This creamy bolognese sauce is rich and savory and made with bacon, pork, and beef and San Marzano tomatoes. This meaty sauce is the absolute best bolognese sauce recipe, and will be a family favorite for sure!
Bolognese sauce is a rich, meaty, and creamy tomato based pasta sauce. It is slowly simmered for a few hours to meld all the savory flavors together. It’s the perfect dish when you’re craving cozy and comforting pasta. It’s also an impressive meal served for a dinner party or special occasions.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- It’s made with 3 kinds of meat for extra flavor and richness.
- Making bolognese sauce from scratch is SO much better than store bought.
- This sauce is even better the next day.
- It freezes very well.
What is bolognese sauce?
Bolognese sauce is a classic Italian meat sauce, usually made with tomatoes, wine, and milk or cream. It is traditionally served with tagliatelle pasta. This bolognese sauce recipe is made extra flavorful with bacon, beef base, and a parmesan rind.
Bolognese sauce vs Marinara sauce - While both sauces are tomato based, bolognese sauce contains a meat mixture, while marinara sauce does not. Bolognese is usually slow simmered for a few hours and has a long cooking time, while marinara is a quick sauce with a bright tomato flavor.
Try these other delicious pasta sauces
- Homemade Hearty Marinara Sauce
- Lobster Ravioli Cream Sauce
- Spicy Rigatoni alla Vodka (Spicy Vodka Sauce)
- Roasted Garlic Alfredo Sauce
See the recipe card below for a full list of ingredients and measurements.
Bacon - Starting this sauce off with bacon ensures that it is starting off with a ton of salty savory flavor. Then the vegetables and meat will cook in the bacon fat, infusing that delicious bacon flavor into all the ingredients. Be sure to not get bacon that has a very strong smoked flavor, or it may overpower the dish. You can also swap for pancetta here which would be *chef’s kiss*.
Ground chuck - Ground chuck is ground beef from the shoulder region of the cow. It is fattier and more flavorful than ground beef. You can substitute for ground beef if you need to.
Ground pork - I like making this sauce with ground pork as well for more flavor. You can use Italian sausage removed from the casing if you can’t find ground pork.
Onions, carrots, celery - This combination is the French mirepoix, and is a classic starter to many dishes and sauces.
Garlic - Always use fresh garlic, and mince yourself. No jarred garlic please! Garlic loses so much of its pungent flavor when it's not fresh.
Tomato paste - Tomato paste usually comes in 6 ounce cans, which is about 6 tablespoons. You will only need 3 tablespoons for this recipe. To prevent waste, buy tomato paste in a squeezable tube.
Red wine - I typically use a drier red wine like cabernet sauvignon when cooking. It pairs well with rich beef like roast and short ribs. You can omit if you need to, but the alcohol content is burned off during the cooking process.
Whole peeled tomatoes - I like using high quality San Marzano style tomatoes in my cooking. I prefer the Cento or Muir Glen brands. You can substitute for crushed tomatoes. You can use fresh tomatoes if you wish, but I find using good canned tomatoes is better.
Beef base - Beef base is highly concentrated beef stock. It comes in a jar, and you can combine it with water to make beef broth for recipes. I like using this over stock since it takes up less space, and adds more flavor since it's concentrated. I use the brand Better than Bouillon. If you can’t find beef base, you can substitute the 1 cup of water in this recipe for 1 cup of beef broth.
Parmesan rind - Parmesan really is magical in its flavor. Salty, savory, and full of umami. Save your parmesan rinds to use for extra flavors in soups and stews. See it in action in 10 vegetable soup. Buy authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. It should be available in smaller chunks broken off from a larger wheel.
Whole milk - I use whole milk rather than heavy cream or half and half in this sauce. You can substitute for the others if you need to, but I like that whole milk makes this sauce creamy without making it a cream sauce.
Fresh parsley or basil - You can use either for a topping, or both.
Pasta of your choice - Pair with your favorite pasta. Spaghetti, linguini, fettuccine, tagliatelle, or pappardelle are all good choices here.
Ricotta - This is optional, but a dollop of ricotta served on this bolognese sauce takes the creaminess to the next level. You can also top with fresh grated parmesan cheese.
How to make homemade bolognese sauce
- Use high quality ingredients for the best flavor, especially the meat, tomatoes, and parmesan.
