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Pasta Bolognese

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Fresh fettuccine pasta in a richly-flavored meat sauce, this pasta Bolognese is a family favorite.

Pasta Bolognese, or pasta in a tender and richly-flavored meat and vegetable sauce, is one of my favorite Sunday night family suppers. The sauce simmers on the stove for several hours, making the house smell delicious and inviting — and it’s one of those dishes that just tastes like it was made with love. I prefer fresh fettuccine here, which you can find in the refrigerator case at most supermarkets, but it’s good with dried fettuccine, rigatoni or anything, really.

What You’ll Need To Make Pasta Bolognese

ingredients for pasta bolognese

Before we get to the step-by-step instructions, a few notes about the ingredients:

  • Pancetta is simply Italian bacon. Instead of being smoked like American bacon, it is cured with salt and spices and then dried. You can find it in the deli at most supermarkets or precut and packaged in the refrigerated gourmet foods aisle, which is a great time saver.
  • For the wine, use any dry red (Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc.) that is inexpensive but still good enough to drink.

How To Make Pasta Bolognese

Place onions in bowl of food processor fitted with metal blade.

chopped onions in food processor

Pulse until very finely chopped but not puréed.

finely chopped onions in food processor

Transfer the onions to a bowl, then add carrots and celery to the food processor.

carrots, celery and garlic in food processor

Pulse until finely chopped.

finely chopped vegetables in food processorHeat the olive oil in large heavy pot over medium-high heat, and add the onion and vegetable mixture.

vegetables cooking in oil

Cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 8 minutes. Lower the heat if vegetables start to brown.

softened vegetables

Add the ground beef, pancetta, salt and pepper.

adding beef and pancetta to the pot

Cook over medium-high heat, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until meat is no longer pink, 5 to 10 minutes.

browned beef

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

adding wine to the pot

Add the broth, crushed tomatoes and oregano.

adding broth, tomatoes, and seasoning to the pot

Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover with the lid slightly ajar and simmer for 1 hour and 30 minutes.

bolognese sauce after simmering for 1.5 hours

Stir in the milk.

stirring the milk into the bolognese sauce

Cover with the lid slightly ajar and simmer until milk is absorbed, about 35 minutes. If the sauce looks greasy, use a soup spoon to skim the fat off of the top. Cover to keep warm while you make the pasta.

finished bolognese sauce

Cook pasta according to package instructions.

Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Toss the pasta with the sauce, adding the reserved pasta water little by little if the pasta seems dry. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. Divide the pasta into serving bowls and sprinkle with fresh herbs, if using. Pass the grated Parmigiano Reggiano at the table.

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Pasta Bolognese

Fresh fettuccine pasta in a richly-flavored meat sauce, this pasta Bolognese is a family favorite.

Servings: 4 to 6
Prep Time: 25 Minutes
Cook Time: 2 Hours 5 Minutes
Total Time: 2 Hours 30 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3 cloves garlic, very roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1⅓ pounds ground beef (85% lean)
  • 4 ounces pancetta, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt (plus more for pasta water)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 (14-oz) can crushed tomatoes (about 1¾ cups)
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 pound pasta
  • Handful chopped fresh basil or parsley, for serving (optional)
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until very finely chopped but not puréed. Transfer the onions to a separate bowl, then add the carrots, celery, and garlic to the food processor. Pulse until finely chopped.
  2. Heat the oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the finely chopped onions and vegetable mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Lower the heat if the vegetables start to brown.
  3. Add the ground beef, pancetta, salt, and pepper and cook over medium-high heat, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until the meat is no longer pink, 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Add the wine and cook until it is almost dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Add the broth, crushed tomatoes and oregano. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover with the lid slightly ajar and simmer for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  6. Add the milk to the sauce and stir to combine. Cover with the lid slightly ajar and simmer until the milk is absorbed and the meat is tender, about 35 minutes. If the sauce looks greasy, use a soup spoon to skim the fat off of the top. Remove the pan from the heat and cover to keep warm while you make the pasta.
  7. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Before straining, ladle out 1 cup of the pasta water into a bowl or measuring cup and set aside. Drain the pasta, then add to the sauce. Toss with tongs, adding the reserved pasta water little by little if the pasta seems dry. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. Divide the pasta into serving bowls and sprinkle with fresh herbs, if using. Pass the grated Parmigiano Reggiano at the table.
  8. Note: I like the Buitoni brand of fresh pasta sold in the refrigerator case at most supermarkets for this recipe. It cooks quickly and tastes great. (But don't worry if you can't find it; any pasta will work well.)
  9. Make-Ahead Instructions: The sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead of time. Let it cool to room temperature and then store in a covered container in the refrigerator. Reheat over medium-low heat on the stovetop before serving.
  10. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The sauce can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until hot.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 717
  • Fat: 30 g
  • Saturated fat: 10 g
  • Carbohydrates: 71 g
  • Sugar: 10 g
  • Fiber: 5 g
  • Protein: 36 g
  • Sodium: 910 mg
  • Cholesterol: 85 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • The flavors are great but it is too runny, what did I do wrong?j

