Classic Italian Style Bolognese

There’s nothing like a good bolognese. This flavourful tender meaty red sauce stirred through warm pasta or over it makes for one hearty and comforting meal. This is my take on a classic Italian style bolognese that is rich in flavour and is the kind of Sunday sauce you will want to make every weekend!

Classic Italian Style Bolognese

Spaghetti Bolognese is basically spaghetti and meat sauce/ragu. Of course it is a dish that hails from Italy - it’s a bit debated whether its actually from bologna or a region near by - but we aren’t here to split hairs or talk origins (at least I’m not) I’m here to share one of my favourite recipes for spaghetti/pasta bolognese - and this is the one! When I’m not making my Greek bolognese I’m making this one! Like any stew, ragu or meat sauce - the longer you simmer the sauce the more depth of flavor that is why it’s often called a Sunday sauce - or low and slow food. Simmering it low and slow for long periods of time allows flavors to really build and the sauce to reduce and thicken and meat to be tender. Traditional Italian Sunday sauce isn’t actually made with ground beef but with tougher cuts that become silky-tender after cooking in the sauce for many hours. This bolognese sauce doesn’t take nearly as long but is often still classified under the Sunday food category when we might have a little more time to fuss with dinner than we normally do.

Classic Italian Style Bolognese Ingredients

Bolognese Sauce Ingredients

  • OLIVE OIL: Just a little to start the sauce off by sautéing the vegetables. Feel free to use butter instead for more flavor or a bit of both.
  • MIREPOIX/SOFFRITTO: A Mirepoix is an essential flavor base for the bolognese made from humble vegetables such as onions, celery, and carrots. I also add garlic. Many bolognese recipes actually call for no garlic or extra vegetables but I always like to add them for a good base flavour in any sauce or stew. The carrots naturally breakdown and balance out the acidity of the tomato - no need to add sugar to the sauce at all.
  • GROUND MEAT: I use a blend of lean ground beef and ground pork (half pork/half beef). Some recipes call for a wider blend or what is called ‘meatloaf blend’ -ground beef, ground pork, and ground veal. Feel free to use any combination you would like and if you prefer to use ground italian pork sausage for the ground pork that is fine too.
  • PANCETTA: Add finely chopped pancetta (Italian unsmoked bacon) for extra flavour. It is optional but recommended for a more authentic bolognese
  • SPICES: Traditionally bolognese is made with very few spices other than salt and pepper but I like to add in some chili flakes, bay leaves and Italian seasoning or a blend of a little dried oregano, thyme and basil but that is totally optional. Feel free to omit or add as much or as little as you prefer.
  • TOMATO PASTE: It always adds rich flavour to any sauce stew or soup.
  • WINE: Use red wine or white wine. Most often we reach for red wine but dry white wine works really well in a bolognese sauce too and often traditionally made using white wine.
  • MILK: Milk is a key ingredient in an authentic Bolognese recipe because it helps to balance out the acidity in the tomatoes as well as giving it a rich and creamy flavour. Along with this it also makes the meat so tender. Some recipe call for using heavy cream and that is fine but it’s a bit too rich and over powering for my liking - I always use whole milk. This is added during the beginning of the cooking time not at the end.
  • CRUSHED TOMATOES: Are what create the base of the sauce. Try to use good quality crushed tomatoes - buy them either whole and crush or process them yourself or buy them crushed. Feel free to use the equivalent of passata if you prefer. Some recipes call for using marinara sauce as the base for the meat sauce - but I typically use crushed tomatoes.
  • BROTH: I like to use chicken broth but you could use beef broth too for some extra liquid for the sauce to simmer away in.
  • HERBS: Fresh parsley or fresh basil is great addition to finish off the sauce with or garnish with.
  • PARMIGIANO REGGIANO: Feel free to grate it right into the sauce once it is done simmering or serve it on the side or do both. Freshly grated is always recommend for best flavour
  • OPTIONAL ADD INS: For extra flavor some like to add a parmesan rind to the sauce as it simmers. Or some like to add some anchovies while sautéing the veggies, or add in some sun-dried tomatoes or some red bell peppers with the rest of the veggies. Feel free to adjust flavors to suit your palate.

