Bolognese is a classic Italian meat-based sauce. It's smooth, rich, and hearty. My version of this sauce is slow-cooked to perfection by adding Texas ingredients which adds a spicy level, but the sauce does not have to be spicy. This sauce is perfect on any pasta!
The recipe combines beef and mushrooms with onion, garlic, and seasonings. The sauce freezes and reheats well, making it the perfect weeknight meal!
What is Bolognese Sauce?
Bolognese is a meat sauce made with garlic, onion, celery, and carrot. It also includes milk and is thicker and creamier than a typical American meat sauce. Some people add tomatoes to it, but others say that's not authentic. I like adding a bit of tomato paste and some garlic because it tastes good. You can also add a splash of heavy cream at the end for extra creaminess.
Tips on making an authentic Bolognese sauce: There are a few key ingredients you'll need for a traditional Bolognese sauce.
Ingredients & Variations
Meat: 🥩 Classically, Veal is the protein of choice. Ground beef is the more common meat. The addition of pork will create a deeper depth of flavor.
Vegetables: 🧄 The base includes onions, carrots, and celery, which in Italy is called the Soffritto. Adding garlic is encouraged and a classic Italian ingredient.
Tomatoes: 🍅 Best to use in-season tomatoes for the most flavor. During off-season months, selecting tomatoes from glass jars provide the freshest taste.
Peppers: 🌶️ This is an optional ingredient; I love the added flavor. I'll explain how to use the peppers without the added spicy heat below.
Wine: Traditionally, red wine is used.
How to Make Bolognese Sauce
High-quality Bolognese sauce is cooked with love. This sauce does not like to be hurried, and it's even better the next day.
Cooking the Vegetables: Cook the mushrooms first and add the remaining vegs. Chop all vegs, then reserve half to be purred in a food processor or blender. Saute the chopped ingredients first, then add the purred vegs and cook together. By purring/blending half, the finished texture will be perfect and traditional.
The Peppers: Chop and remove all the seeds and the white stem within the rib. To keep the spice of the peppers, do not remove either. Middle ground: Remove only the seeds for medium plus spice level.
Meat Cookery: Add the ground meat to the sauteed vegetables and cook for 4 minutes, then add tomato paste and wine. Cook off the raw alcohol in the wine for 3 minutes.
Simmer: Add all remaining ingredients and cook on low until the desired doneness. The sauce can cook on the stovetop for up to 4 hours.
Controlling The Spice Level
Regarding the spice level, you have two options: mild or hot. To prepare your pepper for whichever flavor profile is desired, simply remove their stems and seeds, then slice them according to the method in the recipe.
Peppers with straight stems are usually not as hot as peppers with curved stems.
When viewing a pepper-like jalapeño, keep an eye on the pepper's side. Look for any signs of stress fractures. They also have the appearance of bruises. Those peppers are guaranteed to be spicy! Seek out peppers with thicker skin and no cracks or roughness on the surface for a lower spice level.
When cleaning or chopping peppers, the seeds are hot. Removing them reduces the heat of the pepper's capsaicin/oils. The "rib" is the white part of the pepper where seeds are attached and are hotter than the seeds.
What Kind of Pasta Goes with Bolognese Sauce?
When it comes to Bolognese sauce, the options for pasta are endless. Rigatoni is a classic choice, but any types of pasta will work well.
If you want a heartier dish, you can go with a thicker pasta like rigatoni or penne. For a lighter dish, use a thinner pasta like spaghetti or linguine. There are no wrong choices regarding the pasta for Bolognese.
What To Serve With It
Think about what you enjoy with classic spaghetti and meatballs.
The first thing that comes to mind is serving a type of bread. Our Ice Box Diner Rolls recipe comes from a lady about to be 100 years old. They can be stored in your refrigerator until you're ready to bake.
Then there is cornbread, it seems I can never make enough of our Mexican Cornbread. It's good enough to be the star of the meal.
And for dessert? What about something truly amazing, Homemade Cantaloupe Ice Cream?
Where Did Bolognese Originate From?
The sauce is named for the city of Bologna, Italy. The first known recipe for a meat-based sauce served with pasta was published in the 1390 cookbook Libro de Arte Coquinaria by Martino da Como, a chef from Northern Italy. Of the notable Chefs to have mastered Bolognese, Marcella Hazan is highly respected.