    • — Jane on August 28, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Jane, I’d just simmer it for longer until it gets to the thickness that you’d like. 🙂

      • — Jenn on August 30, 2022
      • Reply
  • We don’t eat pork . Can I leave pancetta out or sub with something else ?

    • — Asra on June 10, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure, Asra, you can just omit it. The sauce will still be delicious!

      • — Jenn on June 13, 2022
      • Reply
  • I just made this, and WOW! It was fantastic! I did cook the pancetta first as suggested from other comments, but that’s pretty much all I changed from your directions. Other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing! I made homemade pasta with this and the combination was amazing! Thanks for the great recipe!

    • — Tracy S. on June 9, 2022
    • Reply
  • Like so many other people I became interested in becoming a better cook during the past few years. I found Jenn’s site while on the hunt for a great beef stew recipe, and hers, without a doubt is the best I’ve ever had/made. One the past 2 years I’ve cooked my way through many of the recipes on this website and have never been disappointed, on the contrary I’ve made, re-made and even made some of the recipes my own. For me the photo of the ingredients really helps me get my head around what I need, and the directions are so thoroughly written, all with time estimates, that it’s been a great way to learn to cook really well. ANYWAY, I finally got around to trying this Bolognese…DAMN! It’s delicious. I’m generally not a fan of fresh pasta but it really worked in this dish. I did spend some time skimming the fat as suggested. Great recipe, big flavor, wouldn’t change a thing. Jenn, thanks for all of your amazing creations. Would love to see your take on Chicken Scarpiello!!!

    • — Michael on June 4, 2022
    • Reply
  • Overall the sauce was good. The thickness was perfect and the amount of ingredients were perfect. I followed the recipe to a T and the only negative comment is I found I could taste the red wine in the sauce. It wasn’t horrible but it was there in the background. Maybe I didn’t cook it down enough? Do I have to use red wine in the sauce or can I just use more broth instead for next time? Or can I use white wine?

    • — Judy on April 3, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Judy, sorry you found that you could still taste the red wine in the sauce and that it detracted from the taste. Next time, I’d just replace the wine with additional beef broth.

      • — Jenn on April 4, 2022
      • Reply
  • Thanks for another successful dinner for my family! I think I would brown the pancetta first before cooking it with the ground beef next time I make this. Otherwise, the pancetta just looks white and unappetizing.

    • — Sharon on February 1, 2022
    • Reply
    • Agreed! It was rubbery on the fatty ends of the pancetta pieces – definitely brown first. Otherwise, another big winner!

      • — Kate I. on February 12, 2022
      • Reply
  • I don’t eat pork can I leave pancetta out?

    • — Asra on January 12, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure – the sauce will still be good — enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 13, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hello! Why are we able to freeze this sauce with milk in it, while other dairy sauces and soups we should freeze first and add dairy later? I’m a little afraid to freeze this one but I will because you said it’s ok 😀Thank you for any input, I love your recipes!!

    • — Shannon on January 7, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Shannon, if I haven’t frozen something myself that has dairy in it, I’m hesitant to suggest it but I have successfully frozen the Bolognese. Hope that clarifies!

      • — Jenn on January 7, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hands down one of my “go to” pasta dishes. Excellent recipe.

    • — Judy on December 31, 2021
    • Reply
  • Can I make this a day ahead and reheat?

    • — sv on December 19, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure, the sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead. See the bottom of the recipe for more specific make-ahead instructions. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 20, 2021
      • Reply

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