Quick Bolognese Sauce

A traditional Bolognese sauce requires hours of simmering and careful attention. But sometimes we don’t have hours and we just want a sauce that’s maybe not as spectacular as it could be, but still quite good enough. This simplified Bolognese sauce takes about an hour to make, instead of several, but still delivers on wonderful flavor. Instead of starting the sauce with pancetta, which would be traditional, we use butter, which melts quickly and provides plenty of flavor. A key ingredient in the sauce is milk, whole milk. It’s standard for a Bolognese sauce and important for the flavor and creaminess of the sauce.

Quick Bolognese Sauce Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/4 (570g) lbs ground chuck
  • 1/2 cup (60g) finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup (60g) finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup (60g) finely chopped carrot
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup (118ml) full bodied red wine (optional)
  • 1 cup (236ml) whole milk (or low fat milk with a tablespoon of cream)
  • 1 cup (236ml) crushed tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

1 Heat butter in a large sauté pan on medium high. Add the finely chopped onion, celery, and carrots. Sprinkle a little salt over everything. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine, cook for another minute or so.

2 Add the ground beef to the onions, celery, and carrots, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon as you add it to the pan. Again, sprinkle a little salt over everything. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

3 Stir in the wine (if using), scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let this boil down by half. Stir in the tomatoes. Slowly stir in the milk. Increase the heat to bring the mixture to a simmer, then lower the heat to maintain a low simmer. Simmer uncovered about 20 minutes. Add a little water if the sauce ever begins to dry out. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Links:

Mushroom Bolognese Sauce - from The Italian Dish
Slow Cooker Bolognese - from Real Mom Kitchen
Rigatoni with Turkey Bolognese - from What We are Eating

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3 Comments

  1. Michele

    This sounds delicious, I’m wondering if it would work in a slow cooker. That is my prefered method of cooking these days.

  2. Amanda

    I would say it should work fine in a slow cooker after browning the beef.

  3. El Cocinero Loco

    – Use a lot of discretion when taking recipes from anyone. Ensure credentials. Culinary training and cook schools ensure nothing, but neither do the generations of family hacks that claim this and that. I happen to have a patch of mint passed down from my ancestors. It has been growing for over one hundred years. Likewise this recipe is unchanged in the last 100 years or so. I think it says a lot about how we can maintain herbs for generations. We also maintain recipes. Got a kitchen full of cook books as ancient as the any. In my family we have recipes my great grandmother cooked back in the 1800’s in Italy. Too many people cook whimsically. Don’t be a snob with your food, but realize it does certain things when combined certain ways that will please you immeasureably. Let’s get started. –

    Bologonese Meat Sauce
    ** Standard Serves 4 **
    This is the real deal! Don’t accept any other. I know you all want to whip things up in a jiffy, but that just simply won’t do. Invest the time and you will be very very satisfied. Also it keeps in the fridge for a couple days. I want you to notice that there is NO olive oil in this recipe.

    2oz diced Pancetta, 1 medium Onion, 1 stalk Celery, 1 Carrot — all FINELY chopped.

    ** Use a Spanish Yellow Onion. Ask your grocer if you need to. They are about the size of a softball and are nice subdued yellow color. They are not the onions you buy in the sack for like 10 for a $1.50.**

    4tbsp Unsalted Butter

    11oz Ground Beef
    4oz Ground Pork
    4oz Ground Italian Sausage

    1 freshly ground Clove
    dash of freshly ground Cinnamon
    1 tsp freshly ground Black Pepper

    2 lb peeled and chopped Tomatoes

    ** Get yourself some Vine Ripe Tomatoes and blanch them. Peel them and cook them whole don’t cut them open yet. Wait until they are in the sauce to cut them open. A good substitution is to buy the most inexpensive canned peeled whole tomatoes you can find. Read the label to ensure it says only tomatoes and water. These tomatoes have been pre-cooked and sealed for you. They have a sweeter flavor than most store bought fresh tomatoes. **

    1 cup whole milk

    ** Store bought milk makes this recipe difficult to replicate properly but its all we have and killing off all the bacteria even the good. It is a good trade off for safety though. **

    Combine pancetta, onion, celery, and carrot in sauté pan with butter and cook over medium heat until onion turns pale gold. (Makes soffritto)

    ** Pancetta is an Italian deli meat. It is a lot like bacon but much much more flavorful. It is expensive too, but the 2oz is just the right flavor for the Soffritto. **

    Add the beef, pork, sausage to the soffritto and cook until browned.

