Pasta/ Sauces and Dressings

Authentic Bolognese Sauce (Ragu alla Bolongese)

May 29, 2020 by Emily

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Authentic Bolognese Sauce or Ragu alla Bolognese is one of the most comforting and delicious things you’ll ever eat. A rich beef ragu made with pancetta, tomato and white wine and served with tagliatelle pasta. This traditional recipe is really simple to make at home with minimal prep work involved!

An overhead shot of tagliatelle with bolognese sauce in a bowl with a glass of wine beside it

Bolognese sauce is famous all over the world but most of the versions out there are far from a true authentic Bolognese sauce.

The thing is, the true recipe isn’t complicated at all and it’s super easy to make at home.

In fact, in October 1982 the official recipe was submitted to the Bologna Chamber of Commerce by Delegazione di Bologna dell’Accademia Italiana della Cucina.

The recipe stated that after extensive investigations they agreed that this is the true, authentic and traditional Ragu alla Bolognese recipe.

How amazing is it that we can all access the true recipe written down in black and white?

Of course, there are many variations even in Bologna from household to household but if you follow this exact recipe you’ll experience something a little special!

What you need to make it

The ingredients are very simple but there are a few key points that are important for making an incredible tasting sauce.

Ground beef: use high quality (organic grass-fed) beef if possible and you want a cut of ground beef that’s NOT super lean because a lot of flavour is in the fat.

Pancetta: preferably use a whole piece of pancetta and chop it finely with a knife or mezzaluna. Pancetta can be very salty so don’t season the sauce until the end and taste it before doing so (you might not need any).

Milk: milk is a key ingredient in an authentic Bolognese sauce because it helps to balance out the acidity in the tomatoes as well as giving it a rich and creamy flavour.

There’s also an optional addition to add cream if you are serving the sauce with dried pasta but it makes the ragu super-rich, I find milk to be the perfect balance.

An overhead shot of all the ingredients you need to make authentic Bolognese Sauce

How to make Bolognese Sauce – step by step

Finely chop the carrot, celery, onion and pancetta.

Heat the olive oil to a large pot and add the vegetables and pancetta, saute until the vegetables have softened but not browned (5-10 minutes) (photos 1 & 2).

Step by step photos showing how to make authentic Bolognese sauce from scratch

Next, add the beef and cook until browned then add the white wine and reduce by half (photos 3 & 4).

Add the strained tomatoes (passata) and stock and stir to combine. Cover the pot and simmer slowly for 2 hours (photos 5-7).

Step by step photos showing what bolognese sauce should look like at different stages
Two photos showing before and after reducing bolognese sauce

After 2 hours uncover and add the milk. Simmer the sauce uncovered for 1 hour. After cooking, taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed (photos 8-10).

To serve, add cooked tagliatelle pasta to the ragu and toss until thoroughly coated in the sauce, serve.

Equipment traditionally used

Terracotta Tegame or terracotta pot 

According to the traditional recipe, the bolognese sauce must be cooked in a terracotta pot. Terracotta is porous and absorbs flavours when cooking so you can imagine the depth of flavour that’s built up over time.

Cooking with terracotta can be a little tricky though and you have to fully research that your pot can withstand direct heat.

Although using a terracotta pot is traditional it’s not necessary for this recipe!

Wooden spoon

I’m pretty sure everyone has a wooden spoon in their kitchen and you’ll need it for this to stir the ragu from time to time.

Metal spoons penetrate too much heat, can chemically react with acidic foods and scratch the surface of pots and pans hence why a wooden spoon is preferred.

Mezzaluna

A mezzaluna is a half-moon shaped knife used to cut up herbs, vegetables or meat quickly and easily.

Again, this is mentioned as being a necessary piece of equipment probably because you can chop the vegetables and pancetta super fine with ease.

I love using a mezzaluna when cooking but if you just make sure to chop everything as finely as you can, you can get away with using a regular sharp knife.

A side shot of bolognese sauce and tagliatelle in a rustic bowl

How to serve it the authentic way

The traditional way to serve this is with tagliatelle or as Lasagne alla Bolognese which is lasagna made with Bolognese ragu, fresh spinach pasta sheets and bechamel sauce.

If you’re serving it with tagliatelle pasta top it with some freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve it with some crusty bread to mop up every last drop of sauce.

Pasta is served as a primo or first course in Italy so the portions are small. This recipe serves 4-6 main course sized portions so if you’d like to serve it as a first course it will serve around 8 people.

Top tips and recipe FAQs

  • Don’t rush it – Let the ragu simmer low and slow this is not a recipe you can speed up in any way and still achieve the same beautiful and authentic flavours.
  • Prep in advance – Like most sauces, this recipe tastes even better the next day so you can make it a day in advance and reheat it when you are ready to serve.
  • Homemade pasta – If you fancy going all out and making some fresh tagliatelle to serve with this then check out our homemade pasta recipe and guide.
  • Avoid variations – To experience a true Bolognese sauce don’t add any herbs (fresh or dried) or any other ingredients not stated in the recipe.
What’s the difference between ragu and Bolognese?

Ragu is an Italian name for a slowly cooked meat sauce and can contain different variations of meat, vegetables, wine and stock. Bolognese or Ragu alla Bolognese is the name of specific recipe (this recipe) that comes from the city of Bologna.

What the best pasta to use?

Traditionally the only pasta served with authentic Bolognese sauce is tagliatelle (fresh or dried). Alternatively you can use the sauce to make a delicious lasagne with bechamel sauce.

How do I store leftover Bolognese?

The sauce will taste even more delicious the next day but leftovers in the fridge for up to 4 days. You can also freeze any leftover sauce then thaw completely before reheating.

A close up of tagliatelli and bolognese sauce on a fork

More Italian sauces you might like

If you tried this Authentic Bolognese Sauce or any other recipes on my blog please be sure to leave me a comment below to let me know how you got on, I love hearing from you. You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, PINTEREST to see more delicious food and what I’m getting up to.

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5 from 1 vote

Authentic Bolognese Sauce

Authentic Bolognese Sauce is one of the most comforting and delicious things you'll ever eat. A rich beef ragu made with pancetta, tomato and white wine and served with tagliatelle pasta. This traditional recipe is really simple to make at home with minimal prep work involved!
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 10 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 657kcal
Author Emily Kemp

Ingredients

  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups ground beef (10.5 oz/300g)
  • 1 cup pancetta (5.2 oz/150g)
  • 1 medium carrot (50g)
  • 1 medium celery (50g)
  • 1 medium onion (50g)
  • ½ cup low sodium chicken stock (120ml)
  • ½ cup dry white wine (120ml)
  • 1 cup crushed strained tomatoes (passata) (300g)
  • 1 cup full fat milk (240ml)
  • 1 lb tagliatelle pasta (500g)

Instructions

  • Finely chop the carrot, celery, onion and pancetta.
  • Heat the olive oil to a large pot and add the vegetables and pancetta, saute until the vegetables have softened but not browned (5-10 minutes).
  • Next, add the beef and cook until browned then add the white wine and reduce by half.
  • Add the strained tomatoes (passata) and stock and stir to combine. Cover the pot and simmer slowly for 2 hours.
  • After 2 hours uncover and add the milk. Simmer the sauce uncovered for 1 hour. After cooking, taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
  • To serve, add cooked tagliatelle pasta to the ragu and toss until thoroughly coated in the sauce, serve.

Notes

  • Don’t rush it – Let the ragu simmer low and slow this is not a recipe you can speed up in any way and still achieve the same beautiful and authentic flavours.
  • Prep in advance – Like most sauces, this recipe tastes even better the next day so you can make it a day in advance and reheat it when you are ready to serve.
  • Make homemade pasta – If you fancy going all out and making some fresh tagliatelle to serve with this then check out our homemade pasta recipe and guide.
  • Avoid variations – To experience a true Bolognese sauce don’t add any herbs (fresh or dried) or any other ingredients not stated in the recipe.
  • Storage – Leftover sauce will keep well in the fridge for around 4 days or can be frozen in suitable containers. Thaw completely before reheating.

Nutrition

Calories: 657kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 50g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 125mg | Sodium: 541mg | Potassium: 937mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 3032IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 121mg | Iron: 4mg
Helpful Info for All Recipes
  • I always use extra virgin olive oil in all of my recipes unless stated otherwise
  • When I use canned or jarred tomatoes of any kind I always use this brand for the best results and flavour
  • All vegetables are medium sized unless stated otherwise
  • All recipes are tested and developed using a fan (convection) oven
  • Find out more about how nutrition is calculated here
  • Check out our must have Italian Pantry Staples here
  • You can also find all our Essential Kitchen Tools for Italian Cooking here
Did you try this recipe?Mention @insidetherustickitchen or tag #insidetherustickitchen! We’d love you see what you’re getting up to in the kitchen!

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Angela
    May 30, 2020 at 8:18 pm

    Oh this just looks SO comforting! I’m imagining making a great big batch, freezing portions, just for times when I need a speedy comfort food fix! Delish!5 stars

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