This traditional Bolognese sauce starts with a base of tomatoes, onion, carrot, and celery. Brimming with Italian flavor, it’s delicious combined with a thick and hearty pasta.
If you’ve never made your own homemade bolognese sauce before, you’ll want to try this simple recipe! It’s not complicated to put together and you’ll never want to go back to jarred pasta sauce again.
Authentic bolognese sauce
We love this recipe because this meat sauce is packed full of traditional Italian flavors. It simmers slowly to give it the perfect flavor combination with a light sweetness.
It makes a large batch which is great for meal prep or for serving our large family! I like to make this sauce and freeze some for a quick weeknight meal later on.
Tomato-based bolognese sauce also known as ragù alla bolognese is a traditional Italian recipe made from thin veal or beef cuts originating in Bologna, Italy. Sometimes it also contains ground pork or pancetta as well. We use the simplicity and ease of ground beef in this version.
This sauce is one that comes together with very basic ingredients and one that is a must for the very best flavor!
Here’s what you’ll need for this ragu style sauce:
- extra-virgin olive oil — use a high quality and authentic olive oil.
- medium onion
- garlic cloves
- celery stalk
- lean ground beef
- (28-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes D.O.P. <— I highly recommend that you use truly authentic San Marzano tomatoes simply because they taste amazing and really elevate the sauce.
- dried oregano
- flat leaf Italian parsley <— you could substitute for fresh basil if desired.
- freshly ground black pepper
- freshly grated Pecorino Romano <— can substitute for Parmigiano Reggiano, not the canned parmesan cheese.
This sauce comes together quickly and simmers to develop a tender and flavorful sauce.
Begin by heating up extra virgin olive oil in a dutch oven or large pot.
In a large skillet or large dutch oven, add extra-virgin olive oil, and heat over medium heat.
Add the onions, celery, and carrot and sauté over medium heat until they become soft, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Next, add in the ground beef to the pan with the vegetables. Sauté, stirring frequently and breaking up any large lumps and cook until meat is no longer pink. Spoon off excess grease.
Add the tomatoes, teaspoon salt, dried oregano and cook over medium low heat until the sauce thickens, about 30-40 minutes until thickened. Be sure to stir occasionally with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan.
If the sauce sticks to the bottom of the pot, it will burn.
The tomatoes should break up during the cooking time, but you can use your wooden spoon to break them up a little while it is simmering, if desired.
Stir in the pecorino cheese. Combine cooked pasta and top with additional Pecorino Romano and fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, if desired.
Serve combined with a thicker pasta like tagliatelle pasta, fettuccine, pappardelle, or penne. Or add it to the top of polenta for an extra delicious comfort food meal.
You can also use spaghetti noodles if that’s what you have on hand.
Cook the pasta to al dente or desired doneness, drain the water and stir into the bolognese sauce. And don’t forget to salt the pasta water!
🍅 Recipe tips
I wholeheartedly believe that good quality ingredients make for the best recipes! I don’t recommend any fake or overly processed ingredients and will usually recommend organic / non-gmo ingredients whenever possible.
Sourcing good quality ingredients can be difficult sometimes. Did you know that most of the olive oil in grocery stores aren’t truly authentic? Or that most seafood is farmed and sourced from China? These are just a couple of examples of confusing product labels.
How do we find the BEST ingredients? If you’re like me, then sourcing clean ingredients is important to you! So, I’ve created a favorite shop page with all of my recommendations. Here you can find all of the best places to source good quality ingredients!
How to store and reheat leftovers
If you have leftover bolognese sauce, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for about 4-5 days. To reheat: add the sauce to a skillet or large dutch oven and heat on the stovetop over medium heat until warmed through.
This sauce also freezes well. Store the finished sauce in a freezer bag or other freezer safe container and store for up to 4 months. Defrost, heat, and serve as usual.
FAQ (frequently asked questions)
Tomato-based Bolognese sauce also known as ragù alla bolognese is a traditional Italian recipe made from thin veal or beef cuts originating in Bologna, Italy. Sometimes it also contains ground pork or pancetta as well.
Some home cooks use milk or heavy cream in their bolognese sauce to give it a little richness. In this version, we use a bit of pecorino cheese instead of milk or cream.
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Traditional Bolognese Sauce
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 2 garlic cloves rough chopped
- 1 large celery stalk chopped
- 1 large carrot chopped
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 28 ounce San Marzano D.O.P. tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ pecorino romano freshly grated
- salt & pepper to taste
- flat leaf parsley chopped
- In a large skillet or dutch oven, add extra-virgin olive oil, heat over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and carrot and sauté over medium heat until they become soft, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the ground beef to the pan with the veggies. Sauté, stirring frequently and breaking up any large lumps and cook until meat is no longer pink. Spoon off excess grease.
- Add the tomatoes, teaspoon salt, dried oregano and cook over medium low heat until the sauce thickens, about 40-60 minutes until thickened. Be sure to stir occasionally to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pot. The tomatoes should break up during the cooking time, but you can use your wooden spoon to break them up a little while it is simmering. Stir in the pecorino cheese to the meat sauce.
- Cook pasta according to package instructions; don’t forget to salt the pasta water.
- Combine cooked & drained pasta and top with additional Pecorino Romano and fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, if desired.