Spaghetti alla bolognese is a popular Italian-inspired pasta dish. This Spaghetti served with a rich and flavorful meat sauce, known as ragù alla Bolognese is ideal for a comforting family meal.
About the recipe
The traditional Bolognese sauce is made by cooking a combination of ground beef and pork, pancetta, along with diced onion, carrot, celery, some tomato puree, salt, and sometimes broth.
While the original recipe calls for double concentrate tomato paste, pureed tomatoes (passata) are also used often.
This ragu sauce is very simple and does not need any herbs or spices, but sometimes, I add dried basil or oregano.
Traditionally, the bolognese sauce benefits from very slow cooking, over 1-2 hours.
If you decide to cook it that long, you will need to add extra broth or water.
As a busy mom, I do not have much time to leave the dish cooking on the stove, so this recipe cooks much faster.
But even with a shorter cooking time, the right ingredients, and proportions will do the trick to make the dish taste authentic and absolutely delicious.
While I am serving this dish with spaghetti, you may also use tagliatelle, pappardelle, and other types of Italian pasta.
Spaghetti pasta is the mostly common in the United States. And kids prefer spaghetti anyway.
When serving spaghetti alla Bolognese, the sauce can be poured over the cooked pasta or mixed and tossed, ensuring each spaghetti is well coated.
And of course, do not forget about some freshly grated Parmesan on top.
Below you can find the main ingredients and the best substitutions to make this recipe.
Today I used only ground beef because that's what I had at home. The sauce came out juicy, light, and lean.
The original Bolognese recipe, which comes from Bologna, Italy. Traditionally, they use a combination of pork and beef. Pork adds a sweet taste and fat, while beef brings a lot of robust flavors.
And if you want to give the dish a unique profile, I recommend frying the diced pancetta before adding the meat.
Pancetta is an Italian pork belly cured with salt and spices. It is not a mandatory ingredient, but for sure can enhance the flavor of the sauce.
The traditional Italian ragu requires vegetables. The most common are onion, carrot, and celery. I am using all three to make this recipe.
You can easily skip celery or use some finely diced bell pepper instead.
Passata is strained tomato puree. It usually has only one ingredient - tomatoes.
Passata or tomato paste is usually used to make the ragu
The original recipe included concentrated tomato paste along with some liquids such as broth, water, or even milk.
Today, I am using some passata and water to simmer the sauce.
In Italy, you will more likely see the bolognese sauce served with tagliatelle.
Tagliatelle is a flat ribbon pasta made with eggs and semolina, while spaghetti is made of durum wheat or semolina.
Both are great kinds of pasta to serve with the bolognese sauce.
Rinse, pat dry, and peel the vegetables. Dice onion, carrot, and celery very finely. You can also use a food processor to speed up the process.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add diced onion, carrot, and celery to the pan. Saute the vegetables over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until they start softening up.
Now you can add diced pancetta (I am not using it today) and cook for another 2-3 minutes to render some of the fat.
Add ground beef, salt, and some Italian herbs (if using any). Use a spatula or wooden spoon to break up the meat into smaller pieces. Let it cook undisturbed for a few minutes. Start stirring and breaking up the meat into even small pieces with a spatula. Continue cooking until the beef is browned evenly.
Now, add the passata and a little bit of water or broth. Bring it to a simmer, cover, and cook on low heat for about 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook it for about 10 minutes or until it is al dente or softer depending on your preference.
Once cooked drain the water. You can add spaghetti to the sauce or serve the sauce over the pasta.
Add some freshly grated parmesan cheese and enjoy!
- For more flavor use both ground beef and pork.
- Use passata (pureed tomatoes) or tomato paste, avoid any other tomato sauces with added extra ingredients.
- Suate the vegetable well so they have time to develop flavor.
- If the sauce taste sour, you can balance it by adding a pinch of sugar.
If you are making it ahead of time, make sure to store the sauce separately in an air-tight container. It will last for up to 3 days when stored properly.
I prefer using a glass container, the plastic will stain and retain the odors.
Make sure to cool the sauce down before placing it in the fridge.
I recommend reheating it on the stove in a small saucer pan or a pot.
More Italian recipes
- Pasta e Lenticchie
- Risotto with fennel
- Easy beef meatballs in tomato sauce
- Pesto Genovese
- Ricotta and beef lasagna
Spaghetti Alla Bolognese
- 1 large skillet
- 1 large pot
- 1 Measuring Cup
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 celery rib
- ½ yellow onion
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 cup passata (salt-free tomato puree)
- ½-¾ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper, Italian herbs (optional)
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup broth or water
- ½ package spaghetti
- 4 Tablespoons grated Parmesan, for serving
- Dice the onion, carrot and celery very finely.
- In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add diced onion, carrot and celery. Saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Until the vegetables start softening up.
- Add ground beef, salt black pepper and Italian herbs (if using). Cooke the meat until browned, breaking it up into small pieces using a spatula.
- Pour 1 cup of passata and about ½ cup of water or broth. Cover the sauce and bring it to simmer. Cook on a low heat for about 15-20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti according the package instructions. Once cooked, drain the water.
- Combine the spaghetti with the Ragu sauce or serve the sauce over the paste. Sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan cheese over the dish and enjoy!