The best Bolognese sauce is not a tomato sauce, it is a deep richly flavoured beef sauce with very few ingredients & takes it’s time simmering to perfection.
There are so many recipes out there for the best Bolognese sauce and with such a much loved traditional recipe, there is no wonder that so many variations of it available. Italians can be quite fierce in their opinions about what constitutes a proper Bolognese sauce; is milk added?…oregano? …basil? …other herbs? ..tomato sauce or tomato paste?
Ask any of those questions and you are going to get answers…and probably lots of them. So, with so many differing opinions, I’m going to ignore most of them and give you our family’s most loved Bolognese Sauce recipe.
The Bolognese Sauce that our family really loves concentrates on simplicity, slow cooking, and modest seasoning. Most importantly though is the approach that, even though it does contain tomatoes, it is a meat sauce and not a tomato sauce.
Since I like to simmer my sauce for a long time to concentrate the flavour, I do not use tomato paste but canned San Marzano tomatoes, my favourite, which I puree in the blender.
In addition to red wine, I also use some beef stock in order to allow for a longer simmering time and to deepen the rich beefy flavour of the sauce. This particular batch actually simmered very slowly for almost four hours, to be served as one of our most loved Sunday suppers. It is well worth the time.
Serve with plenty of very good grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. Our family’s preference is the best Parmagiano Reggiano cheese we can find, freshly grated over the top. There is no such thing as too much.
This recipe produces a very thick, rich, intensely flavoured sauce which we serve over tagliatelle, spaghetti or for my son Noah, almost always penne.
Leftover sauce at our house can get used to make the absolute best lasagne or even Bolognese Sloppy Joes with some provolone cheese melted over the meat sauce and served on toasted crusty bread. I recommend you plan for leftovers, especially those sloppy Joes; they are so delicious!
Do you throw out the rinds from Parmesan cheese? Stop! Save them in a Ziploc bag in the freezer for the next time you make Bolognese sauce and drop 2 or 3 in as soon as the sauce begins to simmer.
People will wonder what the secret is to your delicious Bolognese. Our motto here at Rock Recipes is “No flavour left behind!”
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Originally published September 2013. Updated with new photos March 2018.
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 6 ounces finely diced pancetta or bacon
- 3 pounds lean ground beef
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
- 4 cups pureed canned tomatoes
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 3 cups low sodium beef stock
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3 large bay leaves
- 2 large carrots finely diced
- 3 celery sticks finely diced
- 2 large onions finely diced
- 6 cloves garlic finely minced
- 2 pounds fresh or dried pasta of your choice
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
In a large dutch oven or small stock pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and chopped pancetta or bacon. Cook until the pancetta or bacon is almost crispy.
Add the onions, garlic, celery and carrots and cook until the onions have softened and begin to caramelize to a light brown color, stirring often.
Add the ground beef, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and cook until the beef is well browned.
Add the pureed tomatoes, wine, beef stock, milk and bay leaves. Stir.
Cover and bring to a slow simmer.
Simmer very gently, stirring occasionally for 3 to 4 hours. If you feel you need to add more beef stock, that's fine but you may want to turn down the heat if the liquid is boiling away too rapidly. A slow simmer is important here.
The liquid should be almost completely gone at the end and the meat sauce will be quite thick. Stir in the Parmesan or Romano cheese.
Serve over or tossed with cooked pasta topped with lots of freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.
Nutritional values are for the sauce alone.
The nutritional information provided is automatically calculated by third party software and is meant as a guideline only. Exact accuracy is not guaranteed. For recipes where all ingredients may not be used entirely, such as those with coatings on meats, or with sauces or dressings for example, calorie & nutritional values per serving will likely be somewhat lower than indicated.
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