bolognese sauce

My favorite Italian sauce for pasta is red meat sauce, because it is rich, hearty, and full of goodness. Many think it is called Bolognese sauce, and comes from northern Italy, but true Italian red sauce is quite simple, made from tomato puree or crushed tomatoes, garden vegetables, white wine, and a selection of meat, which may include sausage, ground beef, boar, round steak or stew meat. The sauce begins with the vegetables, then wine, and finally the meat. If ground meats are used, the cooking time is typically 20 to 30 minutes. This is sauce is more likely found in northern Italy.

If larger cuts, such as boar roast or stew meat, the cooking time will be as much as 4 1/2 hours! But the end result is magnificent. And it will be known as ragu, which comes from southern Italy. Not infrequently, the meat is removed from the sauce and served as a separate course. 

In the north, you may also find a white meat sauce, no tomatoes, but cream! It is quite rich and satisfying, sometimes known as Norcina. And it’s full of hearty mushrooms!

No matter which of these sauces you choose, in Italian cooking it is extremely rare to find both onion and garlic in the same dish! Of course, when you are cooking, you may choose to add both. And the meats? Sometimes I mix it up, using both beef and sausage. YUMMMMMM! And one, the recipe calls for WHITE wine. Yes, great red sauce is made with white wine, because it will preserve the red color of the tomatoes, as well as add the well-rounded sweetness. Be sure to reduce the wine as the recipe indicates. And what about that milk??!! Yes again, it adds richness while tenderizing the meats!

When you choose to prepare one of these sauces, it is important to choose the right pasta to match with it, as different sizes and shapes of pasta carry sauces in unique ways — which is why there are so many past choices! The rule of thumb is that a hearty, rich sauce (think BIG sauce here) should be served on large pasta. So, choose pappardelle, rigatoni, potato gnocchi for these kinds of sauce.

Of course, as with any rule, there is ALWAYS an exception, and in the case of traditional red meat sauce, you may find it quite often served on spaghetti. That is one of my favorites!Of course, you will want to cook your pasta properly, so here are my recommendations for perfect pasta, every time!

Let’s get saucy!

Bolognese Sauce

This recipe calls for either onion or garlic, but not both, In Italian cooking, is it extremely rare to find both in the same dish. Want to take it up a notch or two? How about Boar Bolognese? You can mail order boar or find it on the internet! Use it in place of the ground beef.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons chopped yellow onions OR 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons chopped carrots
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound ground beef (or wild boar) or spicy Italian Sausage meat (bulk)*
  • 1 cup white wine Riesling
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • generous sprinkle of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 large can Italian tomatoes


  1. In large deep skillet or braisier, heat olive oil and butter. Sweat the onion, celery and carrot with the salt. When the vegetables are softened, add the ground beef, breaking up into small pieces. When meat is no longer pink, add the wine, and raise the heat to high. Cook until liquid has evaporated. Add the milk and nutmeg. Cook until the milk has been absorbed. Add tomatoes, breaking up any large chunks. Cover and braise 1-1/2 hours.

Recipe Notes

It is imperative that you use whole milk in this recipe and try to use Riesling wine for best flavor. Both the wine and milk must be evaporated before proceeding with the next steps. *If you can find only link Italian sausage, remove the casings.

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