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Classic Homemade Bolognese Sauce (with Pappardelle)

Classic Homemade Bolognese Sauce (with Pappardelle)

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Discover the rich, comforting flavors of Homemade Bolognese Sauce, a culinary masterpiece steeped in tradition. This slow-cooked, meaty marvel, originating from the heart of Italy, is more than just a pasta sauce—it’s a symphony of ingredients meticulously simmered to perfection.

What exactly is Bolognese sauce?

Bolognese sauce, or “ragù alla bolognese” in Italian, is much more than just a meat sauce. It’s a culinary icon, steeped in tradition and rich in history, originating from Bologna, Italy. This hearty, slow-cooked sauce is a staple of Italian cuisine, renowned for its deep flavors and comforting, homey appeal.

At its core, Bolognese sauce is a meat-based sauce that’s patiently simmered to achieve a thick, velvety consistency. The primary ingredients include a soffritto base of onions, celery, and carrots, ground meat (typically a mix of beef and pork), tomatoes, and a touch of dairy, such as milk or heavy cream, to add a luxurious richness to the sauce. While traditionally served with tagliatelle, a broad, flat pasta that perfectly captures the thick sauce, it’s also commonly paired with other pasta shapes like pappardelle, and is often used as a filling layer in lasagnas.

What sets Bolognese apart from other meat sauces is its slow cooking process. The sauce is gently simmered for several hours, allowing the flavors to develop and meld together. This slow cooking method not only tenderizes the meat but also intensifies the sauce’s flavors, resulting in a complex and nuanced taste profile that will leave you wanting to come back for (a lot) more.

Soffritto and its importance in cooking

Now you might be asking yourself, “what is soffritto, and why does R&R keep talking about it”? The answer to that question is that it forms the foundation of many recipes in a wide range of cultural cuisines. A delicate blend of finely chopped onions, carrots, and celery, soffritto is gently sautéed in olive oil (or butter), resulting in a flavor-packed base that infuses the sauce with immense depth and complexity.

What type of wine should go in a homemade Bolognese sauce?

While a glass of wine pairs well with most Italian dishes, its purpose in this sauce acts as much more than just a simple sipping companion to a meal. In homemade Bolognese sauce, it’s a transformative and critical ingredient, introducing an array of subtle flavors and rich aromas. Whether you opt for a robust red or a mellow white, wine acts as a de-glazing agent, lifting the fond (those delicious caramelized bits at the bottom of the pan) and weaving its flavor into every saucy bite.

A good rule of thumb is to use a wine you’d enjoy drinking – as its quality resonates in the sauce. This will enhance the meat’s savoriness and tenderness, while also imparting a slight acidity that help balance the overall richness. The alcohol will burn off during cooking process, leaving behind a sauce that’s loaded with deep complexity and rich elegance.

Choosing the best tomatoes

The choice of tomatoes can make or break your sauce. Fresh, ripe tomatoes are a summer delight, offering a sweet and tangy profile that’s hard to match. However, when fresh tomatoes aren’t in season, canned San Marzano tomatoes are a perfect alternative. These tomatoes are renowned for their vibrant flavor and perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. Whether you choose to puree your tomatoes or leave them chunky, they are the core of the sauce, melding with other ingredients to create a rich, velvety texture that’s unmistakably Bolognese.

“Low and slow” is the way to go

Trust us – it’s going to be hard to resist pulling this off the burner once the smells begin to fill your house (that’s why we taste test more often than we probably should). But the magic of Bolognese lies in its slow simmering process, which allows the flavors to meld and intensify over time. As the sauce gently bubbles away, the meats become tender, the fats render, and the tomatoes break down, resulting in a rich, thick, and cohesive homemade Bolognese sauce.

Too short of a cook time will leave you with a sauce that’s too watery, with underdeveloped flavors and a texture that’s less than ideal. On the other hand, a Bolognese that’s been allowed to simmer slowly unveils its true flavor. The ingredients have the opportunity to spend some time with one another, resulting in a complex flavor profile where each element complements the next.

What’s the best pasta for Bolognese?

