The Secret to Authentic Italian Bolognese Sauce

We should have posted The Secret to Authentic Italian Bolognese Sauce Recipe last year after we returned from Italy, but better late than never!

 

A white pasta dish full of fettuccini loaded with authentic Italian Bolognese sauce and fresh parmesan cheese on top with garlic bread in the background

We took a cooking class in Italy and I have to be honest with you, it was not our favorite. The food ended up really yummy, but the instruction was horrible. It was basically the chef flying through things himself, giving basic instruction, never letting the class join in  until the very end for some quick pasta making, and at that point I was super over it.

Until he taught us the secret to authentic Italian Bolognese Sauce and we got to try it.

I wanted to bathe in it.

Cade already was.

Ok, he wasn’t but I’m telling you, it was wonderful.

A white pasta dish full of fettuccini loaded with authentic Italian Bolognese sauce

 

I can already read your mind, you’re wondering why we are so excited about spaghetti sauce, aren’t you?

We actually aren’t, and I’m going to start at the very beginning, take you through the process and ingredients and then tell you the secret.

And no, it’s not cheese.

Or fresh herbs.

Ohhhhhh, thought you guessed it, didn’t you!

 

What is the Difference Between Spaghetti Sauce and Bolognese?

Is there a difference between spaghetti sauce and Bolognese sauce? They look the same. Smell the same, but think about it, do they taste the same?

In order to really break it down we need to call spaghetti sauce by what it is more commonly known as, marinara sauce.

  • What is Marinara Sauce?

Marinara sauce IS, at it’s simplest form, a tomato sauce, often with herbs and veggies like carrots and onion.

  • What is Bolognese?

Bolognese is primarily a meat based sauce, originating in Bologna, Italy. Bolognese has just a bit of tomato for flavor, while the rest is meat and the other liquids are generally wine and milk.

  • What uses Bolognese Sauce?

Bolognese is used on pasta or in lasagna. Ahhh now, you’re thinking about that meaty sauce, aren’t you?

 

A white pasta dish full of fettuccini loaded with authentic Italian Bolognese sauce

 

Can Bolognese Sauce be Made in Advance?

Oh heck yes!! Not only can Bolognese be made in advance, it should be!

  • Bolognese gets even better with time, so start that baby in the morning and simmer it all day long. Or make it the night before and store in the fridge, then reheat the next night for maximum flavor!
  • Bolognese sauce can be made ahead and kept refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.

 What Kind of Meat do You Use in Bolognese Sauce?

Traditionally, Bolognese Sauce is made with minced beef or pork. We really like the combination of beef and sausage as it’s a little more tricky to find all of the ground meats and make your own mixture like they did in Italy.

 

Are Ragu and Bolognese the Same Thing?

The real answer is that they are different, but to be honest, other than that one usually has a little less tomatoes and white versus red wine I really don’t think they are all that different. We don’t drink alcohol so it usually gets skipped in our recipes or a cooking wine is used, as in alochol free cooking wine.

Sounds like we’d better go back to Italy and do some more investigating.

 

A white pasta dish full of fettuccini loaded with authentic Italian Bolognese sauce

What Kind of Pasta for Bolognese

This really shouldn’t be such a big deal but it kind of is. The type of pasta you buy should match the sauce and recipe you’re making.

For example, can you imagine eating macaroni and cheese with spaghetti noodles? Or Alfredo with macaroni noodles? It just feels wrong doesn’t it?

When you get into the red sauces it seems like you can really mix up the pasta shapes, and that’s true, but really pasta recipes are best when you use a certain shape. It helps to catch the sauce in the right way and the flavor and texture should work together and not against each other.

Have you ever had penne with a really delicate sauce and felt like all you could taste was that hardy noodle? Point proven.

 

A white pasta dish full of fettuccini loaded with authentic Italian Bolognese sauce and fresh parmesan cheese on top with garlic bread in the background

 

Our Favorite Pasta Shapes for Ragu

 

These are our favorite pasta shapes for Ragu sauces, try to read each one without saying it in your best Italian accent on each one, I triple dog dare you.

I couldn’t resist.

 

  • Pappardelle-

Papperdelle pasta is a wider, flat egg noodle that is perfect for bolognese. This is actually what we ate it with, but in picture I had to switch to fettuccini as we were all out. It’s a light noodle, but has plenty of surface area for the heart meat sauce to sit on.

  • Fettuccini- 

Fettuccini is a more common pasta shape than pappardelle, but they are practically the same thing. The fettuccini noodle is just slightly smaller, but still has better surface area for the sauce than a spaghetti noodle. Fettuccini is a Roman or Tuscan style of pasta that is also easy to make on your own pasta machine as that’s usually the size of pasta maker you receive.

