A Meaty Bolognese Sauce Made for Busy Weeknights.
We love day of long, slow cooking as much as the next person, but (sadly) every day cannot be Sunday. Classic Bolognese sauce recipes call for lengthy simmer times—we’ve read recipes that call for up to six hours of cooking—but our Bolognese recipe is all about speed. This easy Bolognese sauce comes together in just 30 minutes, because we’ve got to get dinner on the table on Tuesday nights, too. This is a stick-to-your-ribs sauce—hearty and filling, it’s a one-bowl supper that everyone will love.
Pssst—What Is Bolognese?
You hear the word “Bolognese” and you probably think of a tomato-y, meaty pasta sauce, right? And that’s spot on! The word “Bolognese” just means “in the style of Bologna”, and refers to a meaty pasta sauce that originated in the Italian city of Bologna, which is the capital of Emilia-Romagna. When we shared our recipe for Instant Pot Ragu, we dove into this question of decoding the wild world of classic Italian pasta sauces, and what the heck the difference is between Bolognese, sugo and ragu. The main takeaway is that “ragu” is a broad term that means a meat-based sauce typically served over pasta, and “Bolognese” is a more specific term, meaning a type of ragu that is identified with the city of Bologna. Are you confused yet?
Actually, confusion is good! It means you’re on the right track. Beyond the general agreement that Bolognese is a tomato-y meat sauce, there isn’t a lot of agreement about exactly what a true Bolognese must be made of. Many recipes, like Marcella Hazan’s famously beloved Bolognese (and our recipe, too!), call for the inclusion of dairy—like milk or cream. Others insist on adding wine, though there is still argument about whether that wine should be red or white. We’ve opted to keep things as simple as possible. Is this Bolognese authentic? Since it’s hard to say what exactly an “authentic Bolognese” would even be, we can at least assert that our recipe is no more or less authentic than one elses! And, we can say with 100% authority that our easy Bolognese recipe is just as delicious as the best of the rest.
Store-Bought is Fine
Like the Barefoot Contessa herself constantly quips, store-bought is fine. Like, for example, on a busy weeknight, when using a store-bought marinara sauce takes your Bolognese cook time from three hours to thirty minutes. That’s our kind of recipe hack, and we’re betting it’s yours, too. Our Bolognese ingredients list is super straightforward—here’s what you’ll need:
- Olive oil
- Heavy cream
- Ground beef & ground pork
- Store-bought marinara sauce. Take note! We’re calling for marinara, not just tomato sauce.
- Pasta noodles of choice! Spaghetti Bolognese is the favorite in the U.K., where it’s affectionately referred to as “spag bol”, but we prefer wide noodles like pappardelle or tagliatelle.
Why Our Easy Bolognese Recipe Works
How can you possibly make a delicious Bolognese in just 30 minutes? The key is to build big flavors out of a few super-powerful ingredients. Here are four reasons why this recipe works so well:
- Ground beef AND ground pork. Look for ground beef that’s 20% fat—often referred to as “80/20”—and use a high-quality ground pork, too. Adding ground pork to the meaty mix lends a ton of flavor.
- Fresh onions, carrots and celery. It’s easy to take these base ingredients for granted, but they’re sweet, deeply flavorful powerhouses! Celery is super savory, onion is sharp and carrots add just enough sweetness—they’ll build a bright, lightly sweet base for your sauce that’ll really dress up that store-bought sauce.
- Cream! As we mentioned above, one of the things that defines Bolognese sauce is the inclusion of dairy, like milk, butter, or in our case a healthy pour of heavy cream. It enriches the sauce and makes it incredibly luscious, silky and satisfying.
- Freshly-grated Parmesan cheese. A snowy dusting of real-deal Parmigiano-Reggiano over a big bowl of spaghetti Bolognese really perks up this quick sauce recipe. It’s not a must, but it’s worth the splurge.
How to Make Bolognese Sauce
Six simple steps, and one of them is “eat!”. Weeknight Bolognese, here we come!
- Sauté the carrots, celery and onion.
- Stir in the pork and beef.
- Pour in your jar of marinara sauce.
- Simmer! Over the course of just 30 minutes, the sauce will thicken and cook down, and your whole kitchen will smell incredibly good.
- When the sauce has reached your desired thickness, stir in the heavy cream.
- Boil some water for pasta during the last 30 minutes of that simmer, so that you've got perfectly al dente pasta ready to go when the Bolognese is done.
Classic Italian Pasta Sauce Recipes
What else do you need?
We hope you love this quick and easy Bolognese sauce recipe as much as we do. If you make it, let us know how it went over in your home! Snap a photo of your big bowl of pasta, and maybe even a video of the beautiful people you share it with. Tag us on Instagram using @themodernproperand #themodernproper. Happy eating!