Fettuccine Bolognese

Fettucine-bolognese

Fettucine Bolognese, or pasta in a meltingly tender and richly flavored meat sauce, is one of my favorite Sunday night family meals. The sauce simmers on the stove for several hours, making the house smell delicious and inviting, and the end result is a comforting yet elegant dish…I’d even serve it to company.

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I’ll be honest, there are a lot of vegetables to chop but the job is made simple with the help of a food processor. Always cut them into large chunks before they go in, otherwise they won’t process properly.

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Start with just the onions (you don’t want to crowd the machine) and pulse until very finely chopped but not puréed.

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Transfer the onions to a bowl and then process the carrots and celery together the same way.

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Heat a bit of olive oil in a large pot and cook the vegetables and garlic until soft, about 10 minutes.

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Add the pancetta, ground beef, salt and pepper to the vegetables. Note that the recipe calls for 85% lean ground beef. Don’t be tempted to use extra lean. I’ve tried it and, believe me, it’s not nearly as good. Fat adds flavor and keeps the meat moist, plus you can skim off any excess grease at the end.

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Cook until the beef is no longer pink, about 10 minutes.

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Add the red wine and cook until the liquid dissolves. Anytime you’re cooking with wine, use one that’s cheap but good enough to drink. The recipe only calls for a half cup so, unless you’re planning to drink the rest, you might want to buy a package of mini bottles. They come in very handy in the kitchen.

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Add the crushed tomatoes, beef stock and oregano and simmer for an hour and a half.

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Add some whole milk and simmer again until the milk is absorbed into the sauce, about 35 minutes.

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When the sauce is done, spoon any excess grease off the top. Don’t worry about getting it all (it’s impossible and you don’t want to lose flavor anyway); I typically take off about 1/4 cup.

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Keep the sauce warm while you cook the pasta.

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Ladle out and reserve one cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta in a colander. Toss the noodles with the sauce, adding the reserved cooking water little by little if it seems dry. As always, taste and adjust the seasoning before serving.

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Top with grated Parmesan and freshly chopped herbs and serve. If you’re looking for a salad to go with it, you might consider my Big Italian Salad or Arugula with Lemon & Shaved Parmesan and Olive Oil. Enjoy!

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Fettuccine Bolognese
Printable Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chuncks
2 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch chunks
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef (85% lean)
3 ounces pancetta, chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt (plus more for pasta water)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 cups beef stock (best quality, such as Swanson)
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup whole milk
1 pound fresh fettuccine (available in refrigerator section at most supermarkets)*

Optional for Serving
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Handful chopped fresh basil or parsley

Directions

1. Place onions in bowl of food processor fitted with metal blade. Pulse until very finely chopped but not puréed. Transfer onions to separate bowl, then add carrots and celery to food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer vegetables to bowl with onions.

2. Heat olive oil in large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and vegetable mixture and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 10 minutes. Lower the heat if vegetables start to brown.

3. Add ground beef, pancetta, salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until meat is no longer pink, 5-10 minutes.

4. Add red wine and cook until liquid is almost dissolved, 1-2 minutes.

5. Add beef stock, crushed tomatoes and oregano. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir, then cover completely with lid and simmer 45 minutes more.

6. Add milk to sauce. Cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer until milk is absorbed, about 35 minutes. If sauce looks greasy, use a soup spoon to skim some of the fat off the top. (Don’t remove all of the fat; I typically take out about 1/4 cup). Cover to keep warm off the heat while you make the pasta.

7. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Before straining, ladle out 1 cup of pasta water into a bowl or measuring cup and set aside. Drain noodles in a colander, then add them to the sauce. Toss with tongs, adding reserved pasta water little by little if sauce seems dry. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve immediately with grated Parmesan and fresh herbs if desired.

*I like the Buitoni brand of fresh pasta sold in the refrigerator case at most supermarkets for this dish. It cooks very quickly and tastes great. If you can’t find fresh, feel free to substitute dried.

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  • Beth Horta

    I made this for two four year olds the other night, and the first bite out of my daughter’s mouth was, “I love this!!! It’s so yummy!!” And she’s a picky eater. Bravo again! This is going to be my new and only spaghetti sauce! Thank you!

  • Victoria

    My family loves the bolognese sauce and spaghetti. I make it a bit different. I have never heard about wine in it, will try it. I add more spices basil, rosemarin, parsley. It smells just fantastic !

  • Jennifer

    Made this a few weeks ago. DELICIOUS!!! Absolutely worth the time and effort.

  • Tobi

    I made this delicious dish. So yummy. Since we keep kosher in the house I had to make a few adjustments. I had to eliminate the pancetta and then substituted Tofutti Sour Supreme (non dairy sour cream 1/2 cup) for the whole milk. The dish was awesome. Thank you!

