stove burns hot but had to pay close attention and add water more often than you suggested/I expected. Adding the pasta water at the end was a must. Thanks, Deb!

  14. MBC

    This looks delicious, I’ll have to make it for myself! For the preschooler and toddler I’ll have to make a few substitutions. Remove the tomato, wine, and beef. Serve the milk on the side in a sippy cup. Decrease the onion and celery to one speck suitable for flinging on the floor. Instead of mince for the carrots, cut lengthwise into approx 3″ spears. For tagliatelle substitute the pata shape-du-jour, currently penne (no lines!). Does that get us down to plain pasta with milk and carrot sticks? :)

    1. Missy

      Haha this is the best comment yet. Flinging on the floor indeed. I know my children will appreciate all the smitten kitchen recipes I cook … one day.

    2. A

      I’m over it and don’t even try anymore. Kiddo gets first dinner of child-deemed-acceptable food (yogurt, chicken nuggets (maybe), peanut butter, peanut butter toasted english muffin, peanut butter open face “sandwich” (detecting a trend here?), maybe an apple to take one bite out of and leave to experiments in dehydration methods, maybe some cereal, maybe some mac and cheese (but only the microwave kind), maybe a spare pea to smash to bits but not actually eat) and then when the adults eat some time later, is invited to try (but always rejects) anything remotely approaching “real” food. Even plain pasta was rejected last week. Repeat over and over while taking deep breaths: food is not a battle.

    3. Hannah

      Thank you for this! Mama of a toddler here who needed to hear she’s not the only one struggling with food variety for her little one. :)

  15. Natalie McGehee

    Hi! Thanks for the recipe. I actually made the Hazan recipe yesterday and agree that it’s not something I often make but have done three times in these quarantine days at home. There is something so comforting about a pot simmering away for hours on the stove. Two questions, do you remove the pancetta or leave in the pot when adding the veg? Also, do you think this recipe would double or triple well?? Thanks

  16. Linda Zerilli

    Thanks for the essential Ragu Bolognese. I have been making Hazan’s version for decades. I had two questions: first, why do you add the milk before the wine; second, doesn’t deeply browning the meat make it tough? I ask because Hazan was insistent in her original recipe that the wine comes first and the beef should just lose its red color. Every recipe I’ve tried in which the meat was really browned, including Burrell’s, turned out with dried out meat.
    Thanks!

  17. Simma Genzlinger

    Years ago I burst into tears when the milk I added curdled and I have avoided Bolonese ever since. Any thoughts?

    1. Kelly

      My advice is to give this recipe – or either of the ones Deb named (Burrell, Hazan) – another try! I’ve never seen the milk curdle. Maybe the other ingredients were too hot, so you could always let it cool down just a bit to be safe…and use fresh milk, also to be safe. Add the milk before the wine. Acidity and heat make milk curdle.

  18. Christina

    This looks delicious and I’m making it tonight! I noticed you have red pepper flakes in your veg picture, but none in the recipe. Did you decide it just didn’t need any heat? Also – I’m on an iPhone X, and the pictures are blurry on the site. But if I click on it to the source picture, it is crystal clear. Hope this helps with any research on a potential issue. Thank you!

  19. Laura chiming in here to see if anyone else has crockpot suggestions. Since the ‘confinement’ (as it’s called here in France) started, I’ve made David Lebovitz’ Hazan-derived bolognese sauce twice in the crockpot (although he doesn’t give slow cooker directions), and it’s turned out deliciously both times. (Link clickable in my name.)

    However, Deb, your version calls for reducing the sauce — I guess that’s what makes it a ragu, and not a sauce ? — and the crockpot, by definition, cooks with the lid on, am I right?

    I do love the “walk-away” quality of the crockpot, and the results are always so tender and delicious….

  20. Kathleen

    This looks delicious but I’d have to make a vegetarian version. I think I’ll try lentils. I will not be eating Beyond meat or any processed fake meat. I think lentils could be good.

  21. Karen

    I made this this afternoon (without pancetta) in the instant pot. After 30 years slavishly following Marcella Hazan’s recipe, I feel that SK’s is the better sauce. The flavour is very rich and the sauce is fully integrated. The one thing Instant Pot users need to remember is that the water won’t evaporate in the cooking as it would be on the stove. Next time before pressure cooking I’ll only add water to the consistency I want in the end. The full amount makes the sauce too watery.

  22. Bina Nihalani

    The ultimate bolognaise is Heston Blumenthal’s, Yes, it need five pans and six hours of simmering. Not to mention a prodigious amount of chopping! But it has a deeply savoury, umami quality that none of the others can touch. It also uses mainly basic ingredients. I make a huge batch with two kilos of meat and freeze it for using with pasta, lasagna and even a beefy Shepard’s Pie. I suggest everyone try it at least once. You’re unlikely to have this much time ever again (hopefully).

  23. Sandy G

    Deb, you have a lot of patience answering these questions. In the recipe you gave a valiant effort trying to cover every substitute you could think of…..for wine, tomatoes, dairy and beef. But you answered them again and again. And then you read how everyone else’s recipe is better than yours. Do you then go scream into a pillow or what? Thank you for being so gracious!

    1. Laurie

      Hahah, absolutely. Time and time again. Deb is gracious, patient, inspired and practical in her handling of the substitution questions. Therefore, some of us less poised readers (uh, me) will be screaming into our pillows on her behalf. And also, wait, can I make this meat sauce without sauce?

    2. deb

      Lol, no, but thank you. I don’t mind answering questions. I’m kind of flattered anyone thinks I know what I’m talking about! (But I also just do it for a short period of time each day and then move on or I notice my patience thinning — this is true of many other tasks, too.)

  24. April Paddock

    What a coincidence, I made Hazan’s bolognese last night! And wished it had been more tomato-y. I guess I know what I’m cooking next weekend!

  25. Hannah

    We made this yesterday using Impossible Burger beef (though we still used pork — we’re not vegetarian, just trying to cut back). The simmer time was only 20 minutes or so before we added the pasta in the final step — all other steps were the same. It was DELICIOUS and we would highly recommend… FYI for those who are considering meat alternatives!

  26. Rachel Joy

    Hi Deb! I am almost to the point where I can walk away for a bit but I’m wondering – could I transfer this to a crockpot on high for the 3 hour simmer part??? My stove fan is dying and I’m love to somehow keep cooking this as directing but get it off my sad sounding stove. Thanks!

    1. Rachel Joy

      One more thing, am I supposed to simmer this covered or half covered or totally uncovered during the 3 hours? Probably a bolognese rookie question, sorry so many! Thanks!

  27. MJ

    I am so glad to see this. I love your lasagna, but having tried your sauce in the past I think that the red wine is too harsh. Yet Hazan’s, which I turned to once again when I recently made quarantine Bolognese for your lasagna, is insufficiently tomato-y for my American tastes. I look forward to trying this new version, which looks perfect – except I’ll make a double recipe. Now my question: if I have bacon, should I use that if I don’t have pancetta? Or is it better just to use olive oil?

    1. deb

      Re, bacon or olive oil: Either. Bacon has a smoky flavor that’s not traditional but I don’t think it would be too bacon-forward here in this small amount.

  28. Julie

    Help! I love bolognese sauce and I cannot wait to try this recipe. However, I need to be sure I am reading it right. The recipe calls for 1 lb of 80/20 ground beef, but it doesn’t mention draining the fat after the beef is cooked. Is that correct??
    I am just wondering if the draining of the fat is assumed (and or was accidentally omitted) or if the fat should be left in to ensure flavor. I do not want to go through the 3+ hours to make it and have it be to greasy. Please advise.

    1. deb

      I do not drain the fat nor find the final sauce too greasy, however, if you do, it’s very easy to remove any extra fat once it’s cold from the fridge (and it solidifies on top)

  29. Katrina

    As soon as I read the line about hating chunks of anything in bolognese, I was sold on this. Couldn’t agree more!

    In classic pandemic cooking style, I had to make some adjustments based on what I had. The result was maybe not really this recipe, but I think the spirit was still there…? Sharing in case it helps others.

