Weeknight Spaghetti Bolognese

Spaghetti Bolognese is one of those recipes that I always gravitate toward on chilly nights throughout the year.

Vertical image of a plate full of cooked pasta with a chunky red sauce on top, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

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.

Vertical image of a plate of pasta topped with a meaty tomato ragu next to slices of garlic bread.

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.

Vertical image of a spoon pouring a bolognese over a plate of cooked noodles.

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.

Vertical top-down image of a plate of pasta with a chunky tomato sauce and a slice of garlic bread on a red napkin next to a fork and more sauce in a bowl.

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.

Vertical image of a forkful of pasta in a bolognese on a plate next to toasted garlic bread.

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
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Horizontal image of a plate of cooked pasta topped with a meaty red sauce on a red napkin.

Weeknight Spaghetti Bolognese


  • Author: Meghan Yager
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x

Description

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.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 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)

Instructions

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 
  5. 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

Horizontal image of many prepped ingredients in bowls to make a tomato meat sauce.

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

Horizontal image of chopped onion, celery and carrots cooking in oil in a pan.

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.

Horizontal image of cooking ground meat and sausage with seasonings in a pan.

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

Horizontal image of a ladle holding a large amount of ragu over a pot.

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.

Horizontal top-down image of a plate of pasta with a chunky tomato sauce and a slice of garlic bread on a red napkin next to a fork and more sauce in a bowl.

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.

Horizontal image of a plate of cooked pasta topped with a meaty red sauce on a red napkin.

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:

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.

21 thoughts on “Weeknight Spaghetti Bolognese”

  1. Hey! I just want to say I cooked this recipe last night and my family loved it. The only thing I did different is not add sausage. A few members don’t like the taste of sausage and how it’s made. But anyway, it still came out wonderfully good. I think the 3 different tomato products made a huge difference. Thanks a bunch! xx

    Reply
    • I actually did the same thing; prepared without the sausage. I left everything else the same. My family really enjoyed it! I was drawn to the article from the beautiful picture and I wanted to try to emulate it as much as possible..I took a photo of my own but I can’t seem to get it to upload with my comment. I’ll try again later so I can share how beautifully it came out!

      Reply
    • I think one of the secrets of a good bolognese is to not stint on the tomato. I use at least one can of good quality tomato puree and often add a sachet of tomato paste as well. Likewise a goodly amount of red wine is essential in my book! And one has to balance the acidity with a bit of sugar – this also brings out the taste.I also personally like to put plenty of chopped parsley and basil into my sauce. Lastly, I do not like a watery sauce – simmer it until you have a glossy mixture rather than a watery one. And the final touch I believe is plenty of grated parmesan or a nice mature cheddar on top. A true family favorite.

      Reply
  2. This recipe looks amazing! I have always wanted to try something other than normal spaghetti with tomato sauce. I’ve never really put the time into make it delicious because I never knew it could. Adding pork? I never knew people did that, what a great idea! I can see where it would add loads of flavor and give it a completely different twist. I think I’ll be giving this a try tonight. Thanks for the recipe!

    Reply
  3. Love these photos! The spaghetti sauce looks so yummy. I am going to try this recipe this week. Bolognese is always a hit around here too. It’s a great comfort food.

    Reply
  4. That looks heavenly, thanks for sharing your recipe!

    Personally I swear by grating some fresh Parmesan or Cheddar over the top of my pasta once I’m done. It imparts an added dimension of flavor, color and texture all at once!

    Reply
  5. My cravings for some of that spaghetti is going off right about now. How mouth watering this one is. I love many of your recipes that you post on here. They are put together with such careful thought and made up with great quality and the right use of ingredients.

    Reply
  6. Let me begin by saying that presentation is everything, that in itself is like an attractive advert that pulls one in to look therein…this article has done exactly that!…problem is… am overwhelmed, the blog itself is amazing, outpouring with all these fantastic recipes, now i need to come up with a kitchen time table seriously, then i assign myself the duty of trying out all or nearly all of these recipes…without a timetable, am sure to fail in my quest 🙂

    Reply
    • Forget the timetable for now, my friend came to visit and came with a packet of spaghetti and i have to cook that, the problem is i always have ‘errors’ when i cook spaghetti…i always get the ‘clamping effect’…how do i get rid of that?!…if i can just make a plate just like the one in the presentation above…i’d be absolutely thrilled, that would be a milestone achieved 🙂

      Reply
  7. I am surprised about how quick this is to make. Most Spaghetti Bolognese recipes tend to involve at least an hour of simmering so I’m happy to discover a shortcut. dianthare, you can stop the “clamping” by adding a pinch of salt to the water before you place the pasta in. Hope this helps!

    Reply
  8. The combination of Italian sausage and ground beef gives your sauce a very unique taste. I often combine the sausage with turkey meat instead of ground beef, the final sauce is very good. Thanks for receipe.

    Reply
  9. Oh my! I’ve made spaghetti sauce with ground meat, and I’ve made it with sausage, but never both in the same recipe. It looks amazingly genius though! I also never thought of adding balsamic vinegar to a sauce. It sounds genius, and I’m not sure why I did not do it with my stovepot sauces since, when I’m roasting cherry tomatoes with garlic in the oven, I add balsamic vinegar to it and the result is amazing too. Thanks for the ideas! It’ll help vary my next pasta dishes.

    Reply
  10. Spaghetti bolognese has long been one of my favourite dishes but i always tend to make it in exactly the same way but now i can’t wait to try your recipe. Yours is one of the best looking dishes i have seen. Lots of people think they have the correct way of making Spaghetti bolognese and opinions vary greatly.

    The Italian chefs recommend making it with pancetta. I will be attempting your recipe this evening.

    Reply
  11. I have to be honest I have been stuck in a jarred sauce rut. Its my go to for a quick meal on a busy school night. This recipe sounds easy enough and I am hoping that it will cure me of my jarred pasta sauce blues. We are all sick of spaghetti because the jarred stuff just doesn’t taste the same as home made. I have to be honest the idea of celery in the sauce is weird to me but I can see that it would add to the building of flavors. I would have to cut the celery and bell pepper really fine since I’m not crazy about either of them. All in all I think this looks delectable and I will surely give it a try. My husband will especially like it because it has Italian sausage!

    Reply
  12. I have a question: What’s the point of the sugar? I’m not a fan of sugar in any gravy I make. ‘Americanized’ or not. It seems like an addition based on taste & not necessity. Is there something to that addition that I’m missing?

    Reply
  13. I’m not even kidding, the name had me a little weary. Lol but once I read through, this sounds really good! I’ve been looking for a sauce recipe for a long time. But I’ve had to stick with the jarred sauce. Out of everything I have tried and experimented with, this is the hardest for me. I can’t wait to try this, though. It looks and sounds so delicious! And I think my famil will be impressed that I managed to pull it off.

    Reply
  14. It is nice to see a variation on the classic spaghetti. You are right in that cooking takes practice. There have been times when I have messed up on the simplest of things. Though the benefits of keeping up with this skill will last a life time. You can control taste, texture, and even throw some things in a crock pot if you want to do other things.

    Reply
  15. I made this at the weekend for some friends and they loved it! I added some fresh basil when I served it up – only because I cannot imagine pasta without fresh basil. Thank you for the recipe, it will definitely be getting used again!

    Reply
  16. Just the picture alone looks delightful. I can’t wait to try this recipe. Even though I already have my own version of spaghetti, it never hurts to try other styles and ingredients from time to time. I will probably try it with the vinegar, only because I’m unused to cooking with spirits, but I think it will become quite a popular recipe in my house.

    Reply

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