Classic Italian Style Bolognese Step by Step

How To Make Bolognese

  1. Cook the VEGGIES Chopped onion, celery and carrot, and garlic
  2. Cook the MEAT Brown the beef, pork and pancetta, along with the veggies
  3. Stir in the TOMATO PASTE & chili flakes and cook a couple minutes
  4. Add the WINE Stir in the wine to deglaze and reduce
  5. Add the MILK Stir in the milk and reduce
  6. Add the other LIQUIDS Add the crushed tomatoes /passata, stock and remaining spices.
  7. Stir well and SIMMER for 1-3 hours (Cover partially if desired). The longer it simmers the more flavourful the sauce will be.

Classic Italian Style Bolognese

Storage & Freezing Bolognese Sauce

  • MAKE AHEAD & STORAGE: You can prepare the Bolognese sauce in advance and reheat it as needed on the stove top or in the microwave. It can be stored in an airtight container container for up to 2-3 days.
  • FREEZING: To freeze any cooked leftovers, add the cooled sauce to a freezer safe airtight container. You can keep it frozen for 3 months. To reheat, defrost/thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat stove top in a pan or in the microwave.

Classic Italian Style Bolognese

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Servings: 4-6
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 1-3 hours
Total Time: 1-3 hours 15 mins


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 8 ounces pancetta, chopped/minced
  • ¼ teaspoon dried Chili flakes
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup wine (white wine or red wine)
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 (28 oz)can crushed tomatoes or passata
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese /Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2 tablespoons Fresh chopped parsley


  1. In a large Dutch oven or heavy bottom pot, heat the olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, garlic and carrot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and golden, about 5-7 minutes.
  2. Add the ground beef, pork, and pancetta to the Dutch oven. Use a wooden spoon to break the meat apart as it cooks, just until lightly browned. 5-7 min
  3. Add the tomato paste and chili flakes and cook for about 2 minutes stirring often.
  4. Add the wine to deglaze and cook until the wine is reduced almost completely, about 8-10 minutes, stirring to scrape up any browned bits at the bottom of the pot.
  5. Add the milk and simmer until it has reduced and evaporated, about 8-10 minutes, stirring often.
  6. Stir in the tomatoes, broth, bay leaves, Italian seasoning, salt and pinch of black pepper.
  7. Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to the low cooking at a very low simmer for 1-3 hours until the meat is tender and the sauce has reduced and thickened and deepened in colour. If the sauce seems to have reduced too much at any point, add ¼ cup hot water or broth at a time as needed. Taste and test for seasoning adding a pinch of salt or pepper as needed.
  8. Stir in the parmesan cheese and the chopped parsley or serve it on the side.
  9. Serve the sauce over wide egg noodles or pasta noodles such as spaghetti, pappardelle, tagliatelle, fettuccine, or rigatoni, or toss the pasta in sauce. (See Notes below for cooking pasta and adding it to sauce)

Recipe Notes

  • A layer of oil will likely rise to the top towards the end of cooking. Spoon off the oil or fold back into the sauce as desired. The longer you cook the sauce the better it will become. Make sure to stir sauce periodically scraping the sides of the dutch oven and incorporating all those flavors into the sauce.
  • Cooking pasta: Once the bolognese has simmered & reduced, boil water and cook the pasta until the pasta is cooked to al dente. Carefully dip a liquid measuring cup into the pot, reserving about 1-1½ cups of the starchy pasta water, and set aside. Drain pasta and add it straight to the bolognese sauce. Toss to combine well – the sauce should evenly coat the pasta. Add in some of the reserved pasta water if the bolognese sauce needs to loosen up a little; add in an extra handful of parmesan if desired. Cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, allowing the pasta to meld with & absorb some of the sauce. Portion out pasta or serve it on a large-latter family style topped with extra parmesan, chopped herbs, and/or a sprinkling of crushed red pepper as desired.

Classic Italian Style Bolognese