Ragu Bolognese

Bolognese is an ancient recipe from Bologna dating back to at least the 5th century.  Tomato is an addition introduced after they were brought back from the New World.  In fact, there is surprisingly little tomato in Bolognese.

My recipe is loosely based on the one registered in 1982 with the Accademia Italiana della Cucina. The official recipe uses hand minced beef flank (skirt) and very little tomato, whereas I use a combination of ground beef, pork and veal and quite a bit more tomato.  This probably qualifies my recipe as more of a “Neapolitan Ragu”.  Traditionally served with egg fettucine, but you can have it with whatever you wish, even on its own or with some steamed cauliflower if you are on a carb restricted diet. Also makes a great lasagna filling.

This is a large recipe (I like making large amounts of things that freeze well), but you can scale it down if you wish.


  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 7 oz. (200 g) pancetta, small dice
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium carrot, finely diced
  • 1 celery stalk, finely diced
  • 1.5 lbs. (700 g) ground beef
  • 1.5 lbs. ground pork
  • 1.5 lbs. ground veal
  • 2 cups (500 ml) dry white wine
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 19 oz.(798 ml) cans quality whole Italian tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • salt and pepper

1.  Put oil, butter and bacon in a large pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until bacon renders.

2.  Add onion, carrot, celery and a pinch of salt.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent. 5 to 10 minutes.

3.  Add ground meats and another pinch of salt, increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking it up with a wooden spoon until the meat is cooked through and any water released is evaporated, about 20 minutes.

4.  Add white wine, stir, and simmer over low heat until wine has evaporated, about 20 minutes.

5.  Add beef stock, stir, and simmer over low heat until stock has evaporated, about another 20 minutes.

6.  Add milk, small amounts at a time, stirring and simmering until evaporated, about another 20 minutes.

7.  Add tomatoes, with juice, crushing the tomatoes in your hand as you add them to the pot along with a pinch of salt.  Bring to the boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until thick and rich, about 3 hours.  Stir occasionally.

8.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Tips and Tricks

A nice option is the addition of porcini mushrooms or a bit of minced chicken liver (a couple of ounces) added with the ground meat.

Adding small amounts of salt with your ingredient additions provides a superior result as opposed to doing all of the seasoning at the end.  Just be sure to add only tiny amounts as you will be reducing the sauce and you don’t want to end up with an over seasoned dish.

Don’t totally cheap out on the wine just because you are cooking with it.  It doesn’t have to be the best wine, but it should be something you would be willing to drink on its own.

Use good quality imported Italian tomatoes.  San Marzano variety are best.  The best tomatoes are picked and packed when they are ripe.  I like the ones packed in puree.  If you are going to use fresh tomatoes, they should be local, well-ripened, in season, peeled and seeded.  That’s a tall order in Ontario these days which is why canned is usually the better option.


About foodcompanion

personal chef, caterer, crossfit and weight training enthusiast

One comment

  1. Marg

    I like the suggestion of the chicken liver. I must try this version soon.mmm.

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