White bowl with pasta topped with Bolognese sauce and freshly grated cheese

How to Make Ragù alla Bolognese

How to make a delicious Bolognese sauce from scratch

Bolognese is my favorite meat sauce to make, and I’ve been making it for years from scratch. I’ve always found it to be much more flavorful with a meatloaf mix of ground beef, lamb, and pork. A dry red wine provides a bold flavor to the sauce.

After my travels in Italy and experiencing farm-to-table food, I became interested in learning more about Italian cuisine and becoming more in touch with my Italian roots. I’m part Italian, with my father’s family originating from Carrara, a small town known for marble, and located in northern Tuscany. (In relation to Florence, it’s northwest of Florence, close to the coast.)

A Brief History of Bolognese Sauce, ragù alla bolognese

Bolognese is a meat-based sauce, traditionally made in Bologna, Italy and typically served with tagliatelle pasta. The recipe first appeared in Pellegrino Artusi cookbook, “La Scienza in Cucina e L’arte di Mangier Bene” (Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well) first published in 1891. The recipe called for a veal filet along with pancetta. Pancetta literally means from the belly of the pig.

Diced onions and carrots in a dutch oven with a wooden spoon
Minced onions, carrots, and celery

What type of wine to cook with

Cooking with wine provides a delicious flavor to dishes. Be careful not to use too much wine. Too much wine can give the dish too much of a wine flavor. Allow the alcohol to cook off. This recipe calls for a dry red wine. In the past, I’ve tried cooking it with white wine. There are different variations of Bolognese sauce that call for white wine. In comparison, I’ve found that white wine have a rich flavor like red wine does.

The best wine I’ve cooked with for this recipe is Chianti. If you don’t have Chianti, any dry, red wine will do well.

Topped with Cheese

What type of cheese that’s used really matters in this dish. We’ve always used freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano. The origins of its name come from the area in which it is produced – the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna to the left of the river Reno, and Mantua to the right of the river Po. The word Parmigiano comes from the adjective for Parma, and Reggiano refers to Reggio Emilia.

One of the approved ingredients is raw cow milk, which is special because of its unique and intense bacterial activity. The cows’ feed consists of local forage, grass, and hay. There are even strict specifications on what the cows can be fed. They cannot be fed any silage or fermented foods, which are banned from being fed to them. There are particular breeds of cows that the producers must use. All of these measures are to ensure the best quality of cheese.

Pecorino Romano is a good substitute because of its similar taste to Parmigiano Reggiano. It is made from sheep’s milk instead of cow’s milk. In my opinion it is a harder cheese and saltier. Pecorino Romano uses raw sheep’s milk.

One package of ground pork and one package of ground beef on a cutting board
Packages of Ground Beef and Pork

Ragù alla Bolognese

How to make Bolognese sauce from scratch

  • Dutch oven
  • knife
  • cutting board
  • wooden spoon
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground lamb ((optional))
  • extra virgin olive oil (enough to coat bottom of dutch oven)
  • 2 oz pancetta ((minced, optional))
  • 1 large onion (minced)
  • 2 carrots (minced)
  • 2 s celery (minced)
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • beef or chicken broth (optional)
  • salt (to taste)
  • Parmigiano Reggiano
  1. Starting with medium heat on the stove, drizzle oil in the bottom of the Dutch oven, using enough to coat the bottom. If you are using pancetta, mince it and mince the vegetables. Add the pancetta and the vegetables into the Dutch oven and sauté.

  2. Once the onion is golden, add the ground meat and continue cooking until the meat has been browned.

  3. After the meat has been browned, stir in the wine and cook until it has evaporated.

  4. Once the alcohol has cooked off from the wine, add the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce. Depending on how thick you would like to make the sauce, ladle in broth for the consistency desired. Keep in mind that as the sauce cooks, it will thicken so more liquid may be required. Add seasoning to taste.

  5. Bring the sauce to a light boil and then reduce heat to low. The sauce should then simmer for at least 2 hours. The longer the sauce cooks simmer, the more flavorful it becomes.

  6. Serve over pasta and top with a generous amount of cheese.

Main Course
Bolognese, Homemade pasta sauce, Homemade Sauce, Ragu

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