Spaghetti Bolognese is one of those recipes that I always gravitate toward on chilly nights throughout the year.
While I like to rely heavily on grilling or lighter combinations of meat and veggies in the summer, heartier meals like this one are key during the cooler months. But really, an easy sauce like this makes a welcome appearance on the menu any time, on a busy weeknight, or for a family meal on the weekend.
It makes a weekly appearance on our dinner menu because my husband is obsessed with all things pasta, and I will take any excuse that allows me to eat half a loaf of garlic bread.
This was particularly true during my pregnancy – I became a serious carb fanatic. I mean, I always loved bread and pasta, but I found that for that stretch of months I was particularly ravenous for these foods starting as soon as 10 a.m. rolled around each day.
Thankfully, there are entrees like this one that fulfill that carb craving, but also give me a nice punch of protein and veggies to create a more balanced meal.
For those of you who don’t know already, spaghetti Bolognese is a classic Italian pasta dish with a meaty sauce that is extremely rich in flavor. Every Italian-American restaurant usually has a version of it on their menu, but I have to tell you, making it at home really does make a difference in the flavor.
What makes Bolognese different from other types of spaghetti sauce? A traditional recipe that originated in Bologna, Italy as ragù alla bolognese in Italian, this is a meat sauce (ragu) that is often served with thicker or wider types of pasta.
In Italy, you’re likely to see something like a long and flat fresh pappardelle served with a rich, slow cooked meat sauce, whereas in American restaurants and home kitchens, a basic box of dry spaghetti cooked up in boiling water until it’s al dente is the go-to.
A tomato-based meat sauce, the layers of flavor begin with a traditional combination of tasty aromatics – onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. And trust me when I tell you that making it from scratch turns out delicious results that are so much more flavorful than anything you can get in a jar from the grocery store.
You might think creating all this flavor requires a ton of work, but this tasty meal is actually quite easy to prepare. Whether you are new to cooking or you’re already a master, this simple version of the classic can be cooked pretty quickly from scratch without a ton of fuss.
Do I Have to Use Red Wine?
You want to use a good quality dry red wine for this recipe, because it will provide added depth and richness.
But if you want to avoid the alcohol, you can substitute it with beef broth. I prefer to use low sodium broth, just to make sure the finished flavor doesn’t come out too salty.
Some Bolognese recipes also include milk for added creaminess, but this one is dairy free.
What Kind of Pasta Should I Use?
Personally, I like to go with the classic Italian-American spaghetti, but any long noodles will work with this meaty sauce. You can use pappardelle, linguine, fettuccine, or tagliatelle to serve the thick sauce in the traditional style.
I don’t recommend using angel hair on the other hand, because it’s too thin and doesn’t stand up to the sauce as well.Print
Our weeknight spaghetti Bolognese is a super flavorful version of the classic Italian meat sauce that’s easy to make for your family in just 40 minutes.
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped (approx. 1 cup)
- 1 carrot, finely chopped (approx. 1/2 cup)
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped (approx. 1/2 cup)
- 5 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound ground beef (80 to 85% lean)
- 1/2 pound mild or spicy ground Italian sausage
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 15-ounce can diced San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
- 2 15-ounce cans tomato puree
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, plus more to taste
- 1 pound spaghetti (or other long noodle of your choice)
- Add olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in carrot and celery and cook for about 2 minutes, until softened. Stir in garlic and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fragrant.
- Add beef, sausage, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook until meat is browned, about 5 minutes, breaking up any chunks with a spoon. Add red wine and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes until the wine has cooked down a bit, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in diced tomatoes and simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato paste and tomato puree. Simmer for 12 to 15 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Stir in sugar until incorporated well and taste. Season with additional salt, pepper, and sugar as needed. Cover and keep warm over low heat.
- While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. When the water is boiling, add the pasta. Cook according to directions on the package, and drain.
- Combine the sauce with the cooked pasta in the pot before serving, or ladle sauce over pasta in individual bowls.
- Category: Pasta
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: Italian, bolognese, spaghetti, pasta, meat sauce, ragu
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep Vegetables and Herbs, and Measure Remaining Ingredients
Peel and finely chop one medium onion, and one carrot.
Remove the strings, and finely chop one stalk of celery.
Peel and mince five cloves of garlic.
Remove the stems from the herbs. Chop enough oregano leaves until you have 1 teaspoon total. Chop enough basil leaves until you have 1/2 teaspoon.
Measure out all of the remaining ingredients as listed on the ingredients list.
Step 2 – Cook Aromatics and Brown Meat
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Once it’s hot, swirl to coat the pan, add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent. This should take about 2 minutes.
Add the carrot and celery, and cook for another 2 minutes, until the vegetables are softened. Stir in the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fragrant.
Stir in the beef, sausage, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Cook the meat until it’s browned, breaking up large chunks with a spoon, for about 5 minutes.
Stir in the red wine and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until it has cooked down a bit but before it has completely evaporated. This will take about 3 to 4 minutes.
Step 3 – Simmer Sauce and Cook Pasta
Add the diced tomatoes and stir to combine. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the tomato paste and puree. Stir until combined, then let simmer for about 12 to 15 minutes over low heat. Stir occasionally as the sauce cooks, until it has thickened enough to coat your pasta.
Stir in the sugar and have a taste. Season as desired with additional salt, pepper, and sugar. Cover and keep warm over low heat until you’re ready to serve.
While the ragu simmers, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once it’s boiling, add the spaghetti and cook according to the directions on the package. You can also cook the spaghetti in the pressure cooker.
Drain in a colander and return to the pot. Toss with a splash of olive oil to prevent sticking.
Divide pasta between bowls and top with Bolognese sauce. Serve immediately.
What Should I Serve with This Sauce?
I like to make garlic bread with this recipe or by sprinkling garlic powder (and grated parmesan cheese, if you like) on buttered Italian bread or a baguette, and placing it under the broiler.
Sprinkle each slice with a little chopped basil or parsley before serving. It’s the absolute best for mopping up any extra ragu at the bottom of your bowl.
You can also add a salad with your choice of dressings for something fresh and green to round out the meal.
Craving even more classic Italian dishes? Try these favorites from Foodal next:
- Spaghetti Alla Carbonara
- Shrimp Fra Diavolo (Italian Shrimp and Linguine with Spicy Sauce)
- Linguine with Clam Sauce
What type of pasta and sides will you choose to serve with your homemade Bolognese? Tell us in the comments below, and be sure to come back and rate this recipe once you’ve tried it!
Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Sandy Weismann on November 9, 2014. Last updated on March 9, 2021. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Meghan Yager
Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.