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Quick and Easy Bolognese Sauce

Quick and Easy Bolognese Sauce


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During the cooler months, and sometimes during the summer, I make a huge pot of classic slow-cooked Bolognese to satisfy my craving for a thick and meaty pasta dish—and to have enough left over to freeze for later.

I call it my ‘Patience of Job Bolognese’ because it simmers for at least three hours, and up to four, but I discovered an easier way.

I tinkered with my favorite recipe to see if I could cut back on time, and I am happy to say that the results are in, and they are good!

WHAT IS BOLOGNESE SAUCE?

As the name suggests, Bolognese sauce originated in Bologna, Italy. It is a thick meat sauce made with ground beef or a combination of ground meat such as pork, beef, and veal.

Typically, it starts with a soffritto (finely chopped carrots, celery, and onions) gently cooked in butter. Milk or cream, white wine, and a small amount of tomato enrich the sauce.

The ingredients are added in stages, with each ingredient taking time to cook before adding the next ingredient. When they are all in the pot, the sauce simmers for three to four hours to produce a finished product that is more meat than tomatoes, with a very rich and luscious texture.

Tips for A FASTER, EASIER BOLOGNESE SAUCE

As much as I love the traditional sauce and even enjoy the slow cooking, sometimes at the end of a busy day I want my pasta tonight! Here are two easy things I did to make a quicker bolognese sauce:

  • Pulse the vegetables in a food processor instead of chopping them by hand.
  • Cook the sauce in a wide skillet instead of a Dutch oven.

The wider surface area of the skillet allows the vegetables to cook faster and speeds up evaporation, allowing the remaining ingredients to reduce and concentrate their flavors in less time.

I was down to about 35 minutes from start to finish, and I still had a sauce that was delicious and satisfying.

Did I lose anything in this condensed cooking time?

Truth: just a smidgen. The long-simmered sauce has a lot of depth, while the shorter version is not quite as sweet and creamy. But frankly, it wasn’t a deal breaker. Unless you taste them side by side, you can hardly tell the difference.

Bolognese in 35 minutes? I’ll take it.

WHAT PASTA GOES BEST WITH BOLOGNESE?

While spaghetti is often a favorite choice (the British even call their dish ‘spag bol’), I love the long, flat ribbons of tagliatelle or fettucine. The meaty sauce is balanced perfectly with the texture of the wider noodles. You can use the sauce to make lasagna, too.

HOW LONG CAN YOU KEEP BOLOGNESE SAUCE?

Stored in an airtight container, the sauce will keep for three to four days in the refrigerator, and up to six months in the freezer. It’s still safe to eat after that, but loses some quality.

I recommend storing it in small-ish (two-cup) containers to give you more choices when reheating. To defrost, place the frozen sauce in a pot, cover, and bring to a boil on top of the stove over low heat.

LOOKING FOR MORE GREAT PASTA RECIPES?

  • Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Sauce
  • Pasta with Butternut Parmesan Sauce
  • Angel Hair Pasta with Quick Cherry Tomato Sauce
  • Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Creamy Herb Cashew Sauce
  • Shrimp Pasta alla Vodka

Updated September 26, 2019 : We revised and updated this recipe to make it even better and easier to make on a weeknight. Enjoy!


SIMPLE + QUICK BOLOGNESE SAUCE

I’m back this month with another simple and easy recipe I know you’ll love, it’s one of our favorites in our home. Last month, I shared my peanut butter chocolate chip cookies – an absolute must for your arsenal! Today, I’m sharing a simple and quick bolognese sauce that I know will become a favorite in your home too.

This recipe is adapted from Giada de Laurentis’ bolognese sauce from her Everyday Italian cookbook – it’s such a great cookbook, with so many simple and delicious meals.

I discovered this recipe when I bought her book years ago and I’ve tweaked it here and there to make it my own. I hope you love this quick bolognese sauce as much as we do!

Affiliate links are provided throughout this post – see my full disclosure policy here.

