This recipe for traditional spaghetti Bolognese is a tasty and economical way to feed your family! Ground beef slowly braised in aromatic tomato sauce with onions, garlic, carrots and celery is what you want to serve with your pasta!
If you are a fan of white pasta sauce, try my 10 minute Alfredo Sauce!
When I’m on the hunt for a convenient dinner to serve the family on a busy weeknight, it’s rare for me to not break out a pasta dish. Often it’s a creamy sauce like Spaghetti Carbonara, but I will always have a soft spot for a hearty meat and tomato pasta.
It always feels like comfort food and can easily be made good for you as well. What could I make to satisfy and please both adults and some little picky eaters?
Spaghetti Bolognese of course! Who doesn’t love pasta drenched in a meaty tomato sauce?
Savoury meat, sweet tomatoes and fragrant herbs cooked together are always going to be a winner. Better yet, it’s easy and most of the cooking time is hands off.
Spaghetti Bolognese Recipe
Spaghetti Bolognese is a classic everywhere in the world except for Italy, where it doesn’t exist. Don’t get me wrong, the Bolognese sauce is as traditional as they get. And as the name suggestions, it comes from the city of Bologna.
However, it is served with thicker pasta like tagliatelle or pappardelle. Italians claim that flat and wide pasta is able to carry off this rich and meaty sauce far better than spaghetti.
So if you want to experience this delicious sauce in a true Italian way, don’t forget this little tip and your dish will look like the one below!
And if you want take your Italian dinner to another level of sublime, I can teach you how to make your own pasta. Here is my step-by step guide. I actually took a pasta making a class in Salerno a few years ago and am sharing all my tips with you.
Whatever pasta you choose in the end, Bolognese sauce is where the flavour is at. My homemade version is truly incredible. It’s made from scratch, with no preservatives so you can feel good about feeding it to your family.
The main ingredients are inexpensive canned tomatoes, loads of healthy veggies, herbs and a pound of lean ground beef. Or you can use a combination of ground beef and pork.
(Vegetarians and vegans don’t need to be left out! Replace the meat with mushrooms to make Mushroom Bolognese. Tasty!)
It doesn’t take a chef to master this delicious recipe. The technique is very simple. All you need is time. The best Bolognese sauce is simmered over low heat for 2.5-3 hours. That’s how long it takes for the flavours to blend.
Secret to Best Bolognese Sauce
The recipe uses 1 tablespoons of olive oil, canned diced tomatoes and tomato passata along with 1 lbs of lean beef. Very wholesome ingredients.
The base for this sauce is made from a combination of diced onion, carrot and celery cooked in olive oil. Italians call it ‘soffritto” and use it as a foundation for many sauces, soups and stews.
I’ve been making traditional Bolognese sauce for many years and I’ve also changed it multiple times in pursuit of that perfect taste. The version I am sharing today is definitely my best one and final.
After years of travel to Italy and a cooking lesson that I took on the most recent trip I’ve picked up the necessary knowledge to recreate this authentic recipe at home. By the way, if you are looking for an authentic Italian white pasta sauce, take a look at my pasta cream sauce recipe.
Making this traditional sauce is very easy and requires no special skills only time and patience. The end result is stunning and miles aways from store bought.
But if you want it quick and meatless, check out my tomato and basil pasta sauce, which is done in 20 minutes!
Recipe tips and notes
- It’s easy to make Bolognese in a slow cooker. This sauce is actually absolutely perfect for your crock pot since it needs longer time to be delicious, giving the chance for flavours to develop and meld together. I have developed a slow cooker beef bolognese sauce recipe specifically for you.
- Using a food processor for chopping up all vegetables saves a lot of time! Processing your vegetables this way also makes for a smoother sauce. When I have some time to spare or I just want to zone out in the kitchen without anyone bugging me I dice all vegetables by hand. But the rest of the time I let my food processor do the work. Same flavour, less effort plus if you have picky eaters they will have no idea how many vitamins are hidden in that spaghetti sauce.
- We often grab for spaghetti when we make Bolognese sauce, but lots of pasta shapes will work. Long pasta like tagliatelle, fettuccine or pappardelle are ideal for this hearty sauce as well as more traditional.
- Although the recipe calls for using ground beef, I also love to use a mixture of beef and pork. Pork is more affordable than beef, and using the two together brings extra flavour and a better texture.
- This recipe scales very easily. If you like batch cooking this is one you want to have on rotation. Use what you need and freeze the rest.
- Once you master the Bolognese recipe, there are countless ways to use it in other dishes such as Stuffed Spaghetti Squash, Gnocchi Bake or Lasagna.
Italians don’t serve the pasta and sauce separately. They mix the two together and serve as one.
There is a good reason for taking this approach. Mixing the two together early gives time for the pasta to absorb flavour and makes the whole dish tastier! The sauce is also more evenly distributed.
And never forget grated parmesan cheese! The cheese adds a bit more flavour and saltiness. Fresh parmesan cheese will always taste better than pre-grated, so I usually serve pasta with a triangle of cheese and a grater!
Storage and leftovers
Bolognese sauce stores brilliantly, both in the fridge and freezer. It’ll keep for 3-4 days in the fridge or 2-3 months in the freezer. Either way, preparing a bit extra is a great way to make future meal prep a breeze.
The sauce can be reheated in a microwave, but I prefer to do it on my stovetop in a large saucepan. Use medium heat and add a bit of water if it looks like it needs to be loosened.
More meaty pasta dishes
- Layered Italian Baked Mac and Cheese
- Pasta al Forno
- Slow Cooker Italian Beef Ragu
- Tomato Cream Cheese Pasta with Chicken and Pancetta
- 1 tbsp Olive oil
- 1 Onion diced
- 2 Carrots diced
- 2 Celery stalks diced
- 2-3 cloves Garlic
- 5-6 leaves Fresh Basil or 2 tsp dried basil
- 400g/14oz Canned Diced Tomatoes
- 500g/17oz Tomato Passata/Crushed Tomatoes
- 250ml/1 cup water
- 2 tsp Dried Oregano
- 450g/1 lbs Ground Beef extra lean
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 450g/1 lbs Spaghetti
- In a large and deep frying pan or a Dutch Oven heat 1 tbsp of olive oil, then add diced onions, carrots, celery, minced garlic and cook on low heat for 10 minutes without colouring the vegetables. Then add ground beef and brown it until the beef is no longer pink inside while stirring the whole time and making sure to break up the beef. Pour in both types of canned tomatoes and water with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Sprinkle in some dried oregano and torn basil leaves (reserve a few small ones), bring everything to a boil. Then turn the heat down and let it simmer with a lid ajar for for 2.5-3 hours stirring it once in a while.
- When your Bolognese is nearly done boil a large pot of water and cook spaghetti according to package directions. (I usually cook 2 min less than the package recommends, your pasta continues cooking when you combine it with sauce and you really don’t want it overcooked!)
- Drain your spaghetti and add your pasta to the sauce, stir gently and take off the heat. Top with reserved basil leaves. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.