This classic Italian bolognese sauce is thick, creamy, and packed with so much flavor. Filled with your favorite Italian spices such as basil, oregano and nutmeg (yes, nutmeg), this authentic bolognese pasta sauce will make you feel like you are right in the center of Bologna, Italy!

A bowl of bolognese with a garnish of fresh basil, on top of a green linen tablecloth.

My husband spent two years living in northern Italy, so I will tell you that it’s very hard to make Italian food for him that he thinks actually tastes authentic. The great news is my husband said this bolognese pasta recipe is his favorite ever. Yep. You read that right. Favorite ever pasta recipe. 

And my kids and my husband approve every recipe before I put it on my site. I’m talking 10 out of 10 ratings. Which means this homemade bolognese sauce is at least an 11, maybe even a 20. Hopefully, I’ve given you an idea of how successful of a dinner we had when I made this easy bolognese sauce.

One thing my husband taught me about the Italian trick to making the best pasta sauce is letting it simmer for hours and hours. This creates a thicker and more flavorful sauce. However, I simply don’t have hours and hours to simmer my pasta, and you most likely don’t either. The good news for you is this recipe takes just 40 minutes to make and tastes like it’s been simmering ALL DAY. 

Victory. 😊

My family loves pasta — as you can tell from my pasta section on my website — so be sure to try some of our favorites such as my Johnny Carino’s bowtie festival, my skillet lasagna, and my classic fettuccine alfredo.

A plate of bolognese tossed with orecchiette pasta.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • Italian sausage (casings removed) — I love Italian sausage in most anything because it really adds a depth of flavor that ground beef misses. However, if you want to tone down the sausage you can use all ground beef or 8 oz ground beef and 8 oz Italian sausage.
  • Garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • Dried oregano
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (add 1⁄4 – 1/2 tsp for more of a kick)
  • Chicken broth — This adds more flavor to the pasta that we wouldn’t get if we simply used water.
  • Crushed tomatoes — Canned crushed tomatoes are what I use!
  • Tomato paste — This creates a thicker consistency to the sauce and a deeper tomato flavor. Thicker pasta sauce is better since it will stick to the noodles better than if your sauce is liquidy.
  • Salt — Beside the fact that I love salt, it is important because it is a flavor enhancer.
  • Ground black pepper
  • Pasta, small noodles such as small shells or orecchiette — I used orecchiette. It’s one of my all-time favorite noodles.
  • Ground nutmeg — You may think nutmeg? But fun fact: nutmeg is used in any authentic bolognese sauce, including lasagna alla bolognese. 
  • Fresh basil, chopped, lightly packed — Fresh. Trust me on this. 
  • Heavy cream — Just enough to kick up the creaminess of the pasta sauce.
  • Grated parmesan cheese — I love putting grated parmesan cheese on practically any pasta I eat. It’s the best garnish!
  • Reserved pasta water — This will make the pasta more saucy at the end.

How to Make the Best Bolognese Sauce

  1. Prep the skillet.
    Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, Italian sausage and ground beef. 
  2. Cook meat and add seasonings.
    Cook the meat until no longer pink, crumbling it up as you go. Once cooked, drain any excess grease. Stir in the garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. 
    A black skillet with cooked Italian sausage with dried herbs sprinkled overtop.
  3. Deglaze and simmer.
    To deglaze the pan, you will add the chicken broth to the skillet. Stir to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom. Cook until the broth has been reduced by half. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes. 
    Crushed tomatoes and cooked meat in a large skillet.
  4. Cook the pasta.
    While that’s simmering, cook the pasta to al dente.
  5. Add more seasonings and simmer again.
    After the sauce has simmered for 10 minutes, stir in the nutmeg, fresh basil, cream, and parmesan. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
    Cream and fresh basil overtop a bed of bolognese sauce, in a black skillet.
  6. Drain pasta, and reserve some of the pasta water.
    Drain the pasta and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water to use at the end to make the sauce more saucy (if needs be). 
  7. Combine and garnish. 
    Add the pasta to the sauce, mixing to combine. If you need the sauce to be more saucy, add a splash of the reserved pasta water. Serve warm with a garnish of fresh basil and parmesan.

Tools Used For This Recipe

Meat chopper  

Cheese grater 

Skillet 

Herb scissors 

Orecchiette pasta stirred into bolognese sauce.

