Filed Under: Italian | Main Dish | Meat | Pasta | Pork | Sauce

The Best Bolognese Sauce

Recipe By Tessa Arias
December 20th, 2013
5 from 1 vote
5 from 1 vote

This recipe makes the best bolognese sauce, it's hearty and brimming with savory flavors. Perfect for a cold winter day! Follow the step-by-step photos to see how it's made.

Yield: 9 cups of sauce or 4-6 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook: 2 hours 30 minutes

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

Taste: Such an incredible depth of flavor. Each step is just building layer upon layer of savory goodness and if you take a quick look at the ingredients, you can just imagine how amazing this tastes.
Texture: Thick and rich and meaty. So satisfying.
Ease: Certainly not as easy as buying premade sauce. This requires a good amount of prep work, dirties quite a few dishes, and takes hours. This is a special occasion or Sunday supper recipe but the nice thing is that it keeps well in the fridge or freezer so it can be made ahead of time. I promise, it’s so worth it!!
Appearance: Like heaven on a plate.
Pros: The best sauce ever.
Cons: Sometimes the best things take the most work.
Would I make this again? Absolutely. I portioned off and froze the leftovers. This would also make a great lasagna sauce for a Christmas Eve lasagna!

Best Bolognese Sauce Recipe

As we fast approach the first official day of winter, I have been in the mood for warm, savory, and satisfying food. Who wants to eat a salad during this time of the year? Not me. I want a serving of something rich and hearty, something like this bolognese sauce.

Yes, homemade bolognese sauce takes a long time. But there’s something relaxing about standing in front of a warm stove, stirring a pot full of delicious goodness that fills your kitchen with enticing aromas and lots of love. Making this sauce made me reminiscence about a fantasy Italian grandmother that I never had. If I did have one, though, I imagine she’d like this sauce. It’s the best bolognese sauce I’ve ever had, and probably the best pasta sauce ever.
Best Bolognese Sauce Recipe
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, heavy, and deep Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat and add the ground beef and ground pork. Season with salt and pepper and cook until browned.

Best Bolognese Sauce Recipe
As you can see, my meat is practically steaming because my Dutch oven was a tad bit too small but I made it work.

Best Bolognese Sauce Recipe
Remove the meat to a paper towel-lined plate and add in the pancetta or bacon. I couldn’t find pancetta at my local grocery store so I settled for bacon instead of making two grocery trips. Cook until crisp then transfer to the same plate as the meat. This is when your kitchen will start to smell amazing!

Best Bolognese Sauce Recipe
Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes.

Best Bolognese Sauce Recipe
Next add in the wine and simmer until almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Now your kitchen will smell completely heavenly, don’t be surprised if people start popping their head in to see what you’re making.

Best Bolognese Sauce Recipe
Add everything else, including the milk, tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, cheese rind, and the meats. Season with salt and pepper.

Best Bolognese Sauce Recipe
Bring to a simmer then reduce to medium-low heat and cook, partially covered, until the sauce thickens, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. You can also make this whole recipe in a stovetop-safe slow cooker insert, or transfer to a slow cooker insert at this point, and cook in the slow cooker on high for 3 1/2 hours.

Best Bolognese Sauce Recipe
See how much liquid has evaporated? The sauce is nice and thick and rich with lots of flavor now. Serve over pasta with grated Parmesan cheese and enjoy!!

5 from 1 vote

How to make
The Best Bolognese Sauce

Yield: 9 cups of sauce or 4-6 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours
This recipe makes the best bolognese sauce, it's hearty and brimming with savory flavors. Perfect for a cold winter day! Follow the step-by-step photos to see how it's made.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divded
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground beef
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground pork
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 4 ounces pancetta or bacon, sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 celery stalk, finely diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup (3 oz) tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 (28 ounce) cans whole tomatoes, passed through a food mill*
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme, tied together with kitchen string
  • 1 Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind
  • 1 pound fresh pasta, such as fettuccine, tagliatelle, or pappardelle, cooked until al dente and drained
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving


  1. In a large, heavy, deep lidded Dutch oven or pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef, ground pork, and salt and pepper to taste and cook until browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the meat to a paper towel-lined plate. Add the pancetta/bacon and cook until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to the paper towel-lined plate.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the milk, tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, and cheese rind and stir until combined. Add in the meats and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Bring to a simmer then partially cover and reduce to medium-low. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. You can also transfer the mixture to a slow cooker and cook for 3 1/2 hours. Discard bay leaves, thyme, and cheese rind. Season to taste with more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve with pasta and grated cheese.

Recipe Notes

*If you don't have a food mill to crush the tomatoes, use a blender or immersion blender. Make sure to leave as much texture and chunks of tomato as possible, do not liquify.
Adapted from Williams Sonoma
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Tessa Arias

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

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Recipe Rating

  1. #
    Carole Murphy — August 6, 2021 at 9:30 am

    I rate this recipe a 5 . I tripled the recipe and made it for a crowd. It was the hit of my party . Yes , itโ€™s work but, very worth it . I have made it 3 times .