  • I like recipes that “hide” the veggies. My meat-eating men will like this one.

  • Leah

    I just made this for dinner and it was incredibly delicious! I’m looking forward to having the left overs tomorrow. Right now neither my husband or myself are drinking (hubby’s training to climb Mt Rainier & I’m pregnant). So I’ve been avoiding meals that call for wine, since I didn’t want to waste it. I loved your tip on the mini wine bottles … I can’t believe that solution never dawned in me before. As always, thanks for sharing your recipes & tips!!!

  • Rachel

    This is such an amazing recipe. With the three meat combination it is simply to DIE FOR. My friend Melanie and I made it the first time together, with fresh homemade pasta. Since then she has made it bi-monthly for her and her husband. I think its time to whip out my food processor and try this again!

  • Carla C.

    I made this for an Italian-themed wine dinner and everyone raved about it! It went right into the “definitely make again – soon!” file. Your site is terrific – having all the photos for reference really helps.

  • Mrs Macaulay

    I made this for dinner on Monday. It was absolutely delicious !

  • Melissa

    This was another recipe that I tried from your website that my entire family absolutely loved!
    Thanks again for an outstanding sauce!

  • Hadley

    Absolutely delicious!! Thanks for another great recipe!

  • Charmie

    Making this for dinner!

  • Liesel

    We made this for my husband’s Birthday this past December. It was very good – a mild-flavored, meaty and hearty sauce – a real crowd pleaser for the whole family. We did not use fresh pasta, but opted to use dried fettucine instead. Four active teenagers consume a lot of pasta! Loved the finely chopped vegetables in the sauce, especially the carrots.

  • Marie

    My husband’s new favorite!

  • Amy C

    Delicious!

  • cap

    with all the chopping required for Bolognese, you really need this food processor.

  • Sherri L

    This recipe looked delicious when I first read it. Made it last night and I am right – it IS delicious.

  • Cynthia

    I made your bolognese sauce tonight for a lasagna dinner for my husband and in-laws — it was delicious! The flavors were incredibly robust but not overwhelming. I definitely ate my fair share of “tastings” during the simmering process…I look forward to making this again with fettuccine.

  • I would love to make this with the help of a food processor!

  • Wendy W Janin

    Love the detailed instructions

  • Barbara Lamar

    Wow..you are right! Lots to chop. Looks very good but I don’t have a Cuisinart or food chopper so will have to purchase one! Thanks for the interesting delicious looking recipe!

  • Mike

    Searching for larger pants…. so good, so rich, so going to make this over and over and over.

  • Tammy

    This looks so good, but can you leave the red wine out or substitute it with somethng else like white grape juice or would it ruin the flavor?
    Looks so yummy!

    • Jenn

      Hi Tammy, You can substitute the wine with more beef stock – should work fine!

  • Sara

    My mother makes a version of this that I adored as a child. I look forward to trying this recipe in my grown up kitchen!

  • Emily K

    email subscriber and resident of the contiguous US !

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  • phyllis

    love your recipes, particularly like your photos that show how the dish looks at each stage of preparation. can’t wait to try this dish, just in time for the cold weather.

  • Kathy

    I love wonderful pasta dishes, they are my favorite meal to make. I can’t wait to try this one it has all of the right igredients!! Thanks for sharing

  • Jennifer

    Hey Jen,

    I’m thinking about making this for a friend who doesn’t eat pork. What substitution for the pancetta would you recommend?

    • Jenn

      Hi Jennifer, I’d say just leave it out; it will still be delicious.

      • Jennifer

        Okay, thank you!!

  • Rebecca

    This was so delicious! I used dried pasta because that is all my grocery store carries. The sauce has so much flavor and gets even better as leftovers. It makes a ton, so next time I will make it for company. My little family of 3 ate it for several meals!

  • Amy

    This has been on my list for a long time. Finally made it last night and it was delicious! Thanks for all the great recipes!

  • bill

    i cant wait to try this. I have never had this before but have heard of it and always waned to try it.

  • Chris

    I tried this last week and also made homemade fettucine pasta. It was time consuming, but delicious. I will make this many times again as a special meal.

  • Trisha

    Do you think this can be made ahead? I want to make it for some friend’s but I might not have the time to cook it for hours!

    • Jenn

      Hi Trisha, It can absolutely be made ahead. I hope you enjoy it!

  • Peg

    Would love to have that food processor so I could make this recipe!

  • Becca

    THIS SOUNDS SO SO SO GOOD! Can’t wait to try this!

  • H

    I made this 3 days ago, and it tasted better even as leftovers! I found that the smell would be optimal whenever I reduced the beef stock by 1/3 a cup, and add more Cabernet Sauvignon based on feelings (usually 1/3cup extra)!

  • Sandy

    This sounds delicious! I make a similar sauce using a rump roast but no milk and serve it over gnocchi.

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