    ** Please adhere to the ratios imposed here. A good meat sauce requires the 11:4:4. Also I suggest NEVER using frozen meat. Get everything fresh directly from the butcher. And, get it freshly ground. Don’t buy the pre-ground beef and pork because it contains food coloring and other additives to keep it pinkish red. **

    Sprinkle with the clove, cinnamon, and pepper.

    ** It is best to grind these spices directly into your cook pan as they become noticeable stale to the trained palette after just an hour or less **

    Stir in tomatoes and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes.

    Add milk and season with sea salt. Then turn down the heat and simmer for 2 and 1/2 hours.

    ** Try using course sea salt and crush it just prior to putting in the cook pan. Salt has a different flavor if it has not been exposed to air for very long. Also, iodized salt is a total no-no. The iodine in salt kills all kinds of germs and bacteria that need to be in your food to make it palatable. **

    Stir frequently. I mean frequently — Better yet don’t stop. Attach yourself to the stove.

    Now, if you can move like I move. Here’s the second part to my sauce. It’s probably something you’ve never experienced. It is highly recommended.

    Béchamel Sauce
    ** Standard Serves 4 **
    Bolognese Meat Sauce is the base upon which this homemade cheese sauce is placed when making Lasagne Ferrera. If you diddled with the above recipe at all throw it out. I’m not playing around here. Start all-over or else your lasagne will just come out terrible.

    2 cups Whole Milk
    4 tbsp Unsalted Butter
    2 oz All-Purpose Unbleached Flour

    Heat the milk until almost boiling in a heavy bottomed sauce pan.

    In a seperate pan melt the unsalted butter with the flour over low heat. Stir rapidly with a spoon. Cook this for 1 minute and then remove from the heat.

    Add half of the hot milk to your butter and flour mixture. During this process stir constantly. I cannot stress this enough.

    Return the milk, butter, flour mixture to low heat until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the remaining milk slowly while stirring working it into the thickened sauce. Continue to stir until it comes to a boil.

    Season with some sea salt, and continue stirring until the right consistency has developed. If any lumps form, beat them out rapidly with a whisk until they dissolve.

    ** Not iodized salt. That stuff will kill the good bacteria in the milk, butter, and flour. **

    Ferrera Lasagne

    I’m not going to detail this too much.

    Just cook the lasagne. Make you own even, but Semolina is tough to come by. Mexico oddly enough imports Semolina to the United States so check with your local Hispanic grocer. If they got then great. And, in case your worried about authenticity, remember that almost all of the ingredients for Italian food historically comes from Spain.

    The Bolognese Meat Sauce goes on your lasagne as a first coat. Then top with Béchamel Sauce. Top those two with a fine coat of freshly ground Parmesan. Cover with a layer of lasagne and repeat. I make my lasagne in 3 layers.

    For all of you wine drinkers out there…
    The exact wine pre-scribed for this dish assuming you followed my directions is none other than (drum roll):

    Sangiovese di Romagna

    ** If you are allergic to eggs choose a lasagne from Southern Italy. Southern lasagne contains no eggs and it is noticeable due to the curl on the edges of the pasta strips. It contains a hard semolina durum wheat flour and water and water (nothing else) to get the ridges. Northern Italian Lasagne is flat. It has eggs. I personally enjoy homemade pasta but the store bought stuff is a lot easier to deal with than tracking down difficult to obtain semolina. **

    ** Factoid about lasagne from our 3rd century friend, the Greek Athenaeus who wrote in his book “The Gastronomers”. Good honest lasagne strips are made with Soft Semolina Wheat Durum, Lettuce Juice, flavored and fried in olive oil. Apicius in the 14th century stressed the meat pie. And, the Court of Anjou in “Liber de Coquina” the first modern lasagne recipe. The introduction of tomatoes is fairly recent in the 18th century. **

    Thank you El Cocinero Loco. I love that you have taken the time to regale us with your advice and stories. In fact, I love it so much, I made the lasagna. Here it is: lasagna bolognese. And you are right. It is truly the best bolognese sauce lasagna imaginable. Thank you. ~Elise

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