Worst Bolognese Ever

Bolognese is one of those things that there are as many recipes as people who make it . . . .

I know of 3 general strategies when it comes to milk in bolognese

  1. Milk simmered with the meat at the very beginning, before the wine/broth is added. I’m led to believe that this method helps the meat stay more tender during the long cooking.
  2. Milk/cream added at the end - to create a richer sauce
  3. I’ve also seen recipes that are essentially a very long simmered meat sauce with bechamel mixed in at the very end.

If done right, they all taste great in the end.


That all sounds great,

@winecountrygirl, I too would have been disappointed, or downright irritated! Sorry for the letdown. Bolognese is beloved in our household, and my version always has a dairy component. It’s one of two pasta sauces that I make in large batches, and then freeze. But I better get going, because I think we’re out.

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@Lambchop - can you share your favorite recipe?? Pretty please?

Absolutely @winecountrygirl - let me post it later this evening or tomorrow am at latest. It’s become my go to, although I’ve tried many other versions. Pretty straightforward, but a bit of cooking down, between additions of dairy and stock. So
it won’t be watery, like last night…:upside_down_face:

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I think we’re circling in on what “bolognese” means. For me the big issue with a good bolognese is keeping the fat from overwhelming the sauce. That generally makes diary counterproductive.

My bolognese is based on Alton Brown’s here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spiCPDEXW4s except I add carrots (sweet not fat) with the celery and garlic and simply skip the evaporated milk.

At least in the US, “bolognese” has very often been used - especially until fairly recently - to mean “any tomato-based pasta sauce with ground beef”, much the way “marinara” came to be grossly over-applied to almost any tomato-sauce-for-pasta that couldn’t be given a more marketing-worthy name. There may very well be traditional Italian recipes for “ragù bolognese” that don’t call for milk (and no doubt many variations exist on the household-to-household level), but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in print that didn’t…

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This. Drives me bonkers. Bolognese is a MEAT SAUCE with a hint of tomato for flavor and color, NOT A TOMATO SAUCE. I have tried a number of recipes (Hazan, Rosetto-Kasper, Batali), and Batali’s recipe are by far my favorite because they are mainly meat, light on tomato, and use milk rather than cream (which I find dulls the overall flavor of the sauce).

This one is the one I prefer, but I substitute ground pancetta, well-rendered, for the oil and butter in the first step.

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On my early visits to America, I was surprised and disappointed when I ordered something “marinara” to find it was a tomato sauce, not the seafood preparation I’d expected. Took me about three trips to realise there was a difference between British expectation and American reality.


Yes, I think of it as a very meaty sauce and I have not had it that way in a very long time. I may need to make one now!

“Marinara” as a tomato-based pasta sauce is definitely A Thing, but it’s not the same as the long, slow-cooked “tomato sauce” (often referred to as “red gravy” by 1st and subsequent-generation Italian-Americans). It’s a “rougher”, quicker-cooked sauce, with more texture. The jarred (and many restaurants’) versions almost always resemble the former, though…

Here is my recipe @winecountrygirl, with the adaptations and method I use. Hopefully, since I copied just the ingredients we don’t have a violation here, but if so, mods, please remove.

First off, this recipe was found based on one I enjoyed during a Greek vacation. It’s from one of those Consumer Guide Cookbooks, which I spotted a lot, an era ago. Finding they had really good recipes, I bought several of them. I’m pretty sure those books were compiled from the Australian Women’s Weekly Magazine - at least that’s my understanding.

I change up the meats frequently, often using part ground pork/veal, with ground beef, sometimes all three. I tend to use either an 85/15 or 90/10 ratio of fat to beef. I usually triple this recipe, because we love it, and it freezes well.

I do like to use wine in it, but have made it without, if I don’t have any. In that case, I’ll use extra broth. I do like the hint of spice in there, and I also like to put a little cinnamon in - probably no more than 1/2 tsp for a triple batch, less if it’s strong, like Vietnamese cinnamon. I do pare down on the salt a little, and also the thyme. Seems this version has more tomato in it than some, but to us, not too much, by any means.