My friend Marty, from A Stroll Thru Life is hosting our recipe hop, you’ll find Marty’s recipe along with everyone else’s at the bottom of my post.

I’ve been cooking this dish for a long time and I often swap out certain ingredients based on what is in our fridge or pantry.

Never be afraid to improvise! I love to try new things and I don’t always have what a recipe calls for.

Grab some of the below tips – you’ll find them very useful!


  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup grated carrot
  • ¼ cup grated onion
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 8 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • ¼ cup dry red wine
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • ¾ teaspoon ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound fresh pasta, such as fettuccine
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
  • ½ cup grated Grana Padano cheese

Put a large pot of water on to boil.

Meanwhile, heat oil in another large pot over high heat. Add carrot and onion and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add beef and sausage and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon and reducing the heat if it starts to stick to the pan, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and garlic cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until it's mostly evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, pepper and salt. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

Cook pasta in the boiling water, stirring to prevent sticking, until al dente, 2 to 3 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the water. Drain the pasta.

Add the pasta, basil and parsley to the sauce. Add enough of the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce to your liking. Serve topped with cheese and more parsley, if desired.

To make ahead: Refrigerate sauce (Step 2) for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.


The Best Quick and Easy Bolognese Sauce

I mean what’s not to love? It’s a comfort food classic that slips down a treat whether you’re six or 66. You’re going to love my Quick and Easy Bolognese because not only is it made from scratch using good for you ingredients, you can also have it on the table in a matter of minutes.

And this Bolognese has a secret ingredient that makes the sauce even richer and more delicious than normal.

Ok. I know that smoked paprika is a million miles from a traditional Bolognese ingredient, but it really does take this sauce to another level. And as the sauce cooks the flavours blend. So you don’t actually notice the smokiness in the sauce. You just know you’re eating a really good Bolognese.

I love smoked sweet paprika. For me it’s one of those game changers that really earns its space in the cupboard. Its proper name is pimenton, so you may also find it sold as that. Just make sure you get the sweet variety as the term ‘sweet’ comes from the type of pepper that has been smoked. You can also get hot pimenton but I usually just have the sweet version in and add cayenne if I want to spice things up a bit.

So, how do you make this gorgeous sauce?

To start with you need to get the onion, garlic and oregano off to a start then you can add in the ground beef. Don’t worry if the onion isn’t totally translucent as it will finish frying along with the meat. Cook the meat, breaking it up as you go, until it has all browned off. Next, add in the remaining ingredients except the corn flour, and simmer gently for as little as ten minutes and as long as an hour – your choice. Longer simmering gives more tender meat but it rarely gets more than ten minutes in my house and still disappears from plates at the speed of light!

To finish off you just need to decide if you want to thicken your sauce slightly. If you do, mix the corn flour with a little water then temporarily reduce the heat under the pan so that the sauce is no longer bubbling. Stir in the corn flour mixture and turn the heat back up. Simmer for a couple of minutes stirring regularly. And hey presto – dinner’s ready!


This EASY Spaghetti Bolognese Sauce skips the pork, wine, etc. AND the long simmer – but you won’t even taste the difference!

The secret to the best EASY Spaghetti Bolognese? Chicken bouillon and quality jarred marinara sauce (like Barilla or Classico).

  • Chicken Bouillon: The bouillon replaces the chicken broth which doesn’t have time to reduce in this quick and easy version and it infuses the sauce with intense flavor (replacing the salty pork), just as if it had been simmering and reducing all day.
  • Jarred marinara sauce: Jarred marinara sauce, on the other hand, has been simmering all day – just not in your kitchen. A quality jarred sauce replaces much of the work (and time) for you by using quality vine-ripened tomatoes and aromatic herbs.
  • I have found that when I have used just tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes alone to create my homemade sauce, it needs the hours of simmering to develop flavor and not just taste like acidic-y tomatoes, whereas, using jarred marinara in combination with other ingredients creates the full body taste and texture you expect from classic Spaghetti Bolognese.

