Bolognese Sauce

Bolognese Sauce
Bolognese Sauce header

Bolognese Sauce made with Soffritto, Tomato Paste, Wine, Meat & Passata. Simmered for 4 plus hours to get those flavors you only get in a Bolognese.

What is Bolognese

The word Bolognese translate to Meat Sauce just the same as Ragu. But does refer to a specific type of Pasta Sauce originating from Bologna, Italy. You will often see the term Ragu alla Bolognese or Bolognese Ragu, including both words Ragu & Bolognese or just Bolognese Sauce. However a Bolognese is a Meat Sauce with Tomatoes instead of a Tomato Sauce with meat.

Traditional Bolognese is made with Soffritto. No Basil, Garlic or any other Herbs & Spices. It includes Tomato Paste, Wine (Red or traditionally White) and various Meats, usually Beef, Pork and Veal. Cooked for 4+ hours, which requires the addition of Water, some will add broth. Served with Pappardelle or other broad Pastas.

All the Flavors in a Authentic Bolognese Sauce comes from the Soffritto, Wine & Meat. There are no additional Herbs or Spices added.

Fat used in Bolognese Sauce

Use a good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil to sauté the Vegetables until it is a golden color over medium heat. Older versions used Lard.

In a Bolognese even with the Soffritto increased the Fat should stay the same. Because of the extra Fat the large portion of meat will contribute as well as the Dairy added at the end. These ingredients also add in their own Fats.

How to get rid of excess oil in Bolognese sauce

In some cases you may end up with an overly greasy Bolognese Sauce from the choice of meats added and their fat percentage. This is easy to remedy by removing excess fat from the top with a spoon or paper towel to soak the excess fat up while the sauce is simmering. The excess fat will rise to the surface and settle on top, making it very easy to remove.


A Soffritto is a mix of Aromatic Vegetables consisting of Onions, Carrots and Celery. Soffritto is made up of 2:1:1 ratio of Onion, Carrots & Celery. Which is about 1 Cup of Onions and 1/2 C each of Carrots & Celery.

However for a Bolognese we bring that ratio up with the Carrots & Celery. Resulting in 1 Cup each of the Trinity Vegetables. This works out to about 1 Medium size Onion, 2-3 Carrots & Celery.

There is no Garlic or other Vegetables added to a Traditional Bolognese Sauce. Just a good Soffritto in some good Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Most of the Vegetables will break down and become part of the Sauce with some bits that remain but are incredibly soft, more so the Carrots than the Onion and Celery.

Bolognese Soffritto


1 Cup each of small diced or roughly small chopped Onions, Carrots & Celery. With 1/4 C of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Cooked over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

Bolognese Meats

A combination of 1 lbs. Ground Beef & Pork is used for Bolognese Sauce. Optionally with about 200 g of Veal or Pancetta. Some would argue against the use of Veal or Pancetta however it is quite common.

Bolognese Sauce focuses more so on the Flavored Meats and less on the Tomatoes. For this reason Bolognese has much more Meat in it than a typical Pasta Sauce. The meat contributes significantly to the overall Fat in the Sauce.

What Wine to use for Bolognese

Try to stick with Italian Wines if possible that have a medium to high acidity. Graciano, Sangiovese, or Italian Chianti should all work with Bolognese. The topic of Wine with Food is an extensive topic all by itself. But if you stick with a good Italian Wine (medium to high in acidity), you’ll do good. From there you can explore a bit with this one.

White Wine Pinot Grigio Peller Family

Pinto Grigio

This is a wine we pick up from time to time and can be used here for Bolognese Sauce.

Traditionally white wine is used. But very common is the use of Red wine.


The main Tomato Products used is Passata & Tomato Paste. This recipe uses 2 bottles of Mutti Passata, although you can use just 1 bottle and add in a can of peeled whole San Marzano Tomatoes. Which I believe is more inline with a Traditional Bolognese Sauce, with the use of Sauce & Whole San Marzano Tomatoes.

Bolognese Sauce is extremely forgiving when it comes to the Tomatoes. Allowing you to add in Passata, Whole or Crushed Tomatoes & Tomato Juice as a Passata substitute. After all, it isn’t really about the Tomatoes. Bolognese is a meat sauce focusing on the Soffritto & Meat with flavors coming from the Wine & Tomatoes.

The Tomato paste should be of good Quality, double or triple concentrate. The Tomato Paste can make low acidic Wines taste flat. For this reason you want a medium to high acidic Wine to counter this.

How much water to add to Bolognese

A good Bolognese Sauce is simmered for about 4-5 hours with about 5 Cups of Water. Which is just about right for 4 hours of simmering on low heat uncovered.

Simmer the Bolognese until very thick. Running a Spatula through it will separate the sauce with a second or so before it fills back in.

Is there Broth in Bolognese

Broth isn’t needed for a Bolognese. In fact Broth can give the Bolognese an overpowering Beef taste. Since the ground meats are simmering for that long in the Sauce, you are in effect creating a Broth. You can taste it in the Bolognese.

