This authentic Ragù Bolognese sauce recipe boasts a rich, melt in your mouth texture with incredible flavor. The secret is cooking the meat in milk first, to tenderize it, before adding white wine and tomato paste. Serve with fresh homemade pasta, pappardelle or gnocchi for an old world touch.
**Make sure to read the Notes. Tips & Substitutions section below for best results**
For the Sauce
- 2 tbsp. (30 g) unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp. (30 ml) olive oil
- 2 oz. (60 g) diced pancetta
- 1 onion
- 1 carrot
- 1 celery stick
- 1/2 lb. (250 g) ground beef, about 80% fat
- 1/2 lb. (250 g) ground pork
- 1 cup (236 ml) whole milk
- pinch of ground nutmeg
- 1 dried bay leaf or 2 fresh
- 1 cup (236 ml) dry white wine
- Heaping 1/4 cup (60–70 g) tomato paste (see Notes below)
- 1–2 cups (236– 472 ml) quality chicken stock (see Notes below)
- (1x) 28 oz (800g) can whole peeled plum tomatoes, options (see lasagna note below)
For lasagna Bolognese made with fresh homemade lasagna noodles: I add (1-2) 28 oz (800 g) cans whole peeled plum tomatoes to the recipe above, that I pass through a food mill for a completely smooth texture. The Ragù needs to be “saucier” to account for the lasagna absorbing the sauce while it bakes. Fresh pasta absorbs more liquid than dry pasta. Always have extra sauce on hand.
- 1 lb. homemade pappardelle pasta
- Fresh grated Parmesan cheese, to serve
Notes, Tips & Substitutions
- If you do not have tomato paste: omit the chicken stock and used canned tomatoes instead. A good size to start is a 14 oz (400 g) can of whole peeled plum tomatoes, adding more if you want. Chop the tomatoes before adding to the sauce (I snip them with scissors directly in the can.) Alternatively, use 1-2 cups (appx. 236- 475 ml) bottled tomato passata instead.
- My preferred tomato brands: San Marzano, Mutti, Cento, Jovial
- Cooking times will depend on the size of your pot (the smaller the pot, the longer it will take). Adjust accordingly.
- If doubling the recipe: increase the cooking times as needed.
- In a heavy bottom pot (a Dutch oven is perfect) warm the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat.
- Meanwhile, chop the pancetta, onion, carrot and celery in a food processor. The texture should resemble a rough looking “pulp” which will melt into the sauce. No large chunks.
- Add the chopped pancetta and veggie mixture to the pot. Sauté, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes until lightly golden. Feel free to add more oil or butter as needed, if the mixture seems dry.
- Add the ground beef and pork. Use a fork to mash the meats together. Season with salt and black pepper. Cook just until the meat looses its pink color; do not brown. This will keep the texture of the meat soft.
- Add the milk, nutmeg and bay leaf. Simmer until almost evaporated, up to 20 minutes (or more) depending on the size of the pot and how much liquid is released from the meat.
- Pour in the wine; simmer until almost evaporated. Add the tomato paste; stir to dissolve. Add 1 cup of stock. Stir well.
- Reduce the heat to low. Cook the sauce, with the lid ajar, for about 1-2 hours. The sauce should just “blip” about and not boil rapidly. Low and slow is key for a melt in your mouth texture. Do not rush the cooking process. If, at any point the liquid is reducing too quickly, add more stock or tomatoes as needed. Sometimes I add more tomato paste for color. The final sauce should look similar to chili (thick, but no too thick). Skim away any fat from the surface and season with salt, if needed.
- For the pappardelle: bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously. Add the pappardelle noodles and cook until soft and al dente, 3-7 minutes depending on thickness. Taste for doneness. Make sure to to stir occasionally so the pasta doesn’t stick together. When finished, use tongs to transfer the pasta directly into the sauce, adding an additional pat of butter for flavor. Serve with Parmesan cheese.
Keywords: Bolognese, Ragu, meat sauce, ground beef, tomato paste, white wine, bay leaf, Marcella Hazan, pappardelle pasta, homemade pasta, Italian cuisine