Packing an easy bolognese recipe with extra vegetables, makes the meat sauce even more scrumptious! This is my go-to bolognese recipe that works amazingly as spaghetti bolognese, but also in lasagna and *shhh* …even on pizza! This sauce is so flavorful, with umami sun-dried tomato pesto and mushrooms, and the classic trio: celery, onion and carrots.
It is a sauce that can be done in less than 30 minutes, but you can continue to simmer it low and slow for several hours for even more flavor! I have done a version of this bolognese recipe that’s perfect for Fall too, using all that delicious pumpkin for a perfect pumpkin pasta dish, so make sure to check that out also.
There’s nothing quite like a big bowl of comforting spaghetti bolognese on a cold Winter night. I think bolognese is the thing I’m craving most often. It’s amazing it has taking me this long to give you my recipe.
Here it is! Not authentic, per se, but fantastic.
What is the difference between a meat sauce and bolognese?
A bolognese IS a meat sauce. In Italy it’s known as ragù alla bolognese, literally meaning meat sauce from Bologna. It is a type of ragù that originated from Bologna, and is often served with tagliatelle or in a lasagna. It consists of the soffritto of celery, onion and carrots, and minced beef and fatty pork.
A classic bolognese sauce does not include much tomato, just a little tomato puree. It is white wine and milk that serve as the base of the liquid. It is more of a meat sauce, rather than a marinara, or tomato sauce. This recipe does include tomatoes (hence the name Tomato Bolognese Recipe), and I am not claiming this to be an authentic recipe.
What can I add to a bolognese sauce?
If you ask me – everything is allowed. Cooking is all about personal preferences. To call it a bolognese, you probably should stick to celery, onion, carrot, minced meat and tomato puree as a base. And then go from there, wherever you’d like! I want my sauce to be packed with flavors and textures, and so I add extra tomatoes and vegetables.
You can add all the veggies you like, but the most important ones are celery, onion and carrot – and mushrooms. Those umami mushrooms are so goooood in a bolognese. I often add red bell peppers too.
The celery, onion, carrot trio are usually finely chopped, but I like to keep the texture. I finely mince the celery, because it’s so powerful. However, I just chop onion to medium small sized, and cut carrots into matchsticks.
Optional: Super Easy Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
I don’t always add this step, but it is a delicious burst of extra flavor. Cut cherry tomatoes in halves, add to a small heat proof dish. Add some crushed garlic cloves, minced fresh basil and drizzle with olive oil and some salt. Put in a pre-heated oven of 400F (200C) for about 20 minutes. I would begin with this step if you plan on doing the quick bolognese. If you let it simmer for an hour or so, you can start with this the last 20 minute of simmering. So worth the extra 5 minutes of labor!
Do you put milk in a bolognese recipe?
Well, yes and no. There is absolutely nothing wrong with adding milk to your bolognese sauce. It makes an extra creamy and delicious sauce, and it is, in fact, the classic way. I like it more tomato-y and leave out the milk – my personal preference. If you like, you can add 1/4 cup milk or heavy cream to this recipe. Don’t get me wrong, I love that too!
What is the best pasta for bolognese?
Spaghetti is the classic way for people outside Italy, to consume bolognese. However, in Italy, tagliatelle is the more common pasta. Spaghetti is used in carbonara and seafood dishes, with a cream and oil-based sauce. A wide long pasta are the Italians preference for a bolognese sauce, either
Pasta shells, like lumache, could also work with a meaty sauce like this recipe. Also all the tube pastas, like the penne and rigatoni, can work with ragu. My favorites are spaghetti (as a Norwegian, I can say this) and tagliatelle. You can read more about pairing pasta shapes and sauces here.
I hope you will like this recipe! I think it’s best enjoyed with a big glass of red wine, and a bowl of pasta of course. Scroll to find a printable recipe card. Enjoy!
Did you like this recipe? Here’s more comfort food:
- 20 Minute Vegetarian Lo Mein
- Cheesy Beef and Beans Enchiladas
- Ginger Coconut Lentil Curry
- Roasted Herby Tomato Soup
- Easy Homemade Pizza Rolls
- Easy Rosemary Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta
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Extra Veggie Tomato Bolognese Recipe
Bolognese Sauce Recipe
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 stalk celery finely chopped
- 1 large carrot cut into matchsticks
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 3 cups white button mushrooms 300g, sliced or quartered
- 2 cloves garlic minced or grated
- 1 lb ground beef or 50/50 ground pork and beef. 400-450g.
- 2 tbsp fresh basil
- 28 oz canned plum tomatoes 2 x 400g. If you want it more meaty, use half.
- 2 tbsp sun-dried tomato pesto or tomato purée*
- 2 tsp Italian seasoning or dried oregano and rosemary**
- 1 tsp salt & freshly ground pepper each, or to taste
- 1-2 tsp sugar to taste, depends on your tomatoes
Optional Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes cut in halves, 200g
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic smashed or minced
- 1 tsp chopped basil
- pinch salt
- Prepare vegetables: Chop all vegetables into desired sizes.
- Sautée vegetables: In a large skillet or saucepan, add olive oil on medium heat. Add chopped celery, onion, carrots and mushrooms. Sautée for 5-7 minutes, or until onion is soft and translucent. Add minced garlic and fry for about 1 minute more.
- Add minced meat: Remove vegetables from pan, but add minced meat (beef or beef + pork) with 1/2 tsp salt, into the same skillet and cook on high heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Let the fatty liquid evaporate.
- Let it simmer: Add in the canned tomatoes, tomato pesto/puree, fresh chopped basil and Italian seasoning. Add the cooked vegetables back into the skillet and let it simmer for at least 10 minutes (meanwhile, cook the pasta). You can let it simmer for up to 2 hours, which will intensify the flavors. I usually simmer it for 30 minutes.
- Taste: After you have let it simmered, taste and season accordingly. Depending on your tomatoes, you may need to add a little sugar. Also add more salt and seasoning, if needed.
- Serve with spaghetti or tagliatelle (or use in a lasgana) with a little freshly grated parmesan and fresh basil!
- Make ahead: This is GREAT for make ahead, as it tastes better the next day. Let the mixture cool and place covered in the fridge. Re-heat the next (or couple of) day(s). Also keeps well in the freezer for 2 months.
Optional Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
- Cut cherry tomatoes in halves, add to a small heat proof dish. Add crushed or minced garlic clove, minced fresh basil and drizzle with olive oil and some salt. Put in a pre-heated oven of 400F (200C) for about 20 minutes or until soft and tender.