I can see adding in Beef Broth if you were to simmer for a short time. But then you are missing out on the caramelization of everything and how tender the meat goes.

No matter how you look at it, there is no shortcut with Bolognese Sauce and that’s a good thing.

Bolognese Seasoning

The only seasoning used in a Traditional Bolognese Sauce is Salt & Black Pepper. No additional Herbs or Spices are used. The Flavors are derived and focused on the Soffritto, Wine and Meat. With Salt & Pepper to lift those Flavors.

Add 2 tsp of Sea Salt & 1 tsp of Black Pepper for this recipe. This may need to be adjusted as the Bolognese Sauce simmers and is reduced to a Thick Sauce. Especially with Dairy added which will reduce the heat from the Black Pepper.

Some will add in Red Chili Flakes and it’s good don’t get me wrong. I’m just of the group that if you need more heat, add more Black Pepper and keep it Traditional.


Milk or Cream is optional. Although a Classic Bolognese does include a Dairy product to round out the Flavors. How much Dairy you add is a matter of preference. Typically about 1 C of Whole Milk. I like to add less about 1/2 C of Whole Milk or Cream to retain as much of the color of the Sauce.


Bolognese is served with Pappardelle, Tagliatelle, or even short Pasta like Penne. It is never served with Spaghetti. In the West, it is commonly associated with a Spaghetti Sauce or a Ragu used with Spaghetti.

Bolognese should be served with a broad Pasta or short Pastas. This is because it is a thick meat based Sauce. It is also very good as a Lasagna Meat Filling.

How to make Classic Bolognese


Dice 1 Cup of Onion, Carrots, Celery. Cook in 1/4 C of Extra Virgin Olive Oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes.


Tomato Paste

Add 1/2 C Double or Triple Concentrate Tomato Paste and mix in well. Cook for a few minutes.

Soffritto with Tomato Paste


Add 1 C of Red or White Wine and reduce by half.

Soffrito with Wine Reduced by Half

Ground Meat

Add 1 lbs. of Ground Beef & 1 lbs. of Ground Pork. Mince the meat while cooking to break it down into small pieces and continue to cook until only the Fat remains. You should be able to quickly run your spatula to separate the meat and it will initially be dry with only the fat filling it in.

Tomato Sauce & Water

Add in the Bottles of Passata & 5 Cups of Water. Use some of the water to rinse the Passata Jars out and include with the Sauce.

Simmer for 4+ hours stirring occasionally at first and more frequently after it starts to thicken.

Bolognese Sauce Start of Simmer


Once the Bolognese Sauce is thick, add in 1/2 C – 1 Cup of Whole Milk or Cream and mix well. Take it off the heat and adjust the Seasoning if needed.

Bolognese with Cream
Bolognese Pin

Bolognese Sauce

Bolognese Sauce made with Soffritto, Tomato Paste, Wine, Meat & Passata. Simmered all day for those flavors you only get in a Bolognese.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time4 hours 30 minutes
Course: Main Course, Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Bolognese, Bolognese Sauce
Servings: 8 portions
Author: JAH


  • 1 Saucepot


  • 1/4 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 C Onion
  • 1 C Carrots
  • 1 C Celery
  • 1/2 C Tomato Paste - Double or Triple Concentrate
  • 1 C Wine - Optional Red or White
  • 1 lbs Ground Beef
  • 1 lbs Ground Pork
  • 1/2 lbs Veal or Pancetta - Optional
  • 2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • 2 680 ml Mutti Passata - or 1 Jar & 28 oz. can of San Marzano
  • 5 C Water
  • 1/2 C Whole Milk or Cream


  • In a large Saucepot over medium heat, add Olive Oil and small diced or roughly chopped Soffritto. Cook for 10 minutes stirring once in a while.
  • Add in the Tomato Paste to cook for a few minutes mixing well.
    Then add Wine and reduce to half.
    Add in the Meats and break apart while mixing and cooking. Add Salt & Pepper. Cook until only the fat remains.
  • Empty the Passata into the Saucepot with 5 Cups of Water. Save about 1/2 C of the Water to rinse out the Passata jar and empty into the Saucepot. Mix well and bring it to a boil. Once it starts to simmer, lower the heat to low.
  • Keep it at a gentle simmer uncovered for 4 hours or longer until thick. Stir occasionally and more frequently as the Sauce thickens.
  • Once the Sauce is very thick. Where you can run you Spatula through and it takes a second or so for it to fill back in. Add in your Milk or Cream and cook a few minutes. Make any final adjustments with the Salt & Pepper if needed and remove from heat.


For each Portion, weigh out 200 g of Bolognese for 100 g of uncooked Pasta. Cook the Pasta in Salted Water until almost al dente. Place the Bolognese & Pasta into a Saucepan and cook until the Pasta is done to your liking. Adding in Pasta Water if needed to adjust the consistency. 

Pasta Water

16 Cups of Water with 1-2 Tbl of Sea Salt. 
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