Bolognese-Style Meat Sauce for Pasta

Spaghetti with meat sauce
Adam Kulesza / Getty Images
    120 min
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This hearty meat sauce is inspired by the classic ragù alla bolognese, which is a thick, meaty sauce that is simmered for hours with milk, red wine, and a couple of tablespoons or so of tomato paste — a surprisingly small amount of tomato by North America standards. 

This recipe is more saucy. The wine stays in, and we add a small mount of beef stock. The milk is gone, and we use canned tomatoes instead of tomato paste.

It's also much quicker to make than the traditional ragù, which might spend four hours simmering away, until the meat breaks down and melts luxuriously into the sauce. We're only going to simmer this sauce for about an hour, long enough to cook away much of the liquid, while still leaving just enough so that it will still coat your pasta.

Like ragù alla bolognese, this meat sauce pairs well with bigger pasta, such as tagliatelle, which are wide ribbons, or rigatoni, which are short, wide tubes. But I'm not going to call the culinary police if you want to serve it with spaghetti. 

Indeed, if there's a recipe this meat sauce resembles even more than the tradition Italian ragù alla bolognese, it's the simplified version of bolognese sauce commonly served in the UK, where it is unabashedly enjoyed with spaghetti — to the palpable dismay of Italian chefs everywhere. (Indeed, spaghetti bolognese, or spag bol as it's called, is as ubiquitous over there as fish and chips or doner kebabs.)

The combination of ground beef chuck and pork brings a meaty, fatty goodness to the sauce. It's hearty and satisfying, whatever your pasta inclinations might be. It would also make a great sauce to use for making lasagna.

What You'll Need

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • ½ cup red wine
  • ½  cup beef stock
  • ½  lb. ground beef chuck
  • ½  lb. ground pork
  • 1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes, with liquid
  • ½ tsp dried oregano 
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

How to Make It

  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil for a minute over medium heat.
     
  2. Add the onions and carrots, and sauté for a bit until the onions are translucent but not brown.
     
  3. Add the tomatoes and the garlic. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 to 45 minutes, uncovered, until the sauce is slightly reduced. If you like, you can use a wooden spoon to break up the whole tomatoes while the sauce simmers.
     
  4. Meanwhile, brown the meat in a separate skillet in a small amount of oil. Season it with a bit of salt while it cooks. Remove the meat from the pan and set it aside. Drain excess fat, then deglaze the pan with the wine. Add the stock and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, then add it to the tomato sauce.
     
  5. Remove tomato sauce from heat and pass through a food mill, or purée in a food processor until smooth, working in batches if necessary.
     
  6. Return the sauce to the pot and add the browned meat along with the herbs. Simmer for 1 hour, uncovered, stirring occasionally.
     
  7. Adjust thickness with additional stock if desired. Season to taste with Kosher salt and sugar, and serve right away with the pasta of your choice — even (gasp!) spaghetti.