    • #
      Emily — August 9, 2021 at 8:45 am

      So happy to hear that, Carole! Thanks for letting us know!

  2. #
    Tara — March 12, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    This is the BEST Bolognese that I have made outside of Italy. It has all of the intense flavor and cooks in much less time. This is my GO TO recipe for my picky Italian Husband. Thank you!

  3. #
    Jackie — February 17, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    I have made this over 20 times now and it’s a no fail, not to mention delishious. My family cannot get enough!! I enjoy making it, and love how each flavour pops out when you add them. I follow it exactly. Thank you! It is now my go to and replaces all my spaghetti dishes! Well done!

  4. #
    Lynn — June 11, 2016 at 6:19 am

    I want to make this today, but don’t have any red wine. Can I use a white? I have Moscato in my fridge. If not, any other substitute? Thank you very much.

    • #
      Tessa — June 12, 2016 at 12:12 pm

      Hi Lynn, did you end up finding a good sub for the wine?

  5. #
    Cynthia — June 1, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    Delicious! Had to go to work so put it in the slow cooker on low until I got home – about 4 hours. Then added cashew milk (I’m lactose intolerant) and cranked up the heat for a couple of hours. Wow! Makes a lot of sauce so I’ll be filling the freezer. I made this in anticipation of making Bravo’s Mama’s lasagna which uses a combination of marinara, Bolognese and alfredo sauces. I also find that using my food processor for the onion, carrot and celery (sofrito) speeds up the process as well. So glad I found your recipe.

  6. #
    Jen — March 9, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    If we transfer to slow cooker should it be on high or low? Can’t wait to try this!

  7. #
    Lupe Elias — December 1, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    I was wondering if I could use something other than milk in this recipe ???

  8. #
    Erin@BeetsPerMinute — March 8, 2015 at 5:25 am

    This sounds so amazing. I am going to be trying it on top of carrot noodles! Thanks for sharing.

  9. #
    Newark What — August 15, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Sorry, NO canned tomatoes in a true Bolognese (definitely some paste…), this recipe panders to the American palate for thick tomato sauces (just like from a jar). Authentic Bolognese is gloriously full of meaty flavor with a lactic background (from the milk). I just returned from a trip to Emilia Romagna and had many variations on Bolognese and NONE contained large amounts of tomatoes. The recipe is great as Sunday Gravy, full of meat and tomato flavor, but do NOT confuse this with Bolognese.

  10. #
    Natalie Jurrius — May 4, 2014 at 10:15 am I made this yesterday…. And holy cow…this morning I put it away to freeze (what’s left) and may I say thank you…hubby is in heaven… Love love loves it!!! I’ll be making it again.I hope to have a rind by then too…I also blended 1/2 of it to make it a touch smoother. Thank you for the recipe… You’ve made a very happy hubby over here!!!!

    • #
      Tessa — May 6, 2014 at 1:44 pm

      Yay!! Love this comment ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m so happy you and your hubby enjoyed the recipe – interesting note about blending 1/2 of it.

  11. #
    Scott Fata — March 26, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Quick question. Did you drain the grease out of the Dutch oven from the meat and the pancetta between steps, or did you leave it all in and cook everything in it?

  12. #
    Cate — February 9, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Wow! this was yummy, easy and quicker that other recipes I’ve tried. Favor was intense even at a 2 hour simmer. Everyone said it was definitely a keeper recipe.

    • #
      Tessa — February 9, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      So happy you enjoyed the recipe ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. #
    Allison — January 18, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    While searching for the “best bolognese sauce”, I came across your recipe. I have previously used a food network recipe and thought I would try something new. Well, I just wanted to let you know we made this tonight and had it with gnocchi — delicious! I liked that this sauce was ready to eat a lot sooner than my other recipe. We had the time and let it simmer for 4 hours instead of 2 as you recommend, and when we came home after being out for a bit the house smelled amazing! Needless to say this will be our go-to bolognese sauce recipe from now on!

  14. #
    Tieghan — December 20, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    Looks so great, Tessa!! This would be a perfect holiday meal!

  15. #
    Biz — December 20, 2013 at 10:54 am

    Yep, nothing better than a simmering bolognese! Sadly, since my husband had colon cancer, he doesn’t like a red sauce anymore. I may need to make a batch for my lunches to get my red sauce fix on!

  16. #
    Jenny Flake — December 20, 2013 at 8:18 am

    LOVE bolognese sauce!! Love your step by steps, great tutorial!

    • #
      Tessa — December 20, 2013 at 9:03 am

      Thanks Jenny!! Merry [almost] Christmas ๐Ÿ™‚

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