  • Rigatoni- 

Rigatoni is often mistaken as Penne, but they are not created equal. In fact, we’ve listed the pasta shapes in order that we like to eat them with a ragu or bolognese sauce.

Rigatoni are a tube-shaped pasta. They are larger than penne and ziti, and sometimes are a little curved. Rigatoni usually have ridges down their length, sometimes spiraling around the tube.

 

  • Spaghetti-

Spaghetti isn’t usually a go-to for Bolognese as the meat just falls off of the noodles, but in a pinch, that’s the one we would choose. It’s a thin, long noodle, though not as thin as angel hair pasta.

 

A white pasta dish full of fettuccini loaded with authentic Italian Bolognese sauce

 

Our Least Favorite Pasta for Bolognese

  • Penne-

Penne is our least favorite. I find the texture too thick and heavy and the noodle isn’t wide enough to really capture the sauce. However, I must mention that it’s a typical shape that people enjoy for Ragu sauces so don’t skip it just because of us.

 

Can You Freeze Spaghetti Sauce?

Alright, we try to always answer the “can you freeze it” questions in these posts as we know a lot of you work hard on freezer meals. So what’s the answer?

Of course!!!

I adore freezing red sauces, while I never freeze a cream sauce. Red sauces only get better with time while a white sauce will separate and gain too much water.

The trick is always the same, please, please invest in a Food Saver. You will thank me all the days of your life. It’s worth it. The end.

A white pasta dish full of fettuccini loaded with authentic Italian Bolognese sauce and fresh parmesan cheese on top with garlic bread in the background

 

What’s the Secret to Authentic Italian Bolognese Sauce?

You’ve made it. This is the moment you’ve all been waiting for, what’s the secret to authentic Italian Bolognese Sauce?

A LEMON!

We use the zest and just a squeeze of the juice.

I know, you’re shocked, but it’s true. Try it and never look back. And no, you’re not going to taste the lemon at all.

Actually, there’s one more tip, use a red, not a white onion. It makes a difference, I promise.

You’ll also notice that other than the chopped parsley as garnish, and the bay leaves there aren’t herbs at all. Trust us, this is a meat sauce, not a marinara and you don’t need them.

 

Products We Insist are Worth Buying

  • A simple meat chopper– only a few dollars and soooo worth it!
  • Le Creuset Dutch Oven– More than a few dollars but worth the investment for durability and how your food cooks and tastes. Trust us. Put it on your Christmas list.

 

 

Other Italian Sauce RECIPES

Looking for more Italian Sauce recipes? Who doesn’t love Italian sauces!?  Make sure you try these out the next time you are making that Italian dish.  Spaghetti Sauce, Pizza Sauce, and pesto

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The Secret to Authentic Italian Bolognese Sauce Recipe

We should have posted The Secret to Authentic Italian Bolognese Sauce Recipe last year after we returned from Italy, but better late than never!

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive oil
  • 2 Carrots, minced
  • 2 Celery, minced
  • 1 red onion, minced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 lb ground beef, higher fat
  • 1 lb Italian sausage
  • 2 cups of roasted tomatoes
  • 2 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 15 oz fire roasted tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream *SEE NOTE
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • dash of cooking white wine *SEE NOTE
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese for serving

Directions:

  1. Heat an oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place 2 Cups of fresh tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with oil and salt.
  3. Roast for 20 minutes or until soft and charred bits are appearing.
  4. Remove the tomatoes and set aside.
  5. In a Dutch Oven , over medium high heat, add the butter and oil. Once melted, add the carrots, celery, and onion.
  6. Saute, stirring occasionally until tender, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  8. Add the ground beef and sausage and use a meat chopper (it’s only $6 and worth every penny) to ground up the meat as it’s cooking.
  9. Once the meat is cooked, start adding all other ingredients.
  10. Stir to combine and simmer for 2-3 hours or up to an entire afternoon.
  11. Remove the bay leaves and serve with fresh pasta and fresh parmesan cheese.

You can use whole milk instead of the milk and cream

You can use real white wine, we just don’t drink so we don’t have that. 😉

Nutrition Information

Yield: 12-15, Serving Size: 1 cup

  • Amount Per Serving:
  • Calories: 367 Calories
  • Total Fat: 10.6g
  • Cholesterol: 54.9mg
  • Sodium: 391.6mg
  • Carbohydrates: 48.5g
  • Fiber: 5.9g
  • Sugar: 9.3g
  • Protein: 22.7g
All images and text ©Carrian Cheney for Oh Sweet Basil.

A white pasta dish full of fettuccini loaded with authentic Italian Bolognese sauce and fresh parmesan cheese on top with garlic bread in the background

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Carrian Cheney

Lover of all things beautiful, good and delicious. Wife, mother, friend, foodie.