While this is completely subjective (after all, you’re the one eating it), this sauce traditionally pairs extremely well with the following types of pasta:

  1. Tagliatella
  2. Pappardelle
  3. Rigatoni
  4. Tortiglioni
  5. Fettuccini
  6. Spaghetti
  7. Whatever type of pasta you want

Homemade Bolognese Sauce Ingredients

  • 1-1.5 lbs ground beef/pork mixture (traditional Bolognese is made with ground beef/pancetta)
  • 1 cup carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 cup celery, finely chopped
  • 1 cup onion, finely diced
  • 1.5 cups dry red wine
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 6 oz. tomato paste
  • 28 oz. peeled tomatoes (San Marzano if you can get them)
  • 1/4 tablespoon (each) red pepper flakes, basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Pasta

  • 16 oz. Pappardelle pasta

Cooking Directions

  1. In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, add large drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat
  2. Add onion, cooking until slightly softened; stir occasionally (approximately 5 minutes)
  3. Add both the celery and carrots to the pot, cooking until softened; stir occasionally (approximately 3-5 minutes)
  4. Add meat and cook, breaking up (with wooden spoon or spatula) until browned and cooked through
  5. Pour wine into meat and veggie mixture; bring to simmer, uncovered, until evaporated (8-12 minutes)
  6. Pour milk into pot, bring to simmer, uncovered, until evaporated (6-10 minutes)
  7. Stir in tomato paste, peeled tomatoes, and Italian seasonings; crush tomatoes with wooden spoon or masher
    • Tip: We placed our 28 oz. of peeled tomatoes with juices into a large bowl and crushed thoroughly with a masher
  8. Stir mixture until consistent throughout, reduce heat to low and simmer as long as desired (our sauce was on for 4 hours – but anywhere from 30 minutes to 6 hours is adequate)
    • Low and slow is the best method – the longer this sauce cooks, the better the flavors meld.
  9. 30 minutes before homemade Bolognese sauce is finished, bring large pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta to preferred doneness; drain, do not rinse pasta
    • If needed, save 1 cup of pasta water to adjust consistency of sauce (adding small splash at a time)
  10. Plate pasta with homemade Bolognese sauce and enjoy!
Homemade Bolognese sauce
Stock pots are a great kitchen tool to make large portions of soup or sauce, including this homemade Bolognese sauce. If you don’t have one in your kitchen, you should definitely think about adding one – check out some of these: Stainless Steel Stock/Sauce Pots
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If you enjoyed this homemade Bolognese sauce and want to find more delicious meals, desserts, and sauces, be sure to check out our expanding collection of Recipes.


Homemade Bolognese Sauce (with Pappardelle)

Recipe by Reviews and Recipes
0.0 from 0 votes
Course: Dinner, LunchCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Medium
Servings

10

servings
Prep time

15

minutes
Cooking time

4

hours 
Total time

4

hours 

15

minutes
Cook Mode

Keep the screen of your device on

Homemade Bolognese Ingredients

  • 1 lb beef/pork mixture

  • 1 c carrot, finely chopped

  • 1 c celery, finely chopped

  • 1 c onion, finely diced

  • 1.5 c wine (dry red or white)

  • 1 c milk, whole

  • 6 oz. tomato paste

  • 28 oz. peeled tomatoes (San Marzano if you can)

  • 1/4 tbsp red pepper flakes

  • 1/4 tbsp basil

  • 1/4 tbsp oregano

  • 1/4 tbsp thyme

  • 1/4 tbsp rosemary

  • 2 Bay leaves

  • Extra virgin olive oil

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  • Pasta
  • 16 oz. Pappardelle

Directions

  • In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, add large drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat
  • Add onion, cooking until slightly softened; stir occasionally (approximately 5 minutes)
  • Add both the celery and carrots to the pot, cooking until softened; stir occasionally (approximately 3-5 minutes)Soffritto ingredients
  • Add meat and cook, breaking up (with wooden spoon or spatula) until browned and cooked through
  • Pour wine into meat and veggie mixture; bring to simmer, uncovered, until evaporated (8-12 minutes)
  • Pour milk into pot, bring to simmer, uncovered, until evaporated (6-10 minutes)
  • Stir in tomato paste, peeled tomatoes, and Italian seasonings; crush tomatoes with wooden spoon or masher
    Tip: We placed our 28 oz. of peeled tomatoes with juices into a large bowl and crushed thoroughly with a masher
  • Stir mixture until consistent throughout, reduce heat to low and simmer as long as desired (our sauce was on for 4 hours – but anywhere from 30 minutes to 6 hours is adequate)
    Tip: Low and slow is the best method – the longer this sauce cooks, the better the flavors meld.
  • 30 minutes before homemade Bolognese sauce is finished, bring large pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta to preferred doneness; drain, do not rinse pasta
    Optional: If needed, save 1 cup of pasta water to adjust consistency of sauce (adding small splash at a time)Homemade Bolognese sauce
  • Plate pasta with homemade Bolognese sauce and enjoy!