Easy Bolognese Sauce

This easy bolognese sauce comes together in less than an hour and tastes like it’s been simmering away all day. It’s absolutely perfect for a warm and hearty weeknight meal alongside garlic bread and a salad. I guarantee even your Italian grandma will love it!

A bowl of pasta with bolognese sauce and fresh basil leaves.

A few months ago, I saw Ina Garten post her weeknight bolognese recipe on Instagram and immediately saved the post so I could return to it at another time; it sounded delicious! Not long after, I mentioned it on Friday Things and so many of you said that you had made it and it was amazing, so I made a mental note to put it on the rotation for a future Sunday dinner.

Truth be told, it’s insanely difficult to impress a bunch of Italian folks with a new red sauce recipe. It always get the side eye. My grandma made the same sauce every single Sunday. My father-in-law has made the same meat sauce forever (a huge family and reader favorite!); you just generally do not do new.

But! I desperately wanted to try this recipe, so I threw it on the menu and crossed my fingers.

The result? Everyone RAVED about this bolognese; literally, every single person. My sister came over later, was eating leftovers and asked, “who made the sauce today?” I said that I did, that it was a new recipe, and she asked how I did it. I proceeded to tell her what was in it and how quickly it came together; she was STUNNED. She said it tasted like it had been simmering on the stove all day.

So basically, this recipe is total bolognese perfection.

A pan of bolognese sauce with cream and fresh basil added.

How to Make Bolognese Sauce

I kept the bulk of this recipe the same as Ina’s original, but did make a couple of changes. First, I substituted Italian sausage for half of the beef; I like making this sub in my regular meat sauce if I’m going to use it for lasagna – it really adds a significant bump of flavor.

The original recipe called for adding in more wine towards the end of cooking, but 1) a lot of the reviews said the wine flavor was overpowering; and 2) I was concerned that adding it so late in the cooking process wouldn’t let the alcohol cook off enough for the kids to eat it, and and they LOVE their red sauce ;-)

So that being said, this is what we use to make bolognese sauce:

  • Ground beef + ground Italian sausage = so much flavor!
  • Garlic + oregano = classic Italian aroma.
  • Crushed red pepper flakes – just a bit to balance all of the flavors; this is NOT a spicy dish.
  • Red wine – makes the sauce taste unbelievably rich.
  • Crushed tomatoes + tomato paste – this combo is what helps to give this sauce its “simmered all day” vibe. Crushed tomatoes have a fresher flavor than tomato puree or sauce, and the paste allows it to thicken quickly.
  • Ground nutmeg – Surprising, right?! It amps up the meat flavor and pulls a little sweetness out the tomatoes.
  • Fresh basil leaves – an amazing pop of fresh-from-the-garden flavor.
  • Heavy cream + Parmesan cheese – Just a bit of cream, but paired with the grated cheese, these two give the sauce a fantastic flavor and texture.

A pan of bolognese sauce with grated Parmesan cheese added.

Now, you may be wondering:

What’s the difference between bolognese sauce and spaghetti sauce?

You may think that bolognese is simply meat sauce, while marinara or “spaghetti sauce” is meatless, but it’s a little bit more than that.

Spaghetti sauce (i.e. marinara sauce) can be made from tomatoes and olive oil, maybe garlic and aromatics.

Bolognese, on the other hand, has a high protein to tomato ratio, along with other ingredients (such as wine and milk or cream) that give it a very hearty and full-bodied flavor.

Orecchiette pasta mixed into a pan of bolognese sauce.

Bolognese Sauce Recipe Notes

A few quick tips and notes to help you make the best bolognese sauce ever!

  • You can omit the sausage and use all ground beef. To keep the sauce from being too greasy, I recommend using a lean ground beef, somewhere in the 90% to 93% range.
  • I like either sweet or mild Italian sausage in this recipe.
  • A dry red wine works well in this recipe, i.e. cabernet sauvignon, merlot or pinot noir. If you prefer to not cook with wine, add a splash of water or chicken broth to deglaze the pan and scrape up the browned bits, then proceed with the recipe.
  • You can use any small pasta in place of the orecchiette; small shells work well, too!
  • Romano cheese can be used instead of the Parmesan cheese.
  • This recipe doubles well if you’re cooking for a large crowd.
  • Freezer-Friendly: Cook the sauce and cool completely, then transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up 4 months.

A small dish of pasta with bolognese sauce.

I seriously cannot recommend this bolognese sauce enough; it is truly outstanding and I just adore how quickly you can get it on the table. You’ll be amazed at how so much flavor can be packed into a sauce in so little time.

I hope you give it a try and love it as much as my family did!

If You Like This Bolognese Sauce, Try These Recipes:

An overhead photo of a serving dish with pasta and bolognese sauce.

Two years ago: Chocolate Cream Pie
Three years ago: No Bake Mint Chocolate Chip Pie
Six years ago: Grasshopper Pie
Seven years ago: Guinness Chocolate Cake with Baileys Irish Cream Frosting

Easy Bolognese Sauce

Servings 6 servings
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 30 minutes
Total 45 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Michelle

This easy bolognese sauce comes together in less than an hour and tastes like it's been simmering away all day. Even your Italian grandma will love it!

Ingredients:

  • 2
    tablespoons
    olive oil
  • 8
    ounces
    lean ground beef
  • 8
    ounces
    ground Italian sausage
  • 4
    cloves
    garlic
    (minced)
  • 1
    tablespoon
    dried oregano
  • ¼
    teaspoon
    crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1
    cup
    red wine
  • 28
    ounces
    crushed tomatoes
  • 2
    tablespoons
    tomato paste
  • 1
    tablespoon
    kosher salt
  • teaspoons
    freshly ground black pepper
  • 1
    pound
    orecchiette pasta
  • ¼
    teaspoon
    ground nutmeg
  • ¼
    cup
    chopped fresh basil leaves
  • ¼
    cup
    heavy cream
  • ½
    cup
    grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and ground sausage and cook, crumbling the meat as it cooks, for 5 to 7 minutes, until cooked through and no longer pink. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute.
  2. Pour the wine into the skillet, stir to scrape up any browned bits, and cook until reduced by half. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, and pepper, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to maintain a slow simmer, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.
  4. While the pasta cooks, finish the sauce. Add the nutmeg, basil, and cream to the sauce and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. When the pasta is cooked, drain and toss with the sauce. Add the grated Parmesan cheese and toss well. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

Recipe Notes:

  • You can omit the sausage and use all ground beef. To keep the sauce from being too greasy, I recommend using a lean ground beef, somewhere in the 90% to 93% range.
  • I like either sweet or mild Italian sausage in this recipe.
  • A dry red wine works well in this recipe, i.e. cabernet sauvignon, merlot or pinot noir. If you prefer to not cook with wine, add a splash of water or chicken broth to deglaze the pan and scrape up the browned bits, then proceed with the recipe.
  • You can use any small pasta in place of the orecchiette; small shells work well, too!
  • Romano cheese can be used instead of the Parmesan cheese.
  • This recipe doubles well if you’re cooking for a large crowd.
  • Freezer-Friendly: Cook the sauce and cool completely, then transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up 4 months.

Nutrition:

Calories: 662kcal
Fat: 26g
Saturated fat: 9g
Cholesterol: 73mg
Sodium: 1820mg
Potassium: 930mg
Carbohydrates: 70g
Fiber: 5g
Sugar: 8g
Protein: 29g
Vitamin A: 675%
Vitamin C: 14.9%
Calcium: 196%
Iron: 4.9%

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!

(Recipe adapted from Ina Garten)

[photos by Ari of Well Seasoned]