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.

Prep 20 mins
Cook 5 hrs 40 mins
Total 6 hrs
Mains
Italian
8 servings
445 kcal
4.85 / 157 votes
Print RecipeBuy the Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking cookbook

Want it? Click it.

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

Want it? Click it.

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%)

#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Can’t say enough, this is my go to recipe. Follow as written and it’s foolproof but can’t agree more with you David, season as you go! Building flavor. Most food I found doesn’t need to be “covered” up with spices if you start with the best possible ingredients you can find and afford and proper salting is essential. If your salt is off, too much or too little, it’s what you will taste first. Salt can vary depending on the kind you use. So tasting as you go is everything.

  2. I have two questions:

    1. Has anybody tried using this in a traditional lasagna with béchamel etc.?(I don’t have her cookbook but should apparently) If so, how was the consistency and flavor?

    2. I noted one person said it was bland…I’m imagining not being able to find beef neck, grinding my own chuck and short ribs mixed, and pork and veal. Will the short ribs be too strong of a flavor here?

    And oh yea…i’ve seen other recipes with dried thyme…has anybody tried that? I know this is a recipe to not be screwed with too much…I’m just wondering.. thank you

    1. genevieve,

      1. I have often used this bolognese sauce in lasagne, alternating it with layers of béchamel. It worked like a charm.

      2. I often attribute “bland” comments to not seasoning properly and regularly as you cook.

      I’ll never forget the very first cooking class I took. We made a gazpacho. (It was a way of teaching knife skills.) When it came time for us to sit down, we were so excited to taste our creation. It was good. Not great. Then came the a-ha moment. Our teacher instructed us to start salting our bowls of gazpacho. As we added a little bit of salt at a time, the flavors started to bloom and become bright. The acid popped, the vegetal flavors came through. That taught me the incredible importance of always salting your food as you cook.

      I think if you properly season this, you’ll have no problem with flavor. I never have.

      Last, I would follow the recipe as closely as possible. At least the first time out.

  3. 5 stars
    I love this recipe! I have a batch cooking now and it smells so good that it’s hard to be patient and wait for each stage of the sauce but so worth it!

  4. 5 stars
    This is my go-to for Bolognese. It is truly authentic, especially served over pappardelle, and actually quite simple to make. Yes, it takes some time, but you can do other things as it simmers. I have made this for friends and they said it’s the best Bolognese they ever had. It’s simply delicious and freezes quite well.

  5. Making this as a doubled recipe using 2lbs chuck, 1lb pork. I’m not planning to double the oil/butter but should I still double the milk? Thanks!

          1. So, end of story, 4 quarts in the freezer, one quart devoured. I did remove the fat from the top after refrigerating, plenty of “silky fat” left. I found the sauce a bit bland, but I’ve found that with many recipe staples I swore by 30 years ago. I have plenty to experiment with! Things I learned? A pastry cutter works wonders when browning ground meat.

          2. Five hours at a slow simmer day 1, five hours at a slow simmer day two when I left it with hub. Still needs to thicken a bit IMHO. Multiple batches is probably the best idea or perhaps a little higher temperature. It should be awesome soon!

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Attach it below. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Rate this recipe!

Have you tried this recipe? Let us know what you think.

Upload a picture of your dish