Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese Sauce

Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese sauce recipe is authentic as can be and is, according to many we’ve heard of the absolute best Bolognese sauce recipe ever. It’s also easy and impressive.

A blue bowl filled with pappardelle noodles and Marcella Hazan's bolognese sauce on a wooden board with a block of Parmesan and a grater beside the bowl.

Marcella Hazan, in her inimitable fashion, offers the home cook an authentic Bolognese sauce recipe, the traditional kind an Italian grandmother would approve of, thank you very much. This is my version of her recipe, with very subtle tweaks. It takes a while to make, although most of the time the Bolognese is spent simmering, unattended, on the back burner except for occasionally making lazy eights with a wooden spoon.David Leite

☞ READ THE ARTICLE: IN DEFENSE OF GRANDMOTHER COOKING

Bolognese Sauce FAQs

What’s the difference between Bolognese and spaghetti sauce?

In essence, Bolognese sauce is spaghetti sauce. Though it’s 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 also is less predominated by tomatoes than your typical marinara. It’s named for its city of origin, Bologna.

Is there really no garlic, oregano, and basil in traditional Bolognese?

Believe it or not, traditional Bolognese contains none of the aromatic herbs or spices that many consider necessary in all Italian dishes. You may be tempted to add them, but do your best to resist. The nutmeg is a must – don’t leave that out.

Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese Sauce

A blue bowl filled with pappardelle noodles and Marcella Hazan's bolognese sauce on a wooden board with a block of Parmesan and a grater beside the bowl.
Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese sauce recipe is authentic as can be and is, according to many we’ve heard of the absolute best Bolognese sauce recipe ever. It’s also easy and impressive.
Marcella Hazan

Prep 20 mins
Cook 5 hrs 40 mins
Total 6 hrs
Mains
Italian
8 servings
445 kcal
4.85 / 97 votes
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Ingredients 

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 tablespoons (4 oz) unsalted butter divided
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/3 cups chopped celery
  • 1 1/3 cups chopped carrot
  • 1 pound ground chuck (I used 1/2 pound chuck and 1/2 pound veal)
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or a pinch ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 3 cups canned imported Italian San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand with their juice
  • As much pasta as you wish (Marcella prefers tagliatelle) cooked and drained
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at the table

Directions
 

  • In a heavy 5-quart Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the oil and 6 tablespoons butter until the butter melts and stops foaming. Toss in the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Toss in the celery and carrot and cook, stirring to coat them with the oil and butter, for 2 minutes.
  • Add the chuck and pork, a very healthy pinch of salt, and a goodly amount of pepper. Crumble the meat with a wooden spoon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meats have lost their raw red color.
  • Reduce the heat to low. Pour in the milk and simmer gently, stirring frequently, until the liquid has completely evaporated, about 1 hour.
  • Stir in the nutmeg. Pour in the wine and gently simmer, stirring frequently, until it's evaporated, about 1 1/4 hours more.
  • Add the tomato purée or crushed tomatoes and stir well. When the tomato puree begins to bubble, turn down the heat so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers with just an intermittent bubble breaking the surface.
  • Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is burbling away, there's a chance that it'll start drying out. To keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pot and scorching, add 1/2 cup water if necessary, just know that it's crucial that by the time the sauce has finished simmering, the water should be completely evaporated, and the fat should separate from the sauce.
  • Take a spoonful—or two—of sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the hot pasta and toss with the sauce. Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on the side.
Print RecipeBuy the Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking cookbook

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Notes

What You Need To Know About Making The Most Classic Italian Bolognese

Following are some techniques and tricks to ensure the most classic Italian Bolognese:
The more marbled the meat, the sweeter the ragu. (The most desirable cut of meat is the neck portion of the chuck. You may have to special order it from your butcher.)
It’s important to salt the meat as soon as it hits the pan. This draws out the juices and imparts flavor to the Bolognese.
Use a heavy pot that will retain heat. I use my Le Creuset 5-quart Dutch oven. Avoid using cast-iron, as the acid can interact with the metal and turn the sauce a blech color.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 445kcal (22%)Carbohydrates: 16g (5%)Protein: 20g (40%)Fat: 29g (45%)Saturated Fat: 14g (88%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 95mg (32%)Sodium: 233mg (10%)Potassium: 797mg (23%)Fiber: 3g (13%)Sugar: 10g (11%)Vitamin A: 4305IU (86%)Vitamin C: 12mg (15%)Calcium: 138mg (14%)Iron: 3mg (17%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This is the perfect recipe to make if you’re stuck in the house doing chores and can’t leave. A little prep work and a little stir every now and then gives you a wonderful smell throughout your house and a nice, thick sauce for your pasta. I love that there isn’t a strong tomato taste to this sauce, unlike most commercial jar sauces. This is pure, hearty, stick-to-your-ribs comfort food.

All you need is some warm bread and you have a meal. The next time I make it I’ll probably omit the oil, as I felt there was a little too much oil floating on top when it was ready to serve.

Originally published January 31, 2012

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I absolutely love this recipe and have made it tons of times. Normally I double the recipe to stock my kids freezer and still have some for us. It always turns out beautifully! The best complement I can give is that when we were in Florence and had bolognese my husband looked at me and said it taste just like yours! Thanks!

  2. 5 stars
    I have made this recipe AT LEAST two dozen times! It is *perfect*! Of course I’ve made just a couple changes to the recipe but it’s still quite true to the original…
    – I only use ground beef because that’s what I have on hand and I generously season with salt when it goes in the pot.
    – I cut down the butter just to a tablespoon or two.
    – I omit the wine reduction step for two reasons… one, to save time. Two, we actually prefer the flavor without it.
    – I use heavy whipping cream instead of milk because the extra flavor is fantastic.

    This sauce freezes perfectly and only gets better as the flavors have time to sit. Amazing sauce to make days ahead of time. For Christmas this year, I made multiple batches and then combined for a homey comforting Christmas Eve dinner for 20 people. First time all day there was no talking because everyone was shoving their faces 🙂

    1. Made the sauce today, 3/17/2022. A lot of fat leftover. Do you skim the fat from the sauce after it cools in the fridge? I am serving it tomorrow. I have her cook book and she makes no mention of that. So I assume I leave the fat in????

    1. If you are doubling the recipe but using the same pot, cooking away the water will take about twice as long — it only escapes from the top. But if you double the recipe and use a pot with a bigger surface area, it will not take twice the time.

  3. I have made this recipe a few times. But after even 5-6 hours of cooking,
    I still dont get the oil separating from the sauce. Where did it go wrong?

      1. Hi David,

        Thanks for replying. I used 50% pork and 50% beef. This last time I was more careful to measure out the oil and butter accurately at the start of cooking. Has it to do with the type of milk? I used full cream UHT milk. It’s nevertheless delish 🙂

        1. Evelyn, the only thing I can think of is where you’re located. I believe you’re in Singapore. The water/fat content may be different from U.S. milk? But, to be honest, I’m stumped!!

          1. Hahaha!!! I’m stumped too! No matter, I’ll keep trying…One day, maybe those oils will appear! I’ll let you know…

  4. 4 stars
    I made this for the first time a few days ago. Let it simmer for a total of 6 hours. I did tweak it, for the simple reason that only using nutmeg as a spice would be too bland for us. I added a little sweet paprika and Chipotle pepper. I like heat. I also used pancetta along with 1 LB. Of beef, 3/4 LB. Of pork and the meat from 3 italian sausages. Instead of milk I used 5% cream. It was very delicious.

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