Master Bolognese Sauce

Rich, meaty bolognese sauce doesn’t have to take all day—and it’s a lot more versatile than you think. Find out how to make it your own.
Published February 13, 2018

Even if you’re not Italian, you’re probably familiar with Bolognese sauce, the classic specialty of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. And you’re probably well aware that this rich traditional delicacy is far more than a simple tomato sauce with a little ground meat added in: Authentic Bolognese is mostly meat. Ground beef, often combined with ground pork and veal, simmers all day with white wine, finely chopped vegetables, and tomatoes, topped off with a few generous glugs of milk or cream. The result is a silky, lusciously rich ragù. Not exactly everyday fare.

This recipe, on the other hand, is. Instead of requiring hours of stirring and simmering, our version, with its pared-down ingredient list and more reasonable cooking time, makes the dish easy to embrace. And the mouthwatering results still speak fluent Italian.


Bolognese—authentic taste, modern methods

Skip the ground pork and veal and use ground extra-lean beef (5% fat or less) instead of chuck—but bump up the richness with a small amount of pancetta (Italian bacon). You’ll get deep flavor from fewer calories, and because there’s very little fat in the meat to begin with, the beef doesn’t need to cook long in order to render it.

Swap in evaporated fat-free milk: It lends lush consistency to the sauce and shaves off a lot of simmering time because it’s already concentrated—not the case with whole milk or cream.


10 ways to use bolognese (that don’t involve pasta)


  1.  Make a veggie lasagna Bolognese by replacing the noodles with thin slices of zucchini.
  2.  Tuck a spoonful inside a crêpe, along with a dollop of ricotta.
  3.  Roast slices of acorn or butternut squash and spoon sauce on top.
  4.  Mix with cooked rice, stuff into bell peppers, top with a bit of cheese, and bake.
  5.  Stir into a tomato-based vegetable soup for more depth of flavor.
  6.  Slice a roll of prepared polenta into rounds; place rounds on a baking sheet and top with sauce and a sprinkle of Parmesan. Broil until heated through and Parmesan is golden.
  7.  Use to top spaghetti squash or zoodles (aka spiralized zucchini) instead of regular pasta.
  8.  Fold it into a fluffy omelette.
  9.  Grill slices of eggplant, spread each with sauce and a dab of ricotta, and roll them up.
  10.  Use it instead of tomato sauce to top pizza.


Get cooking!