Last updated on July 26, 2023

Bolognese sauce (Ragù alla Bolognese) 🍝 Original Italian recipe

Gianni from All Italian - Author
Gianni from All Italian

Pancetta, ground beef, peeled tomatoes and red wine. Ragù alla Bolognese is one of the most famous Italian sauces, from the region Emilia. We share the ingredients and prepare the original recipe

A video of our Bolognese sauce recipe. Below we explain all steps in detail

Ragù alla Bolognese

Bolognese sauce (🔊 Ragù alla Bolognese in Italia) is sauce made of ground meat and tomato, and is one of the most famous Italian pasta sauces, as popular as Carbonara and Amatriciana.

Abroad it is very famous the combination Spaghetti with Bolognese sauce, but in Italy we like to eat ragù with different types of pasta, such as gnocchi, lasagna and tagliatelle.

Furthermore in Italy there are many types of ragù, differing from region to region. But everywhere it represents well the idea of the Sunday lunch.

On this page of All Italian we prepare the Bolognese saus as we do it in Italy, step by step and delicious.

Learning Italian 🇮🇹

Bolognese sauce is ragù alla Bolognese in Italian, or simply ragù.

The Italian words we use on this page:

🔊 Ragù alla Bolognese Bolognese sauce
🔊 Pomodoro Tomato
🔊 Carne di manzo macinata Ground beef

Bolognese sauce 🍝 Original Italian ragù recipe

(20) reviews

  • 👩‍🍳 Easy
  • 2h 15min bereiden
  • 🤗 Gegarandeerd resultaat

Of course there is no original recipe for ragù alla Bolognese. As we wrote, in Italy they make many kinds of ragù: every town in Emilia (indeed, every family) has its own real recipe for Bolognese sauce. And in any case, the best is the one that most closely resembles the ragù that our nonna used to make.

We make the recipe that was registered in 1982 by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina with the Chamber of Commerce of Bologna. More information can be found at the bottom of the recipe.

How long to cook bolognese sauce

To make Bolognese sauce you need a total of two and a half hours. Half an hour for preparing the ingredients and at least two hours for cooking the ragù.

The trick to making a tasty sauce is to keep the heat low: that's why it's a recipe for when you know you'll stay home for a few hours.

We recommend cooking the ragù on a very low heat for about three hours, stirring occasionally.
While cooking, the air bubbles on the surface of the sauce should be barely visible.

Which pan for Bolognese sauce

The ragù sauce needs to cook very slowly: that's why it's important to choose a large pan. The pan should be large, so that there is enough space for meat and vegetables, and so that it's easy to mix.

A thick-bottomed pot or a cast-iron frying pan are fine: these materials distribute the heat evenly.

If you have a slow cooker, do use it to cook Bolognese sauce. The first steps of the recipe still need to be done on the stove, browning the meat and vegetables together.
Then pour the ingredients into the slow cooker: it is perfect for cooking ragù.

The ingredients of Bolognese sauce




Ingredient image Ingredient name Cups Grams Ounces
ground-beef Ground beef 10.6 oz 300 g
pancetta Pancetta 5.3 oz 150 g
carrot Carrot 1.8 oz 50 g
celery Celery 1.8 oz 50 g
onion-white White Onion 1.8 oz 50 g
peeled-tomatoes Peeled tomatoes 10.6 oz 300 g
olive-oil Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1 teaspoon
wine-white White wine 3.5 oz 100 g
milk-whole Whole milk 7 oz 200 g
stock-cube-vegetable Vegetable soup 14 oz 400 ml 0.4 US quarts
salt Salt 1 pinch
pepper-black Black Pepper 1 pinch

Ingredients to make Bolognese sauce

  • Ground beef

    Some in Italy prefer lean ground beef to keep calories in check: this is because ragù already contains pancetta and olive oil.
    Keeping in mind that, if the meat is too lean, the ragù will be less tasty.

  • Pancetta

    The official ragu recipe also contains pancetta.
    In Italian supermarkets you can find pancetta already cut into blocks, both dolce (literally sweet) and smoked. The one typically used in ragù is the not-smoked one.

    However, there are of course other ways to make ragù: some simply make a mix of minced pork and beef, instead of using blocks of pancetta.