  • Crushed Tomatoes: In addition to the marinara, we add crushed tomatoes (often be called crushed tomatoes in puree) which add the fresh tomato puree texture and flavor. We balance the acidity with a little sugar. The amount of sugar will depend on the actual acidity of the tomatoes and personal preference.
  • I recommend the brands San Marzano, Cento and Muir Glen. San Marzano tomatoes are usually sold “whole” so you will want to pour them into a bowl and crush them with your hands first.
  • Garlic: Garlic is essential to flavorful Bolognese. Feel free to use more garlic depending on your garlic love. For extra lazy day Spaghetti Bolognese, you can substitute fresh garlic with 1 ½ teaspoons garlic, more or less to taste.
  • Seasonings: Even though jarred Marinara Sauces comes seasoned, we diluted the flavor with the addition of crushed tomatoes. We want to pump up the overall flavor again with the addition of dried basil, dried parsley, dried oregano, dried thyme, and ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes.
  • I think the red pepper adds just the right kick to the Spaghetti Bolognese but you an omit it completely or add even more. If you aren’t sure how much red pepper to add, start with a pinch and add more to taste.

And that’s how this Weeknight Spaghetti Bolognese can be on your table in 30 minutes and taste THIS GOOD. For an uber quick and easy meal, you can freeze this Weeknight Spaghetti Bolognese sauce and it will still taste THIS GOOD.


Recipe Summary

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • ½ cup finely diced celery
  • ½ cup finely diced carrot
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 ½ pounds ground beef
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 ½ cups 2% milk
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1 (28 ounce) can whole Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
  • 2 cups water, or as needed

Melt butter with olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat cook onion, celery, and carrot with pinch of salt until onion turns translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir ground beef into vegetables and cook, stirring constantly until meat is crumbly and no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Season meat mixture with 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg.

Pour milk into ground beef mixture and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, until most of the milk has evaporated and bottom of pan is still slightly saucy, about 5 minutes.

Raise heat to medium high and pour white wine into ground beef mixture cook and stir until white wine has mostly evaporated, about 5 more minutes.

Pour tomatoes with juice into a large mixing bowl and crush them with your fingers until they resemble a slightly chunky sauce. Pour tomatoes into sauce fill can with 2 cups water and add to sauce. Bring to a simmer.

Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until mixture cooks down into a thick sauce, at least 3 hours but preferably 4 to 6 hours. Skim fat from top of sauce if desired. If sauce is too thick or too hot on the bottom, add a little more water. Taste and adjust seasonings before serving.


Quick & Easy Bolognese Sauce

Cooking during quarantine, as we all know, is a combination of “what’s in the fridge?” and “I want comfort food”, and I thought I’d share my quick and easy version of a bolognese sauce. This takes under an hour to make and results in an unctuous sauce – that might not be super authentic, but is super delicious.

Here’s the thing – this is by far NOT authentic. Heck, it’s not even close. But it results in a delicious bolognese sauce that will become a quick favorite just for that – because it doesn’t take three days or three hours to cook. In under an hour you’ll have a quick & easy bolognese sauce that will cling to your pasta like I cling to my coffee in the morning.

You start pretty classically with your ground beef and celery, carrots, onions, and garlic. This is how I get tons of vegetables in a sauce that’s going to be served with pasta, because even though I’m not hiding vegetables for kids to eat, myself and my husband need as much vegetables as we can get during this time.

It’s all cooked down, and then you add a “tomato product” and here’s when I can hear the Italians scream. I refer to tomato product being any one of the following: canned pureed or diced tomatoes, prepared pasta sauce, tomato juice…whatever you have in the pantry, because now is not the time to be going to the store for San Marzano tomatoes.

Three unusual ingredients follow that: tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and sugar. Yes, sugar. I know, if I had perfect tomatoes I would have no need for sugar, but because I don’t have perfectly sweet, warm from the summer sun, just picked from my garden tomatoes, I had a hint of sugar. You can add honey or maple syrup if that’s more your thing, but the sweetness is key in my option. It doesn’t make the sauce sweet – it just cuts the acid a bit.