    – I did not have pancetta or anything similar, so went without it.
    – My tube of tomato paste was down to about 2.5 oz. I used that, and then when it came to adding the water, I added 1 cup of water and 1 cup of jarred pasta sauce (I know, I know…but it was all I had!).
    – I was lazy and didn’t bother with the bay leaf or nutmeg.
    – I had ground turkey—simmered it for about 40 minutes instead of hours (added only the first 2 cups of liquid and no more) and it seemed to be great.

    Side note: when I threw the ground turkey into my Dutch oven, I sadly discovered it was still half frozen. Oddly, though, this seemed to be…a good thing? I usually struggle with ground turkey turning into kind of a rubbery worm-like texture, regardless of how much I got at it with a spatula. But in this case, since I was scraping it off a half-frozen mound of meat, it ended up being much more broken down and more similar in consistency to ground beef.

  30. Quinn

    Does anyone have any suggestions of where to buy fun pasta shapes online? Stores around here only carry the basic ones (spaghetti, penne, etc) but I’d love to try something different.

    1. deb

      Yes, I have two recommendations. First, my favorite pasta brand, when I can find it, is Setaro. They have great shapes, and they’re imported but not terribly expensive. The prices can look high at first glance but most of the packages are 1.1 or 2.2 pounds. The second is a NYC brand, Sfoglio, and I was delighted to find they still had pasta in stock when the shelves were wiped clean elsewhere. I use their reginetti here and their zucca here.

  31. Courtney

    Would it be total sacrilege to replace the ground beef with a combo of beef/pork/veal (similar to your everyday meatballs)? I always want to make bolognese but I do not care for beef, and that mix is about as much as I can handle.

    1. Sarah

      My Belgian ex’s mom gave me their family recipe for bolognese sauce that include a combo of ground beef, ground pork, and diced ham (about 50/50 beef/pig with the proportions about 2:2:1). The other difference was instead of whole milk added at the beginning, everything else was simmered as written here, and then up to 1 cup cream added at the very end and just warmed through. It is lovely.

  32. Carmen

    Ive used this same technique before using mushrooms instead of beef and it still came out with that deep rich flavor.

  33. Maro

    i will say that Bolognese is NOT the thing i would usually make, not even the thing I would usually order, but this was absolutely delicious, especially with homemade pasta (i mean, we had the time….).

    well worth the small up-front effort, the 3+ hours after that is a breeze and the result is so rich and flavorful. I can see this becoming a fall favorite!

  34. Steph

    I made this last night. I found 2 cups of water to be too much, and the finished product was watery. In your insta gram story it did not look like you used 2 cups of water to begin with?

    1. deb

      Did you cook it covered? (It’s supposed to be uncovered.) I think in the video version, the first cup cooked off quickly so I added a second early on, not uncommon. I have never made this without needing 3 cups+ of water over 3 hours.

  35. Angela Stark

    This looks great! Sorry if I missed it, I know you say not to add more than 1 cup of water at a time – but how do you know how much is enough below that amount? THANKS!

  36. Brigitte

    Love the streamlining of this sauce. I usually put my red sauce in the oven at 325 and slow simmer it there. Less chance of scorching it. I did it with this one as well and only had to add water once an hour. Delish! Thanks Deb.

  37. Kate

    This was INCREDIBLE. Hands down, one of the BEST smitten kitchen recipes I’ve ever made. Huge hit with my family (even the 5 year old!). Followed the recipe exactly except for subbing fennel for the celery because it’s what I had!
    Thankyou Deb. You’re a rock star.

  38. Michele Agostinelli

    This is so good! I made it this weekend after seeing your post. My husband has declared that this will be made every Sunday from now on;)!

  39. Erica

    I have made the lasagne bolognese – amazing. I have 1/2 Lb of fresh farm raised ground pork in my fridge. I want to make a half recipe. Questions: still use white wine? How long do I cook the sauce with a different meat and only half a recipe? thank you! (on another note- I’m not sure how I missed the toasted coconut shortbread cookies before this, but I have made them quite a few times in these past weeks. Now those are amazing!)

  40. LD

    I loved this recipe as-is, even if I was irreproachable and used my dried box pasta! (But, as you say, as she’s not coming to dinner, none of us minded.)

    It was super exciting to be able to get a carrot from the garden and use tomato paste that I made. I’d like to think that’s what tipped this already-great recipe into “epic.”

