A Great Meat Sauce with Pasta Recipe
I love Bolognese Sauce when the weather drops below 40 degrees as it has here in Philadelphia and now in Salt Lake City, Utah. Normally I serve it with penne but I recently ordered a case of pappardelle pasta from Amazon and my wife thought it would be a good idea to make some room in the pantry.
Bolognese is a meat-based ragú sauce originally from Bologna, Italy. It is thought to have originated sometime during the late 18th century and was served with a tagliatelle pasta which looks like a wider fettuccine.
Every chef has had their own variation of how Bolognese should be made for a long time. I’ve seen variations using different types of meats, numerous meat ratios, and different herbs and spices.
What is the history of Bolognese sauce?
Bolognese sauce, also known as ragù alla Bolognese, is a meat-based sauce that originated in Bologna, Italy. The sauce is typically made with ground beef or pork, vegetables, tomato sauce, wine, and milk or cream and is often served with tagliatelle pasta.
The origins of Bolognese sauce are unclear, but it is generally believed to have originated in the early 19th century. One theory suggests that the chefs of wealthy Bolognese families developed the sauce to stretch their meat supply. In contrast, another theory suggests that local taverns created it as a hearty meal for the working class.
Regardless of its origins, Bolognese sauce became a popular dish in Bologna and beyond, and it was eventually recognized as a traditional Italian recipe. In 1982, the Accademia Italiana della Cucina, a culinary academy based in Italy, published an official recipe for ragù alla Bolognese, which called for specific ingredients and cooking methods.
Today, Bolognese sauce is a popular dish worldwide, and the recipe has many variations. For example, some people prefer to use different types of meat, such as veal or pancetta, while others add other vegetables or spices. However, Bolognese sauce remains a beloved and comforting classic in Italian cuisine, regardless of the specific recipe.
5 fun facts
- First, bolognese sauce is not typically served with spaghetti in Italy. Instead, it is usually paired with thicker pasta such as tagliatelle, pappardelle, or fettuccine.
- Authentic Bolognese sauce is registered with the Bologna Chamber of Commerce as a protected recipe. It must be made with specific ingredients and prepared in a certain way to be considered an authentic Bolognese sauce.
- Bolognese sauce is known as ragù alla bolognese in Italian. The word ragù comes from the French term ragout, which means a meat-based stew.
- The first written recipe for a meat-based sauce similar to Bolognese sauce dates back to the late 18th century, but in the early 20th century, the recipe became widely known outside of Italy.
- Bolognese sauce is not just a pasta sauce! It can also be used in other dishes, such as lasagna and meatballs, or even as a topping for pizza.
The varieties of bolognese sauce depend on where you live in Italy.
Yes, there can be many regional variations of Bolognese sauce throughout Italy. While the basic ingredients of Bolognese sauce are generally the same, the proportions and cooking methods can vary based on local traditions and tastes.
For example, in Emilia-Romagna, the region where Bologna is located, the traditional Bolognese sauce is made with ground beef or a mixture of beef and pork, pancetta, onion, carrot, celery, tomato paste, red or white wine, and milk. In addition, some recipes may include some chicken liver, other meats, and aromatic herbs like rosemary or thyme.
However, the sauce may be made with different meats or vegetables in other parts of Italy, and milk or cream may be omitted. In southern Italy, for example, some versions of the sauce may include olives, capers, or anchovies, while in northern Italy, it may be made with less tomato and white wine.
Overall, while the basic concept of Bolognese sauce remains the same, the specific ingredients and preparation methods can vary depending on the region and the individual recipe.
What is the best pasta to serve the sauce with?
While there is no “right” pasta to serve with Bolognese sauce, several types of pasta are traditionally paired with the rich meat sauce.
One classic choice is tagliatelle, which is a flat, ribbon-shaped pasta that is similar to fettuccine. The broad, flat noodles provide a substantial base for the hearty sauce, and their texture helps to hold onto the sauce.
Another popular choice is pappardelle, similar to tagliatelle but broader and thicker. The wider noodles provide even more surface area for the sauce to cling to, and their thickness adds a satisfying chewiness to the dish.
Other types of pasta that can work well with Bolognese sauce include rigatoni, fusilli, and farfalle. Ultimately, choosing pasta is a matter of personal preference, and you can experiment with different shapes and textures to find your favorite pairing.
Penne pasta (my favorite) can also be an excellent choice to serve with Bolognese sauce. Penne is a short, tube-shaped pasta with ridges on the outside, which can help hold onto the sauce. The shape of penne also allows the sauce to get inside the tubes, providing a burst of flavor with each bite.
However, it's worth noting that penne is a smaller and more compact pasta than tagliatelle or pappardelle, so it may provide less surface area for the sauce to cling to. If you choose to serve Bolognese sauce with penne pasta, consider using a slightly thinner sauce or adding a bit of pasta cooking water to help the sauce coat the pasta more evenly. Ultimately, the choice of pasta is up to personal preference, and you should choose the shape you enjoy the most.
What are the ingredients in a classic bolognese sauce?