Not authentic or traditional, this bolognese is still so delicious and I hope you all make it! Maybe next month I can get the recipe for the bolognese my husband makes at the restaurant that uses three kids of meats and takes three hours to simmer. In the meantime, let’s eat!

DID YOU TRY THIS RECIPE? I want to see it! Follow Cooking with Books on Instagram, take a photo, and tag me in it. I love to know what you are making and how you made this bolognese recipe your own!


Why make this pasta Bolognese recipe?

Easy – it only takes 5 ingredients and the only chopping you have to do is mincing garlic, which you can either do by hand or with your food processor! J

Use pantry staples — Pasta, tomato sauce, either cooking wine or broth, and garlic are simple ingredients that most have at home. Ground beef is a budget-friendly protein and is very common.

Crowd pleaser – It is comforting and EVERYONE loves it! Perfect for picky palates!

Budget-friendly — because it is made from simple ingredients and less expensive than ordering at a restaurant.

Make ahead — Bolognese is one of those dishes that tastes better the next day, so you can make ahead and either store it in the fridge for 3 days or even freeze it for up to one month.

Freezer friendly – you can freeze the sauce itself for up to 3 months or the pasta Bolognese for up to one month.


WHAT IS BOLOGNESE SAUCE?

As the name suggests, Bolognese sauce originated in Bologna, Italy. It is a thick meat sauce made with ground beef or a combination of ground meat such as pork, beef, and veal.

Typically, it starts with a soffritto (finely chopped carrots, celery, and onions) gently cooked in butter. Milk or cream, white wine, and a small amount of tomato enrich the sauce.

The ingredients are added in stages, with each ingredient taking time to cook before adding the next ingredient. When they are all in the pot, the sauce simmers for three to four hours to produce a finished product that is more meat than tomatoes, with a very rich and luscious texture.


Storage tips

Fridge: Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature, then pack it into an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Reheat in a pot on the stove until steaming hot all the way through with a little beef broth added.

Freezer: Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature, then pack it into freezer-friendy bags or containers. Label with the name and use-by date (freeze for up to 3 months), then place into your freezer.

Defrost in the fridge overnight, then reheat on the stove until steaming hot all the way through. You may need to add a little beef broth, but chances are there is some condensation from the freezing/defrosting and you may not need any extra liquid.


My Favourite Quick and Spicy Bolognese Sauce with Linguine Corn Pasta

There is an astounding amount of comfort to be found in a bowl of tender pasta thickly coated in a flavourful bolognese sauce. Am I wrong?

We may not be Italians, but when hubby and I dine at a new Italian restaurant we judge how good the food will be by how their bolognese tastes. Why do so many cooks have such a difficult time with pasta sauces? I am not saying I’m an expert in Italian cookery — far from it. But I know a good bolognese sauce when I taste one.

Over the years I’ve tried a crazy amount of bolognese sauce recipes. I was never satisfied with the results until I finally learned how to make pasta from the Godfather movie. I know it’s a silly statement, but it’s true and you can read my story on that here.

True, authentic, bolognese sauce (called ragù alla bolognese in Italy) takes a long time to prepare. There are many steps involved, all of which are done in order to create the layers upon layers of scrumptious flavours that will have you licking your fingers. Unfortunately most of us do not have the time required for creating the true flavours of this famous Italian sauce.

This recipe is my quick go-to when the craving for homemade bolognese sauce strikes. To my Italian friends I ask for your forgiveness for butchering the authentic Italian recipe for ragù alla bolognese. Trust me I feel your pain, it’s pretty annoying seeing the traditional recipes of your home country turned upside down. (Lol) While this may not be a traditional recipe it is a pretty darn good one. This sauce has been on top of or mixed into our pastas for almost 10 years. You can feel safe in that this is a tried and tested recipe that has satisfied the bolognese cravings in my home for a long time.

Below is my humble and quick recipe for bolognese sauce. If you’d like to test out a truly authentic ragù alla bolognese recipe by an Italian cook, please stop by Memorie di Angelina and check out Frank’s recipe.