Yes, it will store well in the freezer in air-tight containers for up to 3 months.
Yes, use portabello mushrooms, rehydrated mushrooms, and chickpeas. Other ingredients to consider are quinoa, black beans, and Jack fruit.
Recipes To Try
- Ground Beef 1 pound
- Cremini Mushrooms 12
- Portobello Mushroom 2
- High-Quality Butter 1 tablespoon
- Vidalia Onion 1 medium
- Carrot 1 large
- Celery 1 stalk
- Red Wine ½ cup
- Tomato Paste 4 tablespoon
- Tomatoes (Use whole tomatoes and break them up by hand.) 1 can
- Dried Thyme ½ teaspoon
Chiles & Fresh Peppers
- Jalapeno Pepper 1
- Serrano Pepper 1
- Dried Ancho Chile 1
- Guajillo Pepper (Dried) 1
- Thai Chiles (Cut in half lengthwise. No seed or rib) 3
- Habanero Pepper (Cut in half lengthwise. No seed or rib) ½
- Red Bell Pepper 1
Making The Sauce
- Prepare the MushroomsRinse/wash the mushroom off under cold water. Do this quickly as mushrooms will absorb some water. Using a spoon, clean off the spores from underneath the mushrooms. If not, you'll impart a more earthly flavor profile most will not enjoy. Almost dirty flavor. Remove the spores.Next, chop the mushrooms into small sizes. We will be sauteing. Cut the mushrooms the same size for even cooking and appearance. No big chunks.Option: If preparing the vegetarian version, some large chunks would be a nice touch for additional texture. Be sure to double the number of mushrooms to use that amounts to what you like. I would suggest mixing in a few different types of mushrooms. Idea: Try using some dried mushrooms. Place them into warm water to soften. Be sure to add some of the liquid to add big flavor. I would suggest tasting the dried mushroom liquid before adding it to make sure you think it will work with the recipe.
- Cooking The MushroomsAdd butter to a large skillet over medium heat, then add the mushrooms. But only add half of them at this point. Add a small pinch of salt and dried thyme at this time.Cook until they have shrunk in size and caramelized, then add the second half and cook them alongside the cooked mushrooms. This ensures the mushrooms get caramelized for maximum flavor. Otherwise, there would be too much mushroom in the skillet and likey just steam.
Preparing The Vegetables
- Set up your food processor close to a cutting board.Chop the onion, carrot, celery, jalapeno, serrano, guajillo, habanero, Thai chile, ancho, and bell pepper, into a size that helps the food processor do its job. Do not add large chunks to a food processor or risk uneven blending.I used half of each pepper, and it turned out great,t but not very hot. If you watch the video, you can see how to cut the peppers, i.e., how much is used exactly.Add each ingredient one at a time to the food processor until everything is smooth/purred.Next, add the "base" to the cooked mushrooms and start reducing the liquid. We want to cook off some of the liquid and tighten the sauce up a bit.
- Simmering Every Ingredient TogetherNow add in the ground beef. Add salt and pepper and cook the meat through.Next, add a few tablespoon of tomato paste and stir it in. Then add in the red wine and cook off the alcohol.Lastly, I like to add something fresh. I like adding a whole tomato from the can. The canned tomatoes will be soft and have the right texture to add quickly.Next, add a few tablespoon of tomato paste and stir it in. Then add in the red wine and cook off the alcohol.Lastly, I like to add something fresh. I like adding a whole tomato from the can. The canned tomatoes will be soft and have the right texture to add easily.After a few minutes and the red wine has cooked into the bolognese sauce TSA: Taste - Season - AdjustDoes it need more tomato paste? Salt? Does the color look good? Add in more tomato paste for a deeper color.
- Finishing The SauceCook until the flavor has come together. About 15 minutes on low. Longer if you like, up to 4 hours. Thirty minutes to an hour is plenty of time to develop the flavor.Adding a cream element is still within the classic bolognese sauce technique. Use heavy cream or half-&-half.Topping the sauce with a fresh herb like parsley helps round out the over-heaviness of the meat sauce.