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.

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

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


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
4.86 / 62 votes
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  • 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


  • 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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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.

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 October 18, 2020


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  1. “The water should be completely evaporated, and the fat should separate from the sauce.”

    In my case, the fat does not separate, and I am trying this recipe for a second time! I follow each line, but at the end, I get a kind of dry mass with no liquid fat separating from it 🙁 what am I doing wrong??

    1. What type of beef are you using, Alexey? You need to start with a cut that is fatty, like chuck. And you are using the full amount of butter, and whole milk, yes?

      1. Yes Angie, there is enough fat in my sauce, it just does not separate from the mass. I have a hypothesis that I put too much vegetables, and they soaked all the fat in themselves. The proportions would be much easier to control if the amounts were given in grams, rather than in cups.

        1. Interesting idea, Alexey. That could very well be the case. We do provide metric weights where possible, but I suspect you would like the weights for the vegetables? It’s approximate, but the onions should be about 6 ounces (170 g), the carrots about 7 ounces (200 g), and the celery about 5 ounces (143 g)

          1. Yep, I have put about two times more veggies than you just calculated in grams. To be done with the measures, please tell me what is the volume of your cup in ml? Thank you very much for your prompt and meaningful answers! I was positively surprised.

          2. You’re welcome, Alexey. From a volume perspective, we use 237 ml/cup.

  2. 4 stars
    I feel the time it takes to make this can be cut in half….I didn’t cook it for amount of time it asks because its outrageous and it still came out really good.

    1. I’m so pleased that this turned out so well for you, Sue. Some folks find that they need the full amount of time, or even a little longer to get the right consistency. Much depends on how low your simmer is.

  3. 5 stars
    This is a recipe with no equal! I can’t imagine anything tasting better than this sauce cooked with some fresh pasta and just a little parm shaved on top!
    Follow the recipe exactly – note that the simmering times may need to be extended but its all worth it and the house smells like your favourite Italian place all day!

    1. We couldn’t agree more, Collin. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and share your tips.

  4. Is the milk supposed to evaporate all the way down in an hour? Or do you simmer it for an hour no matter the evaporation level. I feel at the rate it’s at now, it will take much more than an hour to evaporate fully.

    1. Ryan, you do want the liquid to be mostly evaporated before adding the wine. If you feel like it’s evaporating too slowly, increase the heat a little so that you have a steady simmer going.

  5. 5 stars
    I survived the Bolognesefest with a very happy tummy!! So glad I doubled the recipe I’ll be eating all weekend. The tagliatella was also perfect. I am a garlic addict and wonder if it would ruin it to add it I’m thinking to make a half recipe to test it–what do you think?

    1. I’m so pleased to hear this, Louise! If you enjoy the flavor of garlic, I don’t think it would hurt the recipe to add a little. I’d just add it in with the carrot and celery.

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