When it comes to pasta with meat sauce, nothing compares to a traditional Italian Bolognese sauce. As with most Italian dishes, there are as many ways to make them as there are Italian grandmothers. But I think this is the best Bolognese Pappardelle recipe you will ever make.
Bolognese sauce with PappardellePhoto ofChef Dennis Littley
Bolognese sauce is known in Italy as Ragù alla Bolognese or simply Ragù. The meat-based sauce has its humble origins in Bologna, Italy.
How to make Bolognese SaucePhoto ofChef Dennis Littley
My classic Bolognese sauce embraces the traditions of the recipe with a few variations, creating the flavor profiles I find more appealing.
While the basic recipe that starts with a soffritto (onion, celery and carrots) remains fairly constant, the amount of meat, types of ground meat, amount of tomatoes and types of herbs used in the sauce. You will find that this varies from region to region.
But one thing remains constant; it’s delicious! And during my restaurant days, Bolognese Pappardelle was as popular as Veal and Fettucine Alfredo.
Bolognese sauce over PappardellePhoto ofChef Dennis Littley
How to make Bolognese Sauce
Ingredients for making Bolognese SaucePhoto ofChef Dennis Littley
Visit askchefdennis.com for the complete printable recipe with amounts for each ingredient and cooking tips for min Bolognese sauce.
- olive oil
- finely chopped onion
- carrots finely chopped
- finely chopped celery
- minced garlic
- ground chuck 20% fat
- sweet Italian sausage
- sea salt to taste
- black pepper to taste
- red pepper flakes to taste
- nutmeg – optional
- red wine *You can use a dry white wine if you prefer
- plum tomatoes (San Marzano variety if possible)
- Finely chopped Italian parsley
- finely chopped basil
- Grated Romano cheese (Parmesan can be used as a substitute)
- heavy cream (light cream or half and half can be used as a substitute)
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- Use a food processor to finely chop the celery, onion and carrots
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Then add the onion, carrots and celery and sauté until the vegetables begin to caramelize (about 6-8 minutes).
- Add the minced garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
- Remove the cooked vegetables (soffritto) from the pan and store until ready to use.
- Add olive oil and ground beef to the pan. Season with sea salt and black pepper and cook for about 10 minutes until the meat is browned. Don’t be tempted to constantly stir and break up the meat. Let it brown well and caramelise some of the natural sugars in the meat.
- When the ground beef is cooked, break up the meat with a wire whisk and remove it from the pan.
- Repeat this process with the sausage meat. Add more olive oil if needed.
- When the cooking is finished, add the cooked beef back to the pot.
- Pour the red wine into the hot pot. It will deglaze the pan, and release all the browned bits stuck to the bottom. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a large spoon to help loosen all the stuck-on bits.
- Put the reserved soffritto back into the pan, mix well and let it cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, milk, basil and parsley, mix well. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.
- *If you want to add nutmeg, now is the time to do it. Traditionally, nutmeg is added, but it is a flavor I have never enjoyed or included in my Bolognese sauce.
- Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 to 4 hours.
- Stir in the heavy cream and Romano cheese and mix well to incorporate the cream and cheese into the sauce.
- If the sauce is too thick, you can add a little water, red wine or milk to thin it out.
- Season with sea salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper to taste.
- Serve with your favorite wide noodle pasta. I used Pappardelle.