Recipe Monday: Bolognese Sauce

Meat sauce in iron pan.

My husband and I just returned from a trip to Europe where we were celebrating 30 years of connubial bliss. I ate my way through Italy, indulging on pasta and bread.  And I loved every morsel. (Side note: I did not gain a pound because I’m a faithful intermittent faster. Oh, and we walked eight miles a day).

But when you go to Italy to order a red sauce on pasta, if it has meat, it typically is a Bolognese sauce.  It differs from what we see in the U.S. It’s a meat sauce of mainly meat, not sauce, and it has milk in it. It is so flavorful! It’s perfect comfort food for our cold snap. And if you’re a grain-free eater, try it over zoodles, the zuchinii noodles. Either way, it’s hearty and delicious.

This recipe is from the cookbook The Essentials of Classic Italian Cuisine, which I read 25 years ago.  I fell in love with Marcella Hazan with her description of Italian cuisine.  She passed away in 2013.

Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese Sauce


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter plus 1 tablespoon for tossing pasta
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2/3 cup chopped celery
  • 2/3 cup chopped carrot
  • 3/4 pound ground beef chuck
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds pasta
  • freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese at the table


  1. Put the oil, butter and onion in the pot and turn the heat on to medium.  Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent, then add the chopped celery and carrot.  Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring the vegetables to coat them well.
  2. Add ground beef, a large pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper.  Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well and cook until the beef has lost its raw, red color.
  3. Add milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely.  Add a tiny grating – about 1/8 teaspoon – of nutmeg and stir.
  4. Add the wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well.  When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface.  Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat.  To keep it from sticking, add 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary. At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.
  5. Toss with cooked, drained pasta, adding the remaining tablespoon of butter and serve with freshly grated parmesan on the side.

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