- Sear the meat well to add extra flavor.
- Don’t skip the caramelizing of the vegetables or tomato paste.
- Serve with homemade pasta for a truly restaurant quality dish.
- Add a scoop of ricotta for serving to make it even more creamy.
STEP ONE: CRISP - This homemade bolognese sauce starts with bacon. Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat. Cook the bacon until crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon and set aside on paper towels. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat in the pan.
STEP TWO: SEAR - Searing meat is an important step to add a depth of flavor in any dish. When you add all the meat to the pot in one big chunk, it can be hard to get a good sear on it. To get around this, I like to form little balls of ground meat to add to the hot oil. This way there is more space around the meat so it can sear rather than steam.
Roughly form 2 inch balls with the ground meat. Lightly salt the meat balls and sear for a few minutes on each side, until a browned crust develops, and meat is cooked through. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of remaining fat.
STEP THREE: SAUTÉ - Sauté onions, carrots, and celery while stirring with the seared meat and remaining fat until vegetables are translucent and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Break up the meat into fine pieces while the vegetables are cooking. Add garlic and cook while stirring until fragrant, another minute or 2.
STEP FOUR: CARAMELIZE - It is important to let the tomato paste caramelize for a few minutes before adding more ingredients. This helps enhance the flavor of the tomato paste.
Next stir in the tomato paste and cook while stirring for 3-5 minutes until the paste is caramelizing.
STEP FIVE: DEGLAZE - Deglazing is another important step in flavor development. As you sear meat, there will be browned bits that get stuck to the bottom of the pan. This is called fond, and is FULL of good flavor.
When you deglaze a pan, you're adding a liquid to loosen up the fond, and reincorporate it back into the sauce. Deglazing is also another chance to impart some flavor by choosing a flavorful liquid. The deglazing liquid used here is wine.
Deglaze the pot with red wine. Cook while scraping up any fond with a wooden spoon until alcohol has burned off, about 5 minutes.
STEP SIX: SIMMER - Add in the tomatoes, water, beef base, Worcestershire sauce, and oregano and stir well. After that, break up tomatoes with a wooden spoon or potato masher. Add in bay leaves, fresh time, and parmesan rind. Cover and simmer on low for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Skim any fat that pools on the surface.
STEP SEVEN: FINISH - Now is a good time to cook your pasta. Bring a large pot of water to boil and heavily salt. Cook pasta to al dente. Pasta should be tender, but not mushy. Reserve some pasta water and set aside.
Uncover the pot and allow sauce to reduce some if needed. Remove bay leaves, thyme, and parmesan rind. The parmesan rind should have dissolved some into the sauce, but there will probably be a melted chunk left.
Stir in milk and simmer for about 2 minutes then remove from heat. Do a final taste test for saltiness and add more if needed.
STEP EIGHT: SERVE - Combine cooked pasta, bolognese sauce, and a splash of pasta water and mix well. I like to do this in a separate saucepan or large skillet so I can control how much sauce goes with the pasta. To finish off, top the pasta bolognese with parsley, basil, grated parmesan, and/or a dollop of ricotta.
Bolognese sauce too sweet - This shouldn’t be a problem with this bolognese recipe since there is no added sugar. The best way to counteract too much sweetness is with acidity. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice and mix well to combine. You can also add more tomatoes and simmer for another 20 minutes.
Bolognese sauce too watery - A watery sauce is usually an easy fix. To thicken bolognese sauce, allow the sauce to simmer uncovered to reduce the water content.
Bolognese sauce too thick - An over reduced sauce is too thick. You can add more beef broth or water to the sauce and stir to combine to loosen the sauce.
Bolognese sauce too salty - If the sauce turns out too salty, you can add more tomatoes and let the sauce simmer for another 20 minutes or so. If you think your sauce may be too salty, taste it with pasta first before making any adjustments. The addition of pasta may be enough to dilute the saltiness.
Bolognese sauce too oily - If your bolognese sauce turns out too oily, allow the sauce to simmer for a few minutes without stirring and the fat will pool at the surface. Use a spoon to scoop off the fat layer and discard.
Serve this bolognese sauce with a broad flat pasta shape, like tagliatelle or pappardelle. Top with a fresh herb like parsley or basil. Add a dollop of ricotta for extra creaminess.
Try with Burrata Bruschetta Recipe with Roasted Tomatoes for an appetizer and a salad. Garlic bread would also be great for soaking up any leftover sauce.
Serve with a dry red wine, like cabernet sauvignon.
Storage & Reheating
How to store leftovers
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. When possible, store pasta sauce separately from pasta.
How to freeze
Can you freeze bolognese sauce? Absolutely! This sauce freezes very well. It is not usually recommended to freeze sauces containing milk, but I have not had any issues with freezing this sauce since it does not contain a high ratio of milk.
If you prefer, finish the sauce up until the addition of milk, then freeze. You can add the milk when you reheat the sauce. Don’t forget to label and date the bag!
*Freezing tip - Add 2 servings to a quart size freezer bag, then lay flat in the freezer to freeze. You can lay it on a flat surface like a pizza box. Once frozen, you can store upright like a filing cabinet to save space. This method also makes defrosting easier
How to reheat
How to reheat bolognese sauce from cold - You can microwave this sauce or reheat it in a saucepan. Reheating in a saucepan is my preferred method.
How to reheat bolognese sauce from frozen - Add the bag of frozen bolognese to a container of cold water, or place under running cold water. The contents of the bag should begin to thaw enough to break up the sauce and add it to your reheating container.
From there you can reheat in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stove over medium heat. You may need to add some broth or water to loosen the sauce.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, bolognese sauce will work well for making lasagna. Use bolognese sauce for the meat and red sauce layer, followed by mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
One serving of bolognese sauce is about ½ - 1 cup mixed with pasta. I like generous portions, so I go with 1 cup of sauce per person.
Yes, bolognese sauce can be made a day ahead of time. It is actually better the next day when the flavors have had time to meld together.
Add milk or cream at the end of the cooking process. Mix well, allow to simmer for a minute or two, then remove from heat.
Any questions? I'd love to help! Drop a comment below or send me an email!
- 8 ounces bacon chopped
- ¾ pound ground chuck
- ¾ pound ground pork
- 1 cup onions diced
- ⅔ cup carrots diced
- ⅔ cup celery diced
- 6 cloves of garlic minced
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- ¾ cup red wine
- 28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes Use high quality San Marzano style tomatoes
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon beef base I use Better than Bouillon
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 bay leaves
- 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 ounces parmesan rind Use authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 cup whole milk
- fresh basil or parsley for toping
- pasta Spaghetti, tagliatelle, or pappardelle work well
- Ricotta or parmesan for topping optional
- salt and pepper to taste
- CRISP: Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat. Cook bacon until crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove bacon and set on paper towels. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat in the pan.
- SEAR: Roughly form 2 inch balls with ground chuck and ground pork. Lightly salt the meat balls and sear for a few minutes on each side, until a browned crust develops, and meat is cooked through. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of remaining fat.
- SAUTÉ: Sauté onions, carrots, and celery while stirring with the seared meat, remaining fat, and reserved bacon until vegetables are translucent and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Break up the meat into fine pieces while the vegetables are cooking. Add garlic and cook while stirring until fragrant, another minute or 2.
- CARAMELIZE: Stir in the tomato paste and cook while stirring for 3-5 minutes until the paste is caramelizing.
- DEGLAZE: Deglaze the pot with red wine. Cook while scraping up any fond with a wooden spoon until alcohol has burned off, about 5 minutes.
- SIMMER: Add in the tomatoes, water, beef base, Worcestershire sauce, and oregano and stir well. Break up tomatoes with a wooden spoon or potato masher. Add in bay leaves, fresh time, and parmesan rind. Cover and simmer on low for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Skim any fat that pools on the surface.
- FINISH: Uncover and allow sauce to reduce some if needed. Remove bay leaves, thyme, and parmesan rind. Stir in milk and simmer for about 2 minutes then remove from heat. Do a final taste test for saltiness and add more if needed.
- SERVE: Serve with pasta of your choice. Reserve a few teaspoons of pasta water to mix in with the pasta and sauce before serving. Top with parsley, basil grated parmesan, and/or a dollop of ricotta.
Hey good lookin', what ya got cookin'? I'm Lauren and I love to teach you how to make the good stuff, from scratch! I use fresh quality ingredients to create impressive but approachable restaurant worthy recipes.