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Let's make some bolognese! Image of pasta topped with bolognese sauce

Homemade Bolognese Recipe: The Versatile Sauce You’ll Love

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If you’re looking for a hearty, comforting meal that can be dressed up or down, my homemade bolognese sauce recipe is just what you need. This classic Italian sauce is perfect for a cozy date night at home, and it’s even better the next day as leftovers. You can use it in various ways, from lasagna to shepherd’s pie, and it freezes beautifully for future meals. I make a batch of this sauce, freeze it and it provides meal options for months.

Mastering Mise en Place for Flavorful Results

Homemade Bolognese sauce recipe - mise en place
Mise en place for cooking bolognese. Cans, jars and packages opened, salt and seasonings at the ready.

Making homemade bolognese sauce does require time but trust me—it’s worth it. Most of the time required is hands off. With a little prep work and time to let it simmer, the sauce makes itself! I like to start most of our ground meat meals with mirepoix, a combination of onions, carrots, and celery that provides a flavorful base for the sauce. Before you start cooking, you have all your ingredients prepped and ready for the bolognese recipe. This is known as “mise en place,” a French term meaning “putting in place.” Having everything on-hand before you start cooking will make the process much smoother.

Homemade Bolognese sauce recipe - mirepoix chopped
Mirepoix for Bolognese Sauce Recipe – carrots, celery and onions diced

Once your mise en place is ready, it’s time to start cooking. Begin by adding your mirepoix to the pot with some salt and sauté until it’s soft and fragrant. This will take about 10 minutes.

Homemade Bolognese sauce recipe - Sautéing mirepoix
Sautéing mirepoix

Next, turn your heat to high, salt your ground meat, and add it to the pot. I recommend using a mix of beef, pork, and veal or turkey for the best flavor. If you cannot find ground veal or do not want to use it, ground turkey is the best substitute because of its light flavor. Once the meat is browned add minced garlic and cook for an additional minute.

Building Flavor with Umami-Rich Ingredients

Next is the seasoning stage. Add a large palmful of dried oregano and black pepper to season the meat. Then, add a bay leaf and freshly grated nutmeg to flavor the sauce.

Now it’s time to add our first level of umami to the sauce. Umami is a savory taste that adds depth and richness to your dish. The secrets to this great bolognese are the umami ingredients added that are allowed to simmer and infuse into the sauce. We like to use Red Boat Thai fish sauce and dried/dehydrated porcini mushrooms for their umami-rich flavor as well as tomato paste. Add your porcini mushrooms to a small bowl and let reconstitute for about five minutes. In the meantime, add tomato paste to the meat and mix together. Check out how to best get tomato paste out of the can from one of our ‘Kitchen Tips’ posts.

Bolognese sauce recipe - adding tomato paste
Tomato paste being added to sautéing meat

The Art of Simmering: Tender and Flavorful Sauce

Once your paste is incorporated, add white wine to deglaze the pan and remove any brown bits from the bottom. Next add milk to tenderize the meat. The milk will add a small layer of creaminess to the dish but it is not that noticeable. Add your canned and jarred tomatoes and bring the sauce to a simmer. I think that San Marzano tomatoes are worth using, and we like to use a large can of whole tomatoes and add them in by crushing them with our hands. This is a fun task to get kids involved with if they like sensory experiences! I also use a large jar of tomato purée/passata as a base for the sauce. Tip: rinse the cans and jars with water and throw the water back into the pot to get the most of the tomato sauce.

Dried porcini mushroom
Dehydrated porcini is utilized for extra umami/flavor
Dried Porcini mushroom rehydrating in water
Dehydrated porcini rehydrating in water

Now let’s finalize the sauce by adding the last of the umami ingredients. Add the fish sauce and reconstituted chopped porcini mushrooms to the pot and cook for a few minutes. Stir the sauce occasionally so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. After two hours, start checking the sauce more frequently. The longer you let the sauce simmer, the more flavorful and tender the sauce will become. Around the third hour, the sauce should be reduced by half and ready to go. The sauce can even simmer for up to four hours. Don’t forget to stir often so the sauce does not burn on the bottom of the pan.

Bolognese sauce starting to simmer
Bolognese sauce starting to simmer
Bolognese halfway through cooking, sauce reducing
Bolognese halfway through cooking, sauce reducing
Final cooking of bolognese sauce. Sauce is reduced by almost half.
Final cooking of bolognese sauce. Sauce is reduced by almost half.

Beyond Pasta: Creative Ways to Use Our Homemade Bolognese Sauce Recipe

When your bolognese is complete, you can serve it over your favorite pasta or polenta and use it as a base for other dishes. Some ideas for other dishes utilizing your homemade bolognese sauce could be:

  1. Lasagna: Layer your Bolognese sauce between lasagna sheets, creamy béchamel, and gooey cheese for a hearty and crowd-pleasing lasagna. Top it off with more cheese and bake to perfection.
  2. Baked Ziti: Create a comforting Baked Ziti by adding your Bolognese sauce to some par-cooked penne noodles, a little more tomato sauce, mozzarella, and ricotta, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake it until the dish is bubbling and golden brown and serve with a side of green salad.
  3. Bolognese Sandwich: Pile Bolognese sauce onto crusty bread and top with cheese for a gourmet Bolognese sandwich. Perfect for a quick and delicious lunch.

Freezing and Storing Bolognese for Future Meals

This homemade bolognese sauce recipe is also great for freezing in individual portions for easy weeknight meals. My favorite way is to freeze multiple two portions in quart-size bags flat on a cookie tray. We frequently use the frozen leftovers as a treat for grown-ups to eat on Friday nights after a long week and the kids are in bed. And occasionally we will make a lasagna out of the freezer bag contents of the sauce as well.

Homemade Bolognese Sauce Recipe: A Comforting Culinary Treasure

Homemade bolognese sauce is a versatile and delicious addition to any home cook’s repertoire. With some prep work and time, you can make a pot of gold that will keep you satisfied for days if not months. So the next time you’re looking for a comforting meal, give bolognese a try—you won’t be disappointed!

homemade Bolognese sauce recipe being served on top of spaghetti pasta

Bolognese Sauce

Get ready to elevate your weeknight dinner game with this rich and flavorful bolognese sauce. Made with a classic mirepoix base, ground beef and pork, and savory umami-boosting ingredients like Thai fish sauce and porcini mushrooms, this sauce is perfect for serving over pasta or using in other dishes. Plus, with a little prep work and simmer time, this recipe yields enough leftovers to enjoy throughout the week. Perfect for a cozy date night in or a family meal that everyone will love.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: batch cooking, freezer meal, pasta
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 16 servings
Calories: 350kcal
Author: juiceofsevenlemons
Cost: $35

Ingredients

Mirepoux

  • 1 tbsp oil high heat olive oil or safflower oil
  • 3/4 cup diced onion 1/2-1 small onion
  • 3/4 cup diced carrots 1-2 large
  • 3/4 cup celery ribs 1-2 ribs
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper

Meat

  • 1 lb ground beef lean to medium fat content (i.e. <20% fat preferred)
  • 1 lb ground veal substitute dark meat (>=7% fat) ground turkey
  • 1 lb ground pork 20% fat
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic clove about 4 large cloves
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano Greek preferred
  • 1 bay leaf

Create sauce

Season sauce

Instructions

Sauté mirepoux

  • In a large 7+ quart Dutch oven or sauce pan, add oil and the mirepoix ingredients (onion, carrots celery)
  • Add salt to season and sauté for 8-10 minutes
  • Add a few pinches pepper and push ingredients to edges of pan to prepare to brown the meat

Brown meat

  • Turn the heat to high
  • Add about 1/3 tbsp salt to the ground beef and add to the pot
  • Let the beef sit for a minute or two to brown and then start breaking apart
  • Add another ~1/3 tbsp salt to the ground veal/turkey and add it to the pan with the beef, breaking apart as you stir
  • Add ~1/3 tbsp salt to the ground pork and add to the rest of the meat on the stove
  • Stir until the meat is halfway cooked

Season meat

  • Turn the heat down to medium-low
  • Grate nutmeg into the meat
  • Add oregano to the pan
  • Add pepper
  • Add bay leaf
  • Stir spices into meat

Create sauce

  • Stir in the tomato paste
  • Add white wine and use it to clean the pan of any brown bits if needed
  • Add milk to tenderize the mat
  • Using your hands, crush each whole San Marzano tomato from the can into the pan
  • Add the liquid from the San Marzano can into the pan
  • Add roughly 1/4 cup water to the San Marzano can, swish around and add that liquid to the pan as well
  • Pour the purée/passata into the pan
  • Add roughly 1/4 cup water to the purée jar, swish around and add that liquid to the pan as well

Season sauce

  • Add the fish sauce and stir
  • Add the porcinis with their liquid
  • Add more pepper
  • Stir the sauce and give it an initial taste test (because of the fish sauce and not cooked tomatoes, it may be a bit bitter and funky — this is ok!)
  • If the sauce tastes watery — add more salt (beware that the sauce will cook down further and the salt will intensify over time, so less is better at this point)

Simmer sauce

  • When the sauce starts to bubble, turn the heat to low and let simmer for two and a half hours, stirring occasionally to keep the bottom from burning
  • Check the sauce consistency after 2 1/2 hours and do a taste test; you are looking for a very meaty, not very saucey sauce; if needed add more seasoned liquid (tomato juice, salted water etc)
  • Let the sauce simmer for another hour and then be prepared to remove from heat and let cool
  • Season with salt and pepper if needed after tasting

Serve

  • Spoon into pasta and mix or serve on top of polenta
  • Add a nice finishing olive oil
  • Top with Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano

Notes

  • The sauce tastes even better the following day.
  • This recipe makes a large amount of sauce. Here are a few ideas of what to do with so much sauce:
    • Entertain some friends/family
    • Use leftovers to create a lasagna/baked pasta
    • Freeze part of it to enjoy later

Nutrition

Serving: 240g | Calories: 350kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 70mg | Sodium: 500mg | Potassium: 700mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 400IU

3 thoughts on “Homemade Bolognese Recipe: The Versatile Sauce You’ll Love”

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