Bolognese is a homemade Italian sauce your family will love. This easy recipe doesn’t take long, but it will taste like it’s been simmering all day!
Ground beef and Italian sausage come together in this wonderfully rich and flavorful tomato sauce. This is one of my favorite recipes to make for dinner along with some Ratatouille, homemade pasta or cheese ravioli. YUM!
If I were to tell you that we had spaghetti and meat sauce once a week, I wouldn’t be lying.
If I were to tell you that half the reason I enjoy this recipe so much is because it is my favorite thing to pair with a nice red wine, I wouldn’t be lying either.
To me, a homemade Bolognese sauce is one of the tastiest things I make for dinner. More times than not, I’ll cheat and just use jarred marinara sauce that I pick up at the store. But on those days when I either run out or want a really good homemade spaghetti sauce, this is the recipe I use.
I make my sauce with the following ingredients, but you can tweak based on your preferences. This is a very forgiving recipe, so play around with it!
- Equal portions of ground beef and spicy Italian sausage. I try to cook with grass fed ground beef whenever possible and I like to get the spicy sausage in bulk from the meat counter.
- Red pepper flakes for a little kick and salt. Start low with the salt because you can always add more. The sausage you’re using might already be really salty.
- Extra virgin olive oil – invest in a good one.
- Onion, garlic, celery and carrot. I like all of my veggies to be diced or even grated for this sauce.
- Crushed tomatoes. I use canned unless I have ripe paste tomatoes from the garden.
- Fresh parsley and basil. I can never get enough basil.
How to make this simple and easy sauce:
- Using a super large skillet (cast iron is my favorite), you’re going to brown the meat with the red pepper flakes and salt over medium high heat. I use a wooden spoon to chop it up while it’s cooking so that it’s nice and crumbly. I also try not to stir it too often so that it has a chance to brown. You’ll then transfer it to a plate temporarily.
- Using the same pan with all that wonderful flavor, you’ll saute the onion first followed by the garlic, celery and carrot in the olive oil.
- You’ll add the meat back to the pan along with the remaining ingredients. Give it a good stir to combine and then continue to cook over medium low heat until the sauce thickens. This should only take about a half hour or so. Plenty of time for you to make the pasta, toss the salad, and enjoy your first glass of wine!
What is the difference between Bolognese sauce and spaghetti sauce?
To me, they’re one in the same. However… Is Bolognese spaghetti sauce? Yes. Is spaghetti sauce Bolognese? Not always.
Spaghetti sauce can be anything you put on spaghetti. Most popular would be marinara, which is usually a vegetarian tomato based sauce. But there are tons of variations.
Spaghetti Bolognase is a meat based Italian sauce served over spaghetti.
What should I serve with this recipe?
You can make your meal even healthier by swapping out the pasta for zoodles or spaghetti squash.
I almost always make a nice ceasar salad and garlic bread to serve with Bolognese too.
What does this sauce taste like?
At some point in your life, you must have ordered spaghetti with Bolognese at a restaurant. You may not have known how to properly pronounce it, but I’m guessing you’ve eaten it before.
This recipe really just tastes like a super flavorful thick tomato based marinara sauce with meat.
Some recipes only use ground beef or sausage, not both. I prefer to use both because it gives the best flavor.
Is Bolognese sauce supposed to be thick?
This is totally a matter of preference, and I like it to be on the thicker side. I will cook my sauce long enough to let enough of the moisture evaporate such that when I scrape the pan, the spoon leaves a trail.
If you like a thinner sauce, you can either cook the sauce with a lid on top or add more tomatoes.
If you like it really thick, just keep cooking the sauce with the lid off to let more moisture escape.
How do you store leftover Bolognese?
If you plan on eating your leftovers within the next few days, store this recipe in an air tight container in the refrigerator.
For longer term storage, you can either store in a plastic container or resealable plastic storage bag and freeze. Just be sure to allow the sauce to fully cool before you freeze it and to eliminate as much air as possible to avoid freezer burn.
How do you reheat leftover meat sauce?
Reheating this sauce is super easy.
If frozen, it’s best to allow it to thaw in the refrigerator before cooking. I usually don’t plan out my dinners that far ahead, so I’ve been known to throw the frozen sauce right in the pan and heat on low until it’s heated through.
I don’t often like to reheat leftover Bolognese (or anything with meat) in the microwave. You can, but I much prefer using a pot on the stove top.
If you’re worried about your sauce getting to thick, just cover it with a lid while you reheat it. You can always add store bought marinara sauce to your leftover Bolognese if you need more too.
How long is Bolognese sauce good for?
If refrigerated, I would try to eat within 3-5 days at the most. Trust your nose and don’t eat it if it smells off.
It will last for months in the freezer, especially if there is no air in your container.
- 1/2 pound ground beef
- 1/2 pound spicy Italian sausage easiest to buy in bulk (not links) from meat counter
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 stalk celery diced
- 1 carrot grated
- 28-ounce (one large can) crushed tomatoes canned
- 1/4 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley chopped
- 8 fresh basil leaves chopped
- In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook the ground beef, sausage, red pepper flakes, and salt until brown and crumbly. Transfer to a plate.
- In the same pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and saute until the onions become very soft, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, celery and carrot and saute for 5 minutes.
- Add cooked meat back to the pan and stir well to combine.
- Add the tomatoes, parsley and basil, cover, and cook over medium low heat until the sauce thickens, at least 30 minutes but longer is better. Serve Bolognese with pasta and freshly grated Pecorino Romano.
Love Italian dinner recipes?
Then you’ll have to make these favorites!
- Homemade Pasta
- Creamy Sun Dried Tomato Shrimp Pasta
- Ham and Pea Pasta Carbonara
- Cheesy Baked Rigatoni Pasta
- Dozen Veggie Pasta Primavera
- Cheesy Sausage Pasta Bake
- Homemade Alfredo Sauce
- Fettuccine Alfredo
- Classic Homemade Lasagna
- Butternut Squash Lasagna
- Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
- Baked Italian Meatballs
- Italian Wedding Soup
- Loaded Grilled Italian Sandwich
- Easy Italian Stromboli
- Four Cheese Ravioli
- Meat and Cheese Ravioli
- Homemade Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce