Authentic Bolognese Sauce

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Category: Main Dishes | Blog URL:

This recipe was entered in The Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook contest, a compilation of the world’s best food blogs which was published in Fall 2010.


1/4 cup olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper


In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook pancetta, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic until soft, about 10-15 minutes.
Add ground beef and cook until no longer pink. Stir in wine, milk, and tomato paste. Add salt and pepper.
Simmer uncovered for 1 hour, until most of the liquid is absorbed.




L. Regal's picture

The way I learned to make Sauce Bolognese is a bit different. It was from a book written by Roy St. Andres de Groute (or was it 'de Groot'?) and he attested to it's authenticity. Here is a version from my memory (I made it thousands of times. My family loverd it until they found out about the chicken livers.) Amounts can be varied to suit your taste.
Sauce Bolognese:
Butter, 1-2 Tbs.
Extra- virgin olive oil (my adition, the original uses only butter ), 1-2 Tbs.
Chicken livers, about 1/3 - 1/2 lb.
1/3-1/2 lb LEAN ground beef (optional) or a few meaty beef-rib bones (I'd even use an oxtail or two instead)
1 onion, minced
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced (increase as desired)
1-2 carrots, minced
1/4-1/3 cup raisins, chopped
1 28-oz can plum tomatoes, whole, if you have 2-3 hrs. to simmer the sauce, or 28 oz. tomato puree, if you only have 45 mins, or a pressure-cooker (20 mins.)
28 oz. tomato puree
1 small can tomato paste, and 14-oz can tomato puree (extra)
salt, to taste,
white pepper---a tiny dash,
basil, marjoram, 1 tsp. each, thyme ( tiny bit of thyme)
up to 1/4 cup good burgundy or merlot (optional), a Tbs or two of grape juice subs nicely
chopped fresh parsley, a tsp or two

Saute chicken livers and garlic, onion, carrots in butter/ olive oil until they are done (gray), remove livers with slotted spoon, add grond beef to pan, brown. Chop chicken livers, return to pan with parsley. Add raisins, saute two minutes more, adding more butter if necessary. Add all other ingredients except tomato paste/extra puree. Bring to a simmer, simmer uncovered for up to three hours, adding either extra tomato puree or water/tomato paste as necessary (you want it to be thick, and may not need to add anything else.)
You can also saute as described above in a pressure cooker, uncovered, then add toamtoes and other ingredients and cover, bring to high pressure, cook for 20-25 mins, gradually relieve pressure, remove lid and check consistency, reduce or add a bit of tomato paste with a whisk.
I'va added a pinch or two of anise seeds (crush between fingertips), but I love that licoricey flavor.
Serve over pasta (spaghetti or fettucine), with lots of grated paresean on the side. Sublime!

L. Regal's picture

Oy! typos! Apologies. Should say "tomatoes", "parmesean"!


I grew up thinking that you made bolognese sauce by frying up some ground beef and mixing it with a bottle of Ragu. Understandably, I didn’t like it very much and took to saucing my pasta with cream and a variety of freshly grated cheeses like Asiago or Pecorino Romano. Enlightenment came in the form of a trip to Bologna itself. This Northern Italian city is the capital of Emilia-Romangna–the agricultural heartland of Italy. The food I ate in Italy was familiar,of course, but kicked up a thousand notches from anything I’d ever had in an Italian restaurant back home. The pizzas were crisp and paper thin, garnished with a limited number of toppings and drizzled liberally with olive oil, which always sat on the table next to the salt and pepper and other condiments. The pastas were fresh and lightly sauced in order for the true flavor of the noodles to come shining through. Dinner could just as easily mean steak or a bean stew as it did a bowl of risotto or pasta.

Before I went to Italy I had no idea that Italian food was so varied, so regional. My repertoire of Italian food was limited to pastas, and as I was a student during my time in the country, I ate a lot of pasta indeed. I’d like to say that I spent much time cooking in the tiny kitchen I shared with several other students in the large apartment by the Arno river, but the truth is I did more than my fair share of dining in restaurants, sampling an array of dishes that stunned me with their rich flavors and simplicity. My first taste of an authentic bolognese ragu took place in a trattoria close to the university in Bologna–the oldest university in the western world. My friend Nicole and I had taken a table outside facing the square, from which we were surrounded by a jumble of the kind of dusty pink buildings that characterize this beautiful city. Nicole ordered gnocchi and I the lasagna bolognese. With this lasagna everything I thought I knew about Italian food slipped away. Were the noodles any better than noodles I’d had before? Was there a bechamel in between the layers of the dish? I cannot tell you. All I remember was that meat sauce, which seemed light yet deliciously rich at the same time. At the first bite a complex melange of flavors burst across my tongue: the smokiness of good pork, the unmistakable bite of garlic and tang of onion, other notes I could not identify. Tomato, to be sure, but not the heavy acidic tomato taste that often failed to appeal to me. Maybe it was the atmosphere that heightened the experience, but at that moment I knew that I would most likely never taste a bolognese like that again.

Bolognese sauce is often thought to be a tomato-based meat sauce, as was my misconception for many years, but a true bolognese actually has very little tomato. It is also served with tagliatelle noodles instead of spaghetti, or tucked in between the layers of the green lasagna Bologna is famous for. Tagliatelle are similar to fettuccine, and are used because a broader noodle is a preferable cradle for a thick or heavy sauce. The ingredients in the authentic bolognese have even been officially named by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina: beef, pancetta, onion, carrot, celery, tomato paste, red wine, and milk.

This is not to say there are no variations, even in Bologna. Italians often use chopped pork or veal in their famous ragu, and chicken and goose liver may be added on special occasions. The onion, carrot, and celery can be cooked in butter as well as olive oil, and enrichments such as prosciutto, mortadella, and fresh porcini mushrooms when they are in season are also popular.

After reading up on this classic sauce, I was ready to ditch the cream and make an authentic bolognese. It might not be as good as the one I had in Bologna on that summer’s day oh-so-long-ago, but it sure comes close.




Monday, December 28, 2009 - 8:50am


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