The Best Bolognese

The story:

For our second trip to Italy, we decided to go to city where the Italians go to eat. Bologna. Italians call this city La Dotta, La Grassa, La Rossa.

La Dotta  – “The Learned” (home to the oldest university in the Western World – University of Bologna, or as the locals call it, UniBo. If you were a student in the late 15th century, you could’ve sat next to Copernicus in Astronomy 101.

La Grassa – “The Fat” (The food here is nothing short of amazing. The food from this region of Italy – Emilia Romagna,is iconic Italian- parmesean, tortellini, balsamic vinegar, bolognese.

La Rossa – “The Red” (The abundance of brick buildings).

It was in a little alley in Bologna that I had the best bolognese of my life.

Tagliatelle al Rag, Serghei, Bologna

Tagliatelle al Rag, Serghei, Bologna (It’s just called Ragu in Bologna)

trattatoria serghei

Up to this point, most meat sauces I had eaten looked something like this:


(Ground beef + jarred marinara + seasonings) over pasta

Don’t get me wrong, this is yummy, delicious and an incredible weeknight meal. However this is NOT bolognese. Once I tasted it I closed my eyes and let out a deep sigh. A sigh so deep it was like my body said “this pasta is so good, it must be my last meal. I am ready to meet Jesus.” This dish ruined me for many many moons because I didn’t know how to recreate this at home. That is until I found a Bon Appétit recipe that comes pretty darn close.

Good for when:

  • You find yourself having to cook for Italian Italians
  • You wonder what you should do for a couple hours before dinner
  • You have leftover pancetta

Not ideal if:

  • You are hangry
  • You are avoiding pork, dairy or wheat

The Method:

Copied from this recipe

We first tried to do the lasagna but found that we didn’t care for the béchamel and just wanted to eat the meat sauce by itself. From then on we only used the sauce and would pair it with a flat noodle to maximize flavor absorption.

Bolognese Sauce 

  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 4 oz. pancetta (Italian bacon), finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine (I like a Pinot Grigio for this. I wish I could tell you that broth is a decent substitute… but that would be disingenuous and downright mean to sabotage your bolognese.)
  • 1 cup whole milk (Milk is really important! Don’t skip!)
  • 1 14.5-oz. can crushed tomatoes (I have used non San Marzano tomatoes and it did not turn out so well. Definitely splurge and get the San Marzanos)
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided (We almost always use store bought stock.)

  • Pulse onion, carrot, and celery in a food processor until finely chopped. (Yes, definitely use a food processor)
  • Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add beef, pork, pancetta, and vegetables; cook, breaking up meat with a spoon, until moisture is almost completely evaporated and meat is well browned, 25–30 minutes; season with salt and pepper.
  • Add wine to pot and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot, about 2 minutes. Add milk; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until moisture is almost completely evaporated, 8–10 minutes. Add tomatoes and 2 cups broth; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, adding water by ½-cupfuls if sauce looks dry, until flavors meld and sauce thickens, 2½–3 hours.
  • Let sauce cool, then cover and chill at least 12 hours or up to 2 days. (Letting the sauce sit will give it a deeper, richer flavor.)

Cooking life lesson I’m still learning … when the ingredients are simple and few… you have to get the best because there’s not much for them to hide behind. Imagine dancing in a room of 10 people vs. 1000. If you are in the former, you better be incredible.

Leave a comment if you give this recipe a try! I would love to hear what you think! If you are too lazy to make this but want to try it, leave a comment too 🙂 I’ll have you over for some ragu!



3 thoughts on “The Best Bolognese

  1. YES!! I have made this recipe!! And it is delicious and amazing 🙂 I actually love the bechamel sauce. You should look up the Smitten Kitchen recipe…I sort of used a combo of the two. SO GOOD. I seriously don’t know how to make “simple” meat sauce anymore

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