Recipe Tips

  • Don’t forget the Italian sausage! You may think you can just use all ground beef instead, but I promise the flavor with the Italian sausage is next level.
  • Be sure to make the pasta sauce as directed. While you can use the bottled red sauce from the store, the homemade sauce is so much better!
  • Save some of your pasta water to add to the finished pasta at the end (if needed for sauce consistency).
  • Fresh basil is much, much more flavorful than dried so I recommend that. 
  • Leftovers can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for 1 week.

FAQ

  • Is bolognese sauce spicy? — Nope! It’s as mild and delicious as can be. If you want a nice heat/kick in your Bolognese sauce you can add more crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Is bolognese sauce gluten free? — I would check to make sure the tomato paste you use says it’s gluten free. The tomato paste I used (the Hunts brand) didn’t say gluten free on it. So be sure to check. 
  • Can bolognese be frozen? While technically yes you can freeze bolognese, this particular recipe uses heavy cream. Milk products tend to separate once frozen so this will definitely change the overall texture if you freeze it.
  • Which herbs do you use for bolognese sauce? — Oregano and fresh basil!
  • Which pasta do I use with bolognese sauce? — Pappardelle or tagliatelle are classic Italian pastas to use with bolognese sauce if you are looking for a long noodle. If you are wanting more of a shape, orecchiette or shell-shaped pasta work best. 
  • Where does bolognese sauce come from? — Bologna, Italy! 
  • Can bolognese sauce be used for lasagna? — Yes, definitely! Just layer the lasagna noodles with mozzarella cheese. Yum!
  • What does bolognese sauce taste like? — Well first off, it tastes amazing! Second off, the easiest way for me to describe it is what Americans would think of as a traditional spaghetti and meatballs sauce would taste like, but then times the flavor by a million and that’s bolognese sauce 🙂 haha
Bolognese sauce tossed with noodles, in a large white bowl.

More Delicious Recipes

Fettuccine Alfredo

Slow Cooker Lasagna

Pesto Tortellini Pasta Salad

Johnny Carino’s Bowtie Festival

Bucatini Cacio e Pepe

How to Make Ravioli

Best Bolognese Sauce

This flavorful and easy bolognese recipe is our FAVORITE pasta dish! The sauce tastes as though it has been marinating on the stove for 12 hours. (Spoiler alert… this recipe only takes 40 minutes to make, from start to finish!)
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 40 mins
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients
 

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 16 oz Italian sausagecasings removed (see notes!)
  • 4 garlic clovesminced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakesif you're really sensitive to heat and you don't want any "kick" in the sauce, reduce to 1/8 tsp
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb pastasmall noodle such as small shell or orecchiette
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup fresh basilchopped and lightly packed
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup reserved pasta waterto make the pasta more saucy at the end

Instructions
 

  • Heat a 12 inch skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, Italian sausage and ground beef. Cook the meat until no longer pink, crumbling it up as you go. Once cooked, drain any excess grease.
  • Stir in the garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. 
  • Add the chicken broth to the skillet to deglaze the pan, stir to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom. Cook until the broth has reduced by half.
  • Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes. 
  • While that’s simmering, cook the pasta to al dente.
  • After the sauce has simmered for 10 minutes stir in the nutmeg, fresh basil, cream, and parmesan. Simmer for another 10 minutes. 
  • Drain the pasta and reserve ½ cup of the pasta water to use at the end to make the sauce more saucy (if needs be). Add the pasta to the sauce mixing to combine. If you need the sauce to be more saucy, add a splash of reserved pasta water. 
  • Serve warm with a garnish of fresh basil and parmesan.

Notes

I have made this recipe using 16 oz Italian sausage AND a separate time using 8 oz ground beef and 8 oz Italian sausage. Both times the recipe was absolutely incredible! So I’ll leave it up to you to decide what you want to do for your meat. 
Use fresh basil! Makes a world of difference.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 5 days.
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten
 

Nutrition

Calories: 533kcal (27%)Carbohydrates: 52g (17%)Protein: 21g (42%)Fat: 27g (42%)Saturated Fat: 11g (55%)Cholesterol: 64mg (21%)Sodium: 1257mg (52%)Potassium: 656mg (19%)Fiber: 4g (16%)Sugar: 7g (8%)Vitamin A: 561IU (11%)Vitamin C: 14mg (17%)Calcium: 172mg (17%)Iron: 3mg (17%)
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
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