Pasta Bolognese

Tested & Perfected Recipes

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
  • 1-1/3 pounds ground beef (85% lean)
  • 4 ounces pancetta, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt (plus more for pasta water)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 (14-oz) can crushed tomatoes (about 1-3/4 cups)
  • 1/2 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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Reviews & Comments

  • Love this recipe! Turned out delicious!

    • — Anne on October 2, 2021
    • Reply
  • Disappointed! Made this over the weekend and it was just “ok”. Just bland. I think it would’ve been better if it was more “saucy” as it was hard to mix in with noodles. I followed exactly as written except used 1 lb ground beef. I have made several other recipes from this website and they’ve all turned out amazing. Especially the baked ziti with sausage! At least the one I did not care for is the one so far that has been the most work!

    • — Shari on September 27, 2021
    • Reply
    • I agree with this. Wish there was more flavor considering how long it summers.

      • — Amy on October 6, 2021
      • Reply
  • Delicious!
    Froze this two months ago & thawed it in the frig last night.
    Put it over dried pasta and it was wonderful 😃

    • — Sandra from California on September 25, 2021
    • Reply

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