Bolognese Meat Sauce

Classic Italian Bolognese meat sauce recipe, for use with pasta dishes. Ground beef, pork, and Italian sausage, simmered for hours in a base of onion, celery, carrot, pancetta, and tomatoes. Seasoned with cloves, cinnamon, salt and pepper.

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

This Bolognese sauce is a family recipe of one of our readers and is used in our Lasagna Bolognese recipe. Slow cooked for at least a couple of hours, the sauce is deep, rich, flavorful and worth the extra effort.

Bolognese Meat Sauce Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 3 hours
  • Yield: With pasta, makes enough sauce for 6.


  • 2 oz. Diced pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1 Medium Spanish onion or yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 Carrot, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 11 oz Ground beef
  • 4 oz Ground pork
  • 4 oz Ground Italian sausage
  • 1 freshly ground clove
  • Dash of freshly ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lb peeled and chopped tomatoes (or 1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes, packed in water)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt


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1 Make the soffritto. Combine pancetta, onion, celery, and carrot in sauté pan with butter and cook over medium heat until onion turns pale gold.

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2 Add the beef, pork, sausage to the soffritto, and increase the heat to high; cook until browned. Sprinkle with the clove, cinnamon, and pepper.

3 Stir in tomatoes, bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. If you are using whole canned tomatoes, break them up as you add them to the sauce.

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4 Add milk and season with sea salt. Then turn down the heat and simmer for 2 and 1/2 hours. Stir at least every 20 minutes. Whenever the sauce gets too dry and starts sticking to the pan, just add 1/4 cup of water and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Can easily freeze for future use.

Serve with pasta.

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Showing 4 of 12 Comments

  • fred b

    The sauce smells great and has a good composition but the overall taste is rather bland. I would suggest to add a few teaspoons of cayenne pepper.

  • Penny

    Yummy! Loved the seasonings, and served it on fried polenta.

  • Russell

    Hi, just a quick thing, the reason for the milk I would suggest comes from the days when most meat, cheap cuts etc were cooked in milk to tenderize them. With it being an old family recipe I would think that would be the most likely answer.

  • Greg Sanders

    Some of the people posting here will take this as blasphemy but I took this recipe added some garlic and smoked paprika and topped with grated smoked gouda and it was _wonderful_.

  • SC

    Garlic is almost never an ingredient in Italian soffritto (usually just: carrot, onion, and celery). Southern Italian recipes use more garlic than northern, but even those don’t even use half as much garlic as Italian-American cooking does. In any case, the “official” ragu’ alla bolognese recipe registered with the city of Bologna by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina does not contain any garlic, and the only spices it uses are salt and pepper. I personally always add a little freshly-grated nutmeg to any ragu’ I make — it goes very well with meat sauces.

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