This classic Tagliatelle alla Bolognese with a rich slow-cooked tomato and beef ragù will become an all-time family favourite!
In the world of food, there are only a few dishes than can beat the classic pasta bolognese. This Tagliatelle alla Bolognese recipe is my take on this world-famous dish loved by all!
A thick and rich tomato-meat sauce that is slow cooked to perfection and will beautifully coat tagliatelle pasta (or any other pasta for that matter!).
The recipe for this Bolognese sauce is simple, made with a few basic pantry ingredients, but the best pasta sauce takes time. So make sure you can dedicate at least an hour of your time to prepare this dish - but you and your guests will be rewarded!
Besides, the sauce can be made ahead in batches for later use - and you won't regret it!
There are endless ways to serve this Tagliatelle alla Bolognese - serve in smaller portions as a starter before a holiday meal, as a weeknight dinner (especially if made ahead), or as a special Sunday lunch!
What is Bolognese?
Bolognese is a traditional Italian meat-based sauce, originating from Bologna, usually made with ground beed or pork (or a mixture of the two). In Italian, meat sauce is typically referred to as "ragù".
Ragù is traditionally slow-cooked with a sofritto of onions, carrots and spices in addition to ground meat (such as beef or pork) to release their flavours.
Ingredients and Variations
The main ingredients for this Tagliatelle alla Bolognese include:
The Pasta - Since Bolognese is traditionally served with tagliatelle, this is the type of pasta I use and recommend for this recipe.
You can also use other types of pasta such as spaghetti, pappardelle, fettuccine, or penne.
Onions - Onions make the base for this flavorful sauce.
You will need 2 large onions or 4 smaller ones as these will be cooked (sauteed) slowly and will shrink as they cook due to evaporation of water.
Use white or yellow onions for bolognese.
Carrot - Another vegetable that will be used for the sofritto. One medium-sized carrot is enough for this sauce.
Red Wine - Wine adds a rich taste to the sauce while enhancing other flavours. Since we will be using red meat, I would recommend going for red wine, but white wine can also be used here if desired.
Ground Beef - Whilst this Bolognese recipe calls for minced beef (or ground beef), you can also use a mixture of ground beef and pork (70:30 works very well too!) or ground pork or veal if desired.
Tomatoes - For this part, you can use good quality canned chopped tomatoes, pureed tomatoes, or canned whole tomatoes. I also like adding two tablespoonfuls of tomato paste (the concentrated type) for added flavour and colour, although this is optional.
If you prefer a creamier sauce that follows the more traditional recipe, you will also need half a glass of dairy milk (semi-skimmed or whole).
Other ingredients you will need are: ground nutmeg, bay leaf (optional), good quality olive oil, salt and pepper, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley to serve.
How to Make Tagliatelle Bolognese
Making Bolognese sauce involves a simple process, but the best sauce takes time.
Make sure you can dedicate at least 1 hour of your time to make this sauce. You can always make a batch and store it for later.
Start by finely dicing the onions and carrot.
This recipe uses a lot of onions which make up the base of the bolognese sauce. Since onions are slow cooked (on the stovetop) they release their moisture and shrink.
You will need 2 large onions or 4 smaller ones. White or yellow onions are the best choice for bolognese.
Make the Sofritto
Start by heating olive oil in a large saucepan. The soffrit is cooked on medium heat.
Add diced onions and carrot and saute for 5 to 7 minutes or until onions are soft. Then, cover the saucepan and saute for a further 20 to 30 minutes, being careful not to burn the onions.
If the mixture starts to dry out, add 2-4 tablespoons of water.
Cook Ground Meat
For this step, use a separate large skillet.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil on high heat. Add ground meat and cook until browned.
Once cooked, add ground meat to saucepan with onion and carrot sofritto. Do not clean the skillet, we will be reusing it for the wine.
Make the Ragù
Using the same skillet used to cook meat on high heat, add red wine.
The mixture will start to bubble. Use a spatula to scrape the skillet. Once alcohol evaporates (after 2-3 minutes), carefully pour the wine mixture into saucepan with meat and onions.
Add nutmeg and bayleaf.
Then, add canned tomatoes, tomato paste (if using), and 2-4 tablespoons of water or milk if you would like a more creamy sauce. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.
Simmer the Bolognese sauce, uncovered, on medium-low heat for a further 20 minutes. In the meantime, cook the pasta.
Cook pasta in a pot of salted boiling water until al dente (1 minute less than package instructions).
Drain and divide pasta between 4 serving plates.
Top the pasta with Bolognese sauce, chopped fresh parsley, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serve warm.
What to Serve with this Dish
Making Ahead and Storing
This sauce is perfect to make in batches and store for later use, especially considering the time it takes to make proper delicious Bolognese sauce.
Once the sauce has cooled, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for 3-4 days.
Alternatively, you can freeze Bolognese sauce (in a freezer safe container) for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight before using and reheat in a saucepan or microwave.
If the sauce is too thick, add a splash of water or milk to thin it.
Pasta is ideally served fresh and should therefore be cooked and served on the same day.
Yes, although Bolognese sauce is traditionally served with tagliatelle, you can also use other types of pasta such as spaghetti, pappardelle, fettuccine, or penne.
Yes. You can make this sauce using ground pork or veal. You can also use a mixture of ground beef and pork.
Other Pasta Recipes
Tagliatelle alla Bolognese
- 320 g dried egg tagliatelle or other dry pasta of choice
- 4 tbsp. olive oil extra virgin, divided
- 4 small yellow or white onions (or 2 large onions), diced
- 1 medium carrot finely diced
- 80 mL red wine (⅓ cup)
- 450 g ground beef (beef mince)
- ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 bay leaf optional
- 600 g canned finely chopped tomatoes (1½ cans)
- 120 mL milk semi-skimmed or whole (optional)
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste optional
- salt and pepper to taste
- chopped fresh parsley to serve
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese to serve
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large non-stick saucepan on medium heat. Add diced onions and carrot and saute, uncovered, for 5-7 minutes until onions are soft and liquid is released, stirring occasionally.
- Cover the saucepan and saute for a further 20-30 minutes, being careful not to burn the onions. If the mixture starts to dry out, add 2-4 tablespoons of water.
- In a separate large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil on high heat. Add ground beef and cook until browned. Add ground meat to saucepan with onion and carrot mixture.
- In the same skillet used for cooking the meat, add wine on high heat and use a spatula to scrape the pan. Once alcohol evaporates (2-3 minutes) and mixture is bubbly, carefully pour wine mixture into saucepan with meat and onions.
- Add nutmeg and bayleaf to meat mixture. Add canned tomatoes, tomato paste (if using), and 2-4 tablespoons of water or milk (for a more creamy sauce). Season sauce with salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer, uncovered, on medium-low heat for a further 20-30 minutes.
- In the meantime, cook pasta in salted water according to package instructions (or until al dente). Drain and divide pasta between 4 serving plates.
- Top with bolognese sauce, chopped fresh parsley, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve warm.