Spaghetti Bolognese

Spaghetti Bolognese is a classic pasta dish that combines loads of rich meat sauce, tons of ripe red tomatoes, and all the spaghetti you can slurp. Load it up with Parmesan and revel in a delicious dinner.

Spaghetti Bolognese in a large metal skillet, being served with tongs, on a wooden table.

Adapted from MOB Kitchen | Comfort MOB | Mobius, 2021

This is a dish that reminds you of family. It’s about that feeling of warmth and satisfaction you get when you’re full of good cooking, but not too full for dessert. It’s about sharing the food that you love with the people you love, and it’s about grating carrot into your bolognese because that’s how you like it.–MOB Kitchen

WHAT IS BOLOGNESE SAUCE?

No ordinary meat sauce, it’s a long, slowly simmered sauce that’s richer and creamier than your everyday marinara due to the inclusion of milk. It’s also less predominated by tomatoes than your typical marinara. In Italy, Bolognese isn’t served with spaghetti noodles because the noodles don’t pick up the meat, leaving it all on the plate. Typically, it’s served with a thicker noodle like pappardelle and tagliatelle, or tubular noodles like penne and rigatoni. In the MOB Kitchen version, they suggest spaghetti noodles but we feel like they’d be cool with whatever you prefer.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Spaghetti Bolognese in a large metal skillet, being served with tongs, on a wooden table.
The key to the ultimate Bolognese is, believe it or not, milk. A generous glug of the stuff tenderizes the meat and evens out the acidity of the tomatoes. Don’t knock it 'til you’ve tried it.
MOB Kitchen

Prep 30 mins
Cook 2 hrs 20 mins
Total 2 hrs 50 mins
Entree
Italian
6 servings
750 kcal
4.8 / 5 votes
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Ingredients 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 7 ounces pancetta rounds 1/2 inch (13 mm) thick, diced
  • 2 medium (14 oz) onions finely chopped
  • 2 medium (6 oz) carrots finely chopped
  • 3 stalks (6 oz) celery finely chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 pound 10 ounces lean ground beef
  • 1 cup dry red wine such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 1 2/3 cups store-bought or homemade beef stock
  • 1 2/3 cups whole milk
  • 1 can (14 ounce) plum tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 dried bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt plus more for pasta water
  • 16 to 18 ounces spaghetti
  • Parmesan cheese to serve

Directions
 

  • In a large wide saucepan or skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add pancetta and fry until crisp, stirring occasionally, 5 to 8 minutes.
  • Add onions, carrot, celery, and garlic, along with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and fry until soft, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Increase heat to high, add ground beef and cook until browned, about 15 minutes. Pour in the red wine and continue to cook on high until liquid is reduced by half, about 8 minutes.
  • To the saucepan mixture, add the stock, milk, tomatoes, pepper, and bay leaves. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer gently until the tomatoes have dissolved and the sauce is rich reddish-brown in color, about 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the salt. Let rest, uncovered, for 15 minutes. The sauce can be made up to one day ahead and reheated.

    TESTER TIP: If your sauce looks very thin after an hour of simmering, remove the lid and let it continue to simmer until it thickens to your desired consistency.

  • Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti. Follow package directions for al dente pasta, then drain in a colander.
  • Add spaghetti to the Bolognese, toss to combine, then divvy between four bowls. Top with grated Parmesan and serve immediately.
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Notes

Easy Lasagne Bolognese variation

Layer the Bolognese sauce between sheets of lasagna noodles, top with grated Parmesan cheese, and bake until golden and bubbling.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 750kcal (38%)Carbohydrates: 70g (23%)Protein: 45g (90%)Fat: 28g (43%)Saturated Fat: 9g (56%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 105mg (35%)Sodium: 661mg (29%)Potassium: 907mg (26%)Fiber: 3g (13%)Sugar: 6g (7%)Vitamin A: 187IU (4%)Vitamin C: 1mg (1%)Calcium: 118mg (12%)Iron: 4mg (22%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Pasta is a meal that’s served at least once per week in this household. An opportunity to try a new recipe is always welcomed.

This Bolognese is an easy sauce to pull together. While it does take some time to simmer, it can be made ahead and noted in the fridge until pasta night arrives. The sauce is flavourful, and marries well to the pasta. I also like that the sauce would be a good accompaniment with other pasta favourites, such as rigatoni.

I also used this Bolognese in lasagna and it was terrific!

This spaghetti Bolognese recipe produced a very flavorful sauce with a lot of body and the pancetta added a great smokiness to the beef. I was intrigued by this recipe’s use of milk, and I will say that I think the sauce produced had an added richness.

It’s good to let this sauce sit for the recommended 15 minutes so you can drain some of the fat off the top before consuming. It’s fun to watch the sauce go from a milky pinkish-gray to a thick luxurious reddish-brown sauce.

I didn’t make the sauce ahead but ate it over the course of three days. So yes, I do feel the flavors melded over the course of this time.

I’m a big fan of Bolognese sauce, so I was really excited to see this iteration. It seemed like a more simple recipe, with ingredients I had in my pantry. It also seemed like a recipe that would be perfect for a rainy September Sunday, and I was exactly right.

I used some late-season tomatoes, onion, and carrots from my garden, and this recipe made every ingredient shine. It came together quickly, but had a depth and intensity that made it taste like it had been simmering all day. This is a definite keeper!

When the temperature dips or it’s just a rainy day, this spaghetti Bolognese would be the perfect antidote. The milk makes all the difference here, adding creaminess and balance to the wine and tomatoes.

Originally published October 17, 2021

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