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
4.86 / 106 votes
Print RecipeBuy the Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking cookbook

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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

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%)

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
    Thanks for the great ragu inspiration. Only modifications I made were to omit the veal (using a 50/50 mix of lean beef and pork ground to order) and add a bit of julienned carrot to the pasta water a minute or two before draining. Love the long cooking and warm oven in a January kitchen.

    Bolognese Sauce Recipe

  2. After several failed attempts over the years at making a good bolgonese sauce, I want to express to Marcella Hazan what a boost of confidence and sense of accomplishment her recipe has given me. I would love to start cooking more of her authentic Italian recipes recipes. Now, I can not stop thinking about purchasing her book and trying to make my own fresh pasta for the first time. Marcella has truly inspired me. Her passion for cooking and sharing these authentic recipes has definitely rubbed off on me. Thank you, Marcella, for sharing your knowledge, secrets, and love of cooking, and David thank you for posting this recipe on your blog!.

    1. I’ve been making this for many years, and the original recipe from The Classic Italian Cookbook calls for cooking the meat/vegetable mixture with wine before adding the milk. Marcella changed this when she published her first two cookbooks in combined form as Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I’ve made it both ways and prefer the original.

          1. I originally made this from Marcella’s first book. When I “retired” first book for Essentials I noticed the difference and tried it that way. Seems it took lots longer to get it started with milk first than wine first. Don’t get me wrong. I cook this sauce for a minimum of 4 hours (yesterday 5) but don’t take as long with the simmering wine and milk as you do. I don’t cook it rapidly but don’t simmer until dissipated. As far as taste… honestly did not notice difference. ALSO, in first book she uses 1/2 cup of milk instead of 1 cup which, to me, is enough. Hope I am clear!!!

        1. This makes a great Bolognese. I do believe the wine should be 1st after you have browned the meat. The purpose is to use the wine to deglaze the pan. The wine is cooked out in several minutes. Then the milk which will take a lot longer at a simmer to cook out.
          Just my 2 cents….

  3. 5 stars
    I’ve made this recipe about a half a dozen times since my first attempt, and I just made it again tonight. This ragu Bolgonese recipe is everything I was hoping for. The first time I made it, my butcher shop didn’t have veal, so I substituted 1/2 pound ground chuck. I was so skeptical about putting in the milk before the wine, but everything happened according to the recipe…and the flavor? Rich depth, just like the restaurant version I’ve been trying to duplicate for years—but even better. Thanks for sharing the recipe, this one is a keeper. The surprising part was no garlic, and I did not even miss it in the final flavor, as it reads authentic Italian all the way.

    1. You have helped me forget all the media examples of ragu that have bobbed to the surface. I am pleased as well to read that Mrs. E prefers the homemade to the restaurant version. If there is a single recipe that points to the origin of good Italian cooking–the home–it is this one. Where I come from, Emilia-Romagna, a restaurant’s ragu is commendable only to the degree that it approaches what la mamma or la nonna makes in her kitchen. Thank you for this, David. You have made me happy.

      1. And Momma H., you have honored and graced us with your presence. Thank you for dropping by, and I’m sure Mrs.–and all our readers–will be utterly delighted you responded!

    2. Mrs. E, that is wonderful beyond words. Many thanks for taking the time to comment so effusively! Wishing you many, many more evenings spent at the table with family and friends and this keeper of a recipe.

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