- Ground beef or a mixture of beef and pork
- Tomato paste or canned tomatoes
- Red or white wine
- Milk or cream
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil or butter
Some recipes may also call for additional ingredients such as bay leaves, nutmeg, or chicken liver.
The vegetables in Bolognese sauce are usually finely chopped and cooked until they are soft and aromatic, which helps to create a rich flavor base for the sauce. The meat is then added and cooked until it is browned, and the tomato paste or canned tomatoes, wine, and milk are added to create a thick and hearty sauce.
Finally, the sauce is typically simmered for several hours to allow the flavors to meld together and create a rich, meaty taste.
How do you prevent the sauce from tasting dry?
There are several ways to prevent a Bolognese sauce from tasting dry:
- First, you should use enough liquid: Make sure to use enough liquid in the sauce to prevent it from becoming dry. This can include using canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, red or white wine, milk, or broth.
- Cook the sauce low and slow: Bolognese sauce should be cooked over low heat for several hours to allow the flavors to meld together and create a rich, meaty taste. Keep the sauce covered while simmering to prevent it from drying out.
- Add moisture during cooking: Add a splash of water or broth to the sauce if it looks dry.
- Don't overcook the meat: Overcooking the ground meat can cause it to become dry and tough. Instead, cook the meat until it is browned but still tender.
- Add a splash of cream or butter: Adding a splash of cream or a pat of butter to the sauce towards the end of cooking can add richness and moisture to the dish.
- Stir in some reserved pasta water: Reserve some pasta cooking water before draining it and stir it into the sauce to help bind it to the pasta and prevent it from drying out.
By following these tips, you can ensure that your Bolognese sauce stays moist and flavorful.
Ground veal or lamb?
Italians sometimes use ground veal or ground beef in Bolognese Sauce. While the classic recipe calls for a mixture of ground pork and beef, variations may also include other types of meat.
Some traditional recipes from the Bologna region of Italy may call for ground veal or beef instead of ground pork. It depends on personal preference and regional variations. Ultimately, the important thing is to use quality meat that is well browned and cooked slowly in the sauce to develop the rich, meaty flavor characteristic of Bolognese Sauce.
While ground lamb is not a traditional ingredient in Bolognese Sauce, it can be used as a substitute or variation to the classic recipe. Lamb has a unique flavor and can add a delicious twist to the sauce.
However, lamb has a more robust flavor than beef or pork, so you may want to adjust the other ingredients in the recipe accordingly to balance out the flavors. For example, you could use less garlic or add more tomatoes to the sauce to mellow out the lamb flavor. Ultimately, it comes down to personal taste and experimentation.
My Favorite Bolognese Sauce
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 large onion chopped fine
- 4 carrots shredded
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2½ pounds ground meat beef, veal & pork mixture
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- ½ cup red wine
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 43½ ounces diced tomatoes 3 - 14½ ounce cans
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme finely minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage finely minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley finely minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil finely minced
- salt & pepper to taste
- Parmesan cheese freshly grated
- Heat a large fry pan or Dutch oven over medium heat.
- Add the oil, and add the onions, carrots, and garlic when hot. Sauté until the onions soften up, about 5 minutes.
- Push the onion, carrots, and garlic to the sides of the pot and add the ground meat and cook until brown. Mix the browned meat with the other ingredients by stirring them all together with a wooden spoon. Does it have to be wooden? No, but I like cooking with wooden utensils
- Again, push the meat and carrots to the sides of the pot and add the tomato paste. It should soften up a little with the heat of the pan and then you can combine it with the rest of the ingredients.
- Add the wine and Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine with everything else.
- Add the diced tomatoes, stir, then the milk, stir, then the finely minced herbs, and stir to combine.
- Season with salt and pepper, lower the heat, and simmer for at least one hour but two would be better. I wasn’t sure if it would cook better with or without the lid on my Dutch oven, so I partially covered it and it turned out fine.
- Serve over some penne or pappardelle pasta with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese over the top.
The authentic bolognese sauce recipe registered with the Bologna Chamber of Commerce
Here it is if you want the authentic Bologna Chamber of Commerce recipe.
Bologna Chamber of Commerce Authentic Bolognese Recipe
- First, finely chop the onion, carrot, and celery. Cut the beef and pancetta into small pieces.
- Heat a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, and add olive oil. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook until the onion is translucent.
- Add the beef and pancetta, and cook until browned, stirring occasionally.
- Add the tomato paste and cook for a few minutes.
- Pour the white wine into the saucepan, and let it simmer until it has evaporated.
- Add the beef broth and milk, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and let it cook for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. If the sauce starts to dry out, add some more broth or milk.
- Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
- Serve the Bolognese sauce with freshly made tagliatelle pasta and garnish with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Some of My Favorite Pasta Recipes
- Discover the Rustic Charm of Tuscan Pici Pasta
- How to Make a Basic Orzo Salad
- This Is How to Make Spicy Ragu Sauce Over Pasta
- Cavatelli Pasta
- Cavatelli Pasta with Spring Peas and Pancetta Recipe
- Bucatini all'Amatriciana Recipe
- How to Make Strozzapreti Pasta with Guanciale Sauce
- Rigatoni with Mushroom Sauce Recipe