    Next time I make it, I’ll double it and add some ‘shrooms. Yum!

  41. SassyJanester

    Deb darling—clearly I need you to be more explicit, covering sins of omission. I simmered yesterday for 6 hours never needing to add water. The reason? Used a lid. So obviously no lid, right?

  42. GAR

    This was so good! First time making bolognese and it turned out so well; I only wish I’d doubled the recipe for more leftovers. I live in a country where celery is not available, so I used one large carrot instead. I also can’t get wine here, so I substituted with a couple of tablespoons of white wine vinegar (Deb mentioned this as a sub somewhere in the comments). 10/10 will make again.

  43. Mary Frances Hrynik

    What is the name of that great looking pan with two handles? The wrist is getting weaker.
    Love your site!

    Thanks,
    Mary

  44. Bolognese is an absolute favourite here, always been following Hazans recipe but never tried Burrells recipe, will give it a try as well and see what we prefer most!

  45. Janet Helgeson

    Here’s a meatless version: I too have sinned, altered Mrs Hazan’s excellent recipe through the years, much like you have, but the most dramatic change is replacing the beef with Morningstar Farms Crumblers. Simply delicious.

    1. Janet Helgeson

      Oh, and when browning the meatless Crumblers I also add diced cremoni or white mushrooms and brown them until nearly crisp.

  46. Nicole

    I made this recipe exactly as described and it came out WONDERFUL. I poured the sumptuous ragu over fresh tagliatelle and served it alongside some homemade sourdough and roasted broccoli (for good measure). Thank you, Deb, for such a descriptive, helpful recipe.

  47. Jessa Lamoureux

    Made this with italian pork hot sausage instead of the beef since it was what I had on hand – absolutely fantastic! Keeper recipe, for sure.

  48. evan

    Looking forward to making this! Any suggestions for substituting for the fresh nutmeg? Can’t get my hands on it during this unusual time.

  49. Gabrielle

    My husband (the cook in the family – I’m the baker) made this last night for dinner and it was DELICIOUS. So many levels of flavor. We both actually groaned out loud at our first bite.

    Being full-time caregivers for my FIL who has dementia, we’re always looking for easy delicious and nutritious meals to freeze for him that he can manage to reheat in the microwave himself to give us a break from daily meal prep (especially now that we can’t take him out to a restaurant for a break and leave cooking, serving, and clean-up to someone else! *Sigh*.). This one is being added to the rotation for sure!

    There was no pancetta at the grocery store, so I am even more curious to try this with it, someday… No tagliatelle either, so used orecchiette and that worked out very nicely. Used ground turkey (85/15) and made it “beefier” with a little beef base product. We opted to leave out the garlic and the red pepper flakes because of my FIL and I really didn’t miss it. My husband prepped all the veggies with a knife as he was concerned that the veggies (especially the onions) would get overprocessed in a food processor. That seemed to work out fine – no big chunks either.

    Already looking forward to the next time we have this for dinner!

  50. Courtney

    I’m excited to try this with ground venison- would it simmer less? Is there a downside to simmering too long?

  51. Nathanya Echols

    Can I just add a can of crushed tomatoes instead of tomato paste? I’m all out.

    PS. I’ve been using your recipes for about 10 years it feels like. Thank you .

  52. Bethany

    Oh dear. Just finished the sauce, and it’s very better. I used oat milk instead of regular, but other than that followed the recipe. I’m wondering if my veggies got overly browned? I did throw in some garlic cloves, and I usually don’t cook garlic at the same time as onions. Or maybe it’s the tomato paste brand I used?

    Any tips to salvage?

  53. I tried this recipe in the instant pot. Super flavour full and it was easy enough even for me. There’s room for improvement but I am quite happy with this.
    Oh yes I found out controlling the amount of water to go into the instant pot may take a couple tries but otherwise you set it and you can forget it which is perfect for me. Bookmarked.

  54. Made this last night and it was a huge success! Very tasty! Hang in there Deb! Thank you for sharing your recipes. We all need some backup right now and you are definitely helping a lot of people!

