Slow-Cooked Bolognese

When John and I went to Italy a few years ago, one of our stops was the city of Bologna. We spent two days there, and it was honestly the best two days of eating I EVER HAD. The food there is truly incredible, and one of the most well-known dishes that originated in Bologna is pasta with bolognese sauce.

Our first night, we had dinner at Trattoria La Montanara and ordered their bolognese and tortellini en brodo (another classic dish from Bologna). I may have shed a tear or two the meal was THAT good.

After our trip I constantly craved a really good bolognese, but it was really hard to find, even with living in New York City. Bolognese is not supposed to be super red, and the pasta shouldn’t be loaded with the sauce. The sauce has just a few tablespoons of tomato paste, but the red wine and chicken stock is what really makes up the color.

The after being spoiled by having bolognese in the city it originated and not finding something similar at a restaurant in New York, I was determined to make it myself. After a few recipe tests, I have to say this comes pretty close to what we had in Bologna.

So set aside a Sunday before the weather becomes too warm, and make a big pot of this delicious sauce. Serve with crusty bread, a simple green salad and a big glass of red wine.


Slow-Cooked Bolognese
Serves: 4-6
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, leaves removed and finely chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • ½ pound ground veal
  • ½ pound ground beef
  • 3 slices pancetta, finely chopped
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2½ cups chicken stock, plus more if sauce becomes too thick
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound fettuccine, tagliatelle or pappardelle
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat
  2. Add carrots, celery and onions, and saute until soft, about 10 minutes
  3. Add the meat, breaking up the beef and veal into small pieces, cooking until browned, about 15 minutes
  4. Add wine and scrape up browned bits from the bottom of the pan for about 1-2 minutes
  5. Add tomato paste and chicken stock, mix to combine making sure tomato paste is incorporated
  6. Reduce heat to low and cook for 1½ hours, stirring occasionally
  7. Season with a large pinch of salt and pepper
  8. Bring milk to a simmer in a small pot and gradually add to the sauce
  9. Cover with a lid slighlty ajar and cook for another 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a few additional splashes chicken stock if sauce seems too thick
  10. Cook pasta in a pot of salted boiling water until just al dente
  11. Drain, reserving ½ cup of pasta water
  12. Transfer pasta back to the pot and add sauce, toss to combine
  13. Add a few splashes of pasta water if sauce is too dry
  14. Add to a plate or bowl and top with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe: