This easy and authentic Bolognese will make you feel like an Italian master
I recently visited Italy with my husband, and we spent a few days enjoying the region around Bologna. We sampled the cheese and ham in Parma and the balsamic vinegar in Modena, and really loved eating authentic bolognese sauce in Bologna. Across Venice, Naples, Rome, and Bologna, I think Bologna had above and beyond the best pasta. That awesome pasta came with a bolognese sauce that I’ve recreated for you here.
My easy and authentic bolognese sauce might look like a familiar plate of spaghetti noodles and sauce, but the flavor and texture is substantially different than a can of your supermarket ragu. The recipe itself is incredibly simple, and at a glance you might think the sauce is under-seasoned. However, rest assured that this sauce packs a wonderful flavor, and you’ll be going back for seconds.
How is bolognese different from regular spaghetti ragu sauce?
The biggest difference between an american ragu spaghetti sauce and this easy and authentic bolognese sauce is that bolognese sauce starts from a sofrito, while ragu starts with tomatoes first. In general, sofrito is a basic preparation of finely diced vegetables cooked in oil. The type of vegetables and herbs used can change depending on purpose. For specifically bolognese sauce, we use a sofrito made from carrot, celery, and onion. The sofrito forms the base of the sauce, which provides a lot of the texture and flavor.
The second biggest element of bolognese is the meat. We slowly simmer ground beef with the sofrito so that the meat’s fats can blend with and accentuate the flavor of the vegetables. Some places might stop here and call the dish bolognese sauce.
Lastly, we add tomatoes to create a more saucy meal with a more expected look and taste.
When you make a ragu, you’ll typically start with a large quantity of tomatoes and add spices, meats, and vegetables to it. Bolognese by contrast will feel more like a blend of vegetables and meat, where tomato is just one of many elements in play.
What to serve with easy and authentic bolognese?
I’ll be the first to clarify that how I served this authentic sauce would not be considered authentic in Bologna. Rather than spaghetti noodles, Italians would first grab a flat noodle like tagliatelle. They also probably wouldn’t serve it with a big heap of parmesan on top. What I want to stress though, is that the sauce is authentic, and you should feel comfortable serving it however your family likes.
For a wine pairing, I recommend a full bodied red wine, something like a merlot. This will pair well with a beef based bolognese.
What else can you do with bolognese sauce?
You should try to use bolognese sauce in other pasta meals. I mentioned that spaghetti noodles aren’t truly authentic to pair with bolognese sauce. I don’t have any problem with this though, I found the restaurants of bologna were serving bolognese sauce in a number of interesting ways.
My favorite meal in Bologna was actually a bolognese based lasagna. It was rich and hearty, and delicious with all the melted cheese.
You should also feel free to serve it over tortellini and ravioli. In my opinion, I’m happy to use bolognese sauce wherever I was already using ragu. In fact, you should try substituting bolognese into my ziti recipe or my chicken parmesan recipe.
Tips for easy and authentic bolognese
- Feel free to play with the vegetables and herbs. You should try to keep carrot, celery, and onion involved to keep the sauce grounded in authenticity. But you shouldn’t shy away from adding basil, oregano, fresh peppers, etc.
- Finely dice your vegetables. This will allow them to cook more thoroughly, and create a better sauce consistency at the end of cooking. I’ve had some bolognese sauce outside of Italy that was just terrible because of how the vegetables were prepared. No one wants to sit down to a bolognese pasta and have giant chunks of carrot only partially cooked through.
- Use 80/20 ground beef. This leaner ground beef will provide the right level of fat in your sofrito. Using 70/30 ground beef creates just a little too much excess fat.
- Experiment with your meat choices. If you have time to simmer the meal for a few hours, try adding a bit of pork fat to simmer. You can also substitute ground beef for ground Italian sausage. If you plan to use ground turkey, consider adding a bit of bacon too to increase the fat content.
How to make easy and authentic bolognese sauce
Easy and Authentic Bolognese
- 1 Food processor (or be really handy with a knife)
- 1 Frying Pan Fairly large and deep to hold the sauce
- 1 lb 80/20 ground beef
- 1 large carrot
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 medium onion
- 32 oz whole peeled tomatoes you can get by with less if doing fewer servings
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Start by browning your ground beef in a pan on medium high heat. Then removed the browned beef from the pan.
- Finely dice a carrot, celery stalk, and medium onion. I used a food processor for this. Mix them together into your sofrito.
- Add some olive oil to the pan, then add your sofrito to the pan and fry for 3-4 minutes, stirring once in the middle.
- Add the minced garlic, salt, and pepper, then cook for 2 more minutes.
- Add the ground beef back to the pan and add the jar of tomatoes. Simmer for 10-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- When the sauce is as thick as desired, add in a quarter cup of parmesan cheese and stir well.Serve over noodles, with a nice glass of wine and some bread. Enjoy 🙂