  55. Raphaelle

    I made this this afternoon, to have for dinner. It was exactly what I hoped it to be – cozy, hearty, rich, comforting. I used 1tbsp bacon fat + 1tbsp olive oil in place of pancetta fat, otherwise followed the recipe to a T. Thank you, Deb.

  56. Kim

    That is so droolworthy! I like to add a little anchovies in it for umami which dissolves, and then bake it in the oven, which makes the nice brown bits which you then stir back in!

  57. Cass

    Deb, I have never left a comment on ANY recipe before but I just made this and it was so delicious. I have made a billion of your recipes and have your first book and your recipes never fail me. Thank you!

  58. Hi! I love your recipes, Thanks for sharing this post I appreciate your great effort in bringing all the tips together in the single post. for Bolognese recipe can I use goat meat instead of beef ?

  59. Victoria Bufford

    I read it as 16oz of tomato paste and only realized it called for 1 6oz can after I added it. is there any way to fix this? I added extra water. I’m so sad

    1. deb

      It will just be very tomato-y. You can double everything else and make a double batch of bolognese to even it out, but it shouldn’t be terrible as-is, just more tomato sauce-y.

  60. Heidi

    Made this tonight and a rare occurence, I stuck to the recipe without my personal twist… except (haha always one) I used bacon fat to start instead of olive oil.

    This was my first proper bolognese. The “spaghetti sauce” I grew up with and have morphed into my own is a sad thing now. I will have to rework it with this as a base.

    Your blog, and the kitchn are my two absolute go-tos for everything food. Thank you for your talent and kindness in sharing for all to see and learn.
    (Edmonton AB)

  61. Leah

    This worked really well with Beyond Beef and canned coconut milk, for any other other vegan cooks out there. I let the sauce simmer for about half an hour–next time I might see if it holds up for longer. It was incredibly rich and satisfying after the 30 minutes, though!

  62. Diana Jean White

    I love how you are so very particular about every step. I’ve made what I thought was Bolognese in the past but apparently was only a poor facsimile. I must say this was very good and not terribly labor-intensive. It made me feel I, and possibly I alone, was having an authentic dish. However, I served it with bucatini and grated romano. Ssshhhh.

  63. Chandra Fischer

    Oh my this was SO good! We regularly make Ina Garten’s “weeknight Bolognese”- It’s delicious and fast, but uses red wine. I had more time on my hands this week and loved the idea of using white wine and tomato paste- the sauce was positively silky and the flavors much more complex than our weeknight “get ‘er done” standby, but the recipe itself is also unfussy! Thanks for a great recipe.

  64. Megan

    We loved this! Followed the recipe exactly, using the olive oil route rather than pancetta. My husband is a no-chunks-in-the-bolognese person, so he was especially delighted by this version. I mixed mine with spaghetti squash (a health food cop-out, maybe, but ultimately tasty) and he ate his slathered onto crusty sourdough. Whatever the Academy has to say about it, parmesan paired really well with the sauce.

    It definitely benefited from the full 3 hour simmer. As I tasted it along the way, I worried that the wine and tomato paste were too acrid, but by the end of the cooking time they had mellowed nicely and the beefy flavor could come to the fore.

    Despite the long cooking time, there was much less prep than other bolognese recipes I’ve made, so I think this will be our go-to version even when quarantine ends. Thanks for a lovely recipe, Deb!

  65. Stephanie H

    This was lick-your-plate-delicious. So, so good. Thank you Deb for coming through with a winner one again.

  66. Looks delicious! I very occasionally make the ragu from your lasagna recipe and it’s wonderful. Thank you for the non-wine deglazing option, but I live in a country where anything that even suggests alcohol is simply not imported. Do you suppose other vinegars would be the better substitute? Somehow cider vinegar makes the cut here. Or would white/red grape juice be better? I’ve done that in the past, hadn’t thought of vinegar…

  67. Zoya

    I just made this and it was wonderful. I didn’t have white wine so I swapped in the same amount of port and it tasted incredible.

  68. Gini Bellettini

    This is outstanding! I’m keeping this recipe in the rotation. Fully developed flavor, really pretty simple prep.

  69. Seema

    Omg, I just made this tonight and had to sub finishing the ragu in the instant pot and again, omg! Turned out so so good! Thank you thank you for your awesome and approachable recipes.