Classic Bolognese Sauce

ItalianTomato Sauce

This classic Italian sauce simmers for hours to develop maximum flavor. Made with a blend of ground beef, pork, and Italian sausage, it's great with fresh tagliatelle or fettuccine, pappardelle, or other pasta.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

If you are looking for a truly luxurious pasta sauce, there is no better candidate than a classic Italian Bolognese.

Slow cooked for at least a couple of hours, the sauce is deep, rich, flavorful, and worth the extra effort!

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What is Bolognese Sauce?

Bolognese sauce is a classic Italian sauce for pasta made with ground meat such as beef or pork. It’s slow cooked with a soffritto of onions, carrots, and celery, tomatoes, and milk to give it a creamy texture.

Pronounced “bow-luh-nez,” the sauce comes from the Bologna region of Italy, hence the name. Given the cultural history of this sauce, there are many variations, but they all seem to follow a basic structure of ground meat, a soffritto, a bit of tomato, some milk, and long, slow cooking.

How to Make Bolognese Sauce

This Bolognese sauce is the family recipe of one of our readers and is used in our Lasagna Bolognese recipe. The recipe includes ground beef, pork, and Italian sausage, which is essentially seasoned ground pork and pork fat.

To start, you sweat the soffritto of minced onions, celery, and carrots with pancetta in butter. Then you add the ground meat to brown it, and sprinkle with ground clove, cinnamon, and pepper.

Add tomatoes, then milk, and simmer for at least 2 hours on low heat. Keep it partially covered, but add water if too much liquid simmers away.

Of course, you can skip the long slow cooking if you want, (we have a quick Bolognese recipe) but the flavor definitely improves with the longer cooking.

What To Serve With Bolognese Sauce

Bolognese sauce is traditionally served with fresh tagliatelle pasta, but you can also serve it with fettuccine, pappardelle, penne, or other pasta.

Can You Freeze Bolognese Sauce

Bolognese will freeze well for up to 6 months. (Here’s our favorite method.)


Classic Bolognese Sauce Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
  • Yield: Sauce for 6 servings of pasta


  • 2 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1 medium Spanish onion or yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 11 ounces ground beef
  • 4 ounces ground pork
  • 4 ounces ground Italian sausage
  • 1 freshly ground clove
  • Dash of freshly ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds peeled and chopped tomatoes (or one 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, packed in water)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt


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, about 10 minutes.

saute the soffritto for the classic bolognese sauce

2 Add the meats: Add the beef, pork, and sausage to the soffritto, and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.

brown the ground meat for the bolognese pasta sauce cook the ground meat with the vegetables for the bolognese sauce

3 Add the spices: Sprinkle with the clove, cinnamon, and pepper.

4 Add the tomatoes and simmer: Stir in tomatoes, increase the heat to bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat back 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.

add tomatoes to make bolognese sauce

5 Simmer for 2 hours: Add milk and season with sea salt. Then turn down the heat to low, partially cover, 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.

add milk to make bolognese sauce simmer for hours to make a classic bolognese sauce

6 Serve: Bolognese is traditionally served with fresh tagliatelle pasta, but you can also serve it with fettucine, pappardelle, penne, or other pasta. Sauce freezes well for future use.

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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17 Comments / Reviews

No ImageClassic Bolognese Sauce

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Jim

    Great Sauce the only change I made was to use half and half instead of milk. I have made this several times and everyone loves it.


  2. Elizabeth

    Made this tonight for my family. Everyone LOVED it. Made exactly as listed and tastes just like any good restaurants I have had!!


  3. Meg

    Thank you, Elise!!! I can’t get enough of this Bolognese, and wish I could give it more stars! I literally have cravings for it. I’ve made it about once a month since I discovered it, and I’ve played around with it quite a bit, just depending on what I have on hand, and trying it with different meats. It’s delicious as-is, but everyone deserves to eat this delicious sauce, so here are some tips that might help tweak it to your preferences!
    -It is time consuming. Make a double batch! Why spend 3 hours on two different occasions, when you can do it once and freeze half? To do this, just use a dutch oven or stock pot.
    -Whole Foods was out of pancetta the first time I made this, so I omitted. However, it’s so flavorful that I never felt the need to put it in any other time I’ve made it.
    -I’m not a huge carrot-as-an-ingredient fan, so I’ve made it with and without. Great either way! My go-to is just the onion and celery.
    -I’ve used the 3 meats Elise calls for. I’ve also just used beef and pork (the same meats I use for meatballs), but currently I have a double-batch of Bolognese on the stove with 2lbs of ground turkey. I feel like I’m being health(ier) whenever I make it with ground turkey, and it’s just as amazing as using the other meats!!
    -I haven’t made it with just the ground cinnamon and cloves, because I was looking for a bolognese recipe with nutmeg from the start. I’ve used all 3 every time! I pre-mix them with the pepper so they all distribute evenly when I throw them in.
    -I’ve only used canned whole and peeled tomatoes, and because of this recipe, always have a few cans on-hand. The first few times, I broke up the tomatoes, as directed, but find it hard when I’m making a double recipe, since the tomatoes sink to where I can’t see them. Also, I hate getting a bite that has the root(?) of a tomato. To prevent this, I drain the liquid from the can into the pot. Then, I take the whole tomatoes, put them into a shallow bowl, cut the ends off and discard, then chop the tomatoes up with just a flat-bottomed wooden spoon, and throw them into the sauce. Don’t do this on a cutting board! You’ll lose all of the juice from the tomatoes. It’s extra work, but is worth it.
    -Due to a weird curdling incident once, I’ve always been weary of adding milk to any recipe. Any time I add a dairy product to a soup or sauce, I temper it first. To do this, make sure the sauce is simmering on low for a couple minutes first. For the Bolognese, I use what I’ve got on hand (which is never whole milk, but usually a combination of 1% or 2% and light cream or heavy cream), and put it into a bowl. I then add some of the warm sauce into the milk, stirring the whole time. Then I dump it into the sauce while stirring. I allow the sauce to simmer on low from here on out, but after just adding the milk, I stir every couple of minutes until it slowly warms up to the rest of the sauce. It’s an easy step that could prevent you from wasting a lot of ingredients and time!
    -Don’t skimp on time!! Cook it for the entire time Elise instructs. Bolognese gets its flavor from simmering for a while.
    -I saw a review that said the sauce was thinner than they wanted. Next time, just throw a little flour in (maybe 2 tablespoons for a single recipe, 1/4 cup for double), after the vegetables have sauteed, and cook it, stirring constantly, until it turns to a pale tan. It will thicken the entire sauce without having to make a roux.


  4. Lisa

    This was my first time making a Bolognese sauce. The flavor was good but I was expecting the sauce to be thicker and cling to the pasta. I’m wondering if I didn’t cook at a high enough temperature. Any suggestions?


    Show Replies (1)
  5. Penny

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


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