Here then are the instructions:

In a 6 qt pot, heat the OO over med-low heat and add the chopped onion. Sauté until soft, about 10 minutes. Add meat to the skillet. Turn the heat up to a med - high. Cook, breaking up the meat into small pieces, until meat loses the raw color. Do not brown. Stir carrot and celery mixture into the meat, and sauté for about 5 minutes. Stir in wine, and cook until evaporated, about 10 minutes. Stir in milk and nutmeg; reduce heat to medium, and cook til milk is evaporated, about 5-10 minutes. Put the canned tomatoes in a FP, and drain through a sieve, to remove seeds, if desired. Add tomatoes, broth, tomato paste, salt, basil, thyme, pepper, and bay leaf into the mixture. Heat to boiling, and then reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, and sauce is thick, about 1-1/2 hours. Serve over cooked pasta, with cheese, as you wish. Enjoy!

Note: this recipe was written for regular canned tomatoes; if you prefer a meaty plum or San Marzano style tomatoes, half the amount will do.

BTW, the recipe @biondanonima included in her post looks really solid to me also. I’ve tried quite a few versions of this, but have never made Mario’s or Marcella Hazan’s recipes. Or other famous chefs, probably.

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@Lambchop - thanks so much! And @biondanonima, thanks for the Mario one too.

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Having an Italian paternal family, our family recipe is:
5 Tblsps Evoo - Italian
3 Tablesp. French butter 82% butter fat
1 small carrot finely chopped
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 small celery stalk finely diced
1 garlic clove finely sliced ( add more if you prefer )
1/ 4 kilo of sliced pancetta sliced into quarters
1 / 2 kilo of veal or beef minced or ground
1/ 2 kilo of ground pork (not lean )
1/ 4 cup tomato paste
1 cup whole milk
1 cup dry white Italian wine
1 tsp. salt
1 / 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper


Heat the evoo and butter in a wide 8 quart heavy pot over moderate heat or flame until the butter is melted and then sauté the carrot, onion, celery, and garlic stirring occasionally, until tender and not browned ( 12 minutes approx ) …

Then when veggies are tender, increase the heat to high simmer and stir in both the veal or beef and the pork and the pancetta sliced finely. Cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up any lumps and sauté until the meat is beginning to brown, 10 minutes - 12 minutes.

NOW, STIR IN the tomato paste, milk and wine in this order and gently simmer on low flame ;
UNCOVERED and over low heat until almost all liquids have evaporated and the RAGÙ IS MOIST … NEVER ADD WATER TO A RAGÙ !!!

Now, simmer on very low flame for 1 hour - 1 !/2 hours … STIR IN SALT AND FRESHLY GROUND PEPPER TO TASTE, STIR AND REMOVE FROM HEAT …

Very simple and fool - proof recipe from my Italian great grandmother handed down to my paternal grandmom, still alive and well and to my mom … and me, the only child.

Enjoy …


@Barca - thank you for your family recipe. Very precise! I will have to try this one. Oh, and I am an only child too!!

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Pizza marinara in Naples is a pizza with tomato sauce and garlic. No cheese and no seafood.

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You are welcome …

It is quite delicious and always the key to a successful lasagne or pasta of choice or gnocchi …



And now from the ridiculous to the sublime - last night we went out for dinner (yay) to a really good Italian place. The owner is from Puglia and the food there is really exceptional. Still craving a good bolognese and not wanting to make one, for fear of really turning into a beach ball, that’s what I ordered. Fresh made tagliatelle bolognese with a dollop of whipped ricotta on top. It was heaven. The pasta itself was perfect but that sauce - it was very meaty and the meat was tender and flavorful and the sauce itself had tomato in it but was more pink than red. And mixing in the whipped ricotta made it so creamy. Ah, I feel satisfied now. I brought half home… something to look forward too!!

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What a perfect idea to sate your craving for a great Bologognese sauce @winecountrygirl! I’ve decided to switch things up a bit for my freezer re-stock this time; going to give Mario’s recipe a go, to see how we like it. Our June has been cold, our very local dining scene isn’t too inspiring, and a lot of places in our nearest town don’t have outdoor seating - my comfort zone during Covid. So ready for our world to be at least semi-normal again. Not complaining, we’re all safe and well, thankfully! Just lamenting…

Went again last night and had my wonderful tagliatelle bolognese. I ate every drop. Insanely good!!

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold

Market stall in Lima
Credit: TXMX 2