    👨‍🍳 In my family, my grandmother and my mother have always made ragù without pancetta: and this is also why when I prepare ragù for myself, I usually don't add pancetta either, as do many others in Italy.

  • Wine

    Which wine in bolognese sauce? Italians use both white and red wine.

    Perhaps Sangiovese is the wine best suited to flavor Bolognese sauce, the production of which is one of the most common in central Italy.
    In Italy, Tavernello is the most famous wine for cooking, sold in the classic box.

    We recommend using table wine (🔊 vino da tavola) or (🔊 vino da cucina); while we keep good quality wine to drink with pasta.

  • Tomatoes

    Which tomatoes for Bolognese sauce? Tomato is one of the ingredients that characterizes the modern Bolognese sauce. As we have seen, the tomato was not originally an ingredient of ragù, and that was not until the middle of the twentieth century.

    The official recipe includes two alternatives:

    • 0.7 oz / 20 g tomato puree triple concentrated

    • or 10.6 oz / 300 g diced tomatoes or peeled tomatoes

    We usually use peeled tomatoes. Although with the tomato puree, the ragù possibly gets a fuller taste.

    👉 For a 🔊 buonissima Bolognese sauce we recommend using San Marzano peeled tomatoes: a variety of tomato very popular in Italy, juicy and with a low acid taste: perfect for pastasaus and pizza. You can easily find them in supermarkets even abroad, marketed for example by Mutti.

  • The broth

    The sauce dries up during cooking. To dilute it, some add little by little a ladle of broth. This step is also included in the official recipe.

    👉 The broth is an optional ingredient: you can also use plain hot water to thin the ragù.

    How much broth do you need for the Bolognese sauce? It depends on how long you let the sauce cook. The longer the cooking, the more broth is needed to thin the sauce as it dries.

    We usually make 1 liter and keep it warm in a pan with a lid, from which we occasionally draw a ladleful to add to the ragù.

  • Vegetables

    Which vegetables in Bolognese sauce? The official recipe contains yellow carrot (though to be honest, we always used the common orange carrot), celery and white onion.

    Cut the vegetables finely, into small pieces.

    Carrots, white onion and celery: the vegetables for bolognese sauce, finely chopped
    Carrots, white onion and celery: the vegetables for bolognese sauce, finely chopped

    The feel of the sauce in the mouth depends on the size of the vegetables. Therefore the vegetable cubes should not be larger than the minced meat.

    We also believe that vegetables taste better if you cut them manually and not with the mixer.

  • Herbs

    Which herbs for bolognese sauce? Italian herbs do not appear in the official recipe, but are important to to give the bolognese sauce the typical taste of the ragù della nonna.

    Herbs you can add to Bolognese ragù are:

    • Clove

    • Sage

    • Rosemary

    • Laurel

    The herbs are finely chopped together with the vegetables and browned, together with a drop of olive oil.

    The cloves, on the other hand, must remain whole and be removed at the end of cooking.

  • Milk

    Milk is an optional ingredient but important if you want to make a creamier Bolognese sauce. The official recipe contains a whole glass, which should be added towards the end of cooking.

    Milk is used for:

    • Reduce the acidity of the tomato

    • Add sweetness to the ragù

    Without milk however the Bolognese sauce does not necessarily have a sour taste: it also depends on the type of tomatoes you use.

    That said, not everyone in Italy adds milk to Bolognese sauce. For example, it's not a custom in my family.

  • Salt

    Just like milk, salt should also be added at the end of cooking. This way you can properly adjust the taste of the ragù. The sauce should be already rich of salt because it contains pancetta and possibly broth.

Is whipping cream an ingredient of Bolognese sauce?

Some in Bolognese sauce also put whipping cream. In Italy this is not very popular because ragù Bolognese is usually combined with fresh and egg pasta such as tagliatelle, so the addition of whipping cream is not really necessary.


  1. Saute the vegetables

    Use a large, high-sided pot: this should also contain the ground beef, which will be added in the following steps.

    Pour a teaspoon of olive oil and turn on the heat. Add the diced vegetables: onion, carrot and celery.

    Brown the vegetables over medium heat for a few minutes.

    Saute the vegetables
    «Soffritto di verdure», as we say in Italian

  2. Add the ground beef and pancetta

    The vegetables should be cooked over a low heat, as this way they soften without burning; the meat, on the other hand, should brown over medium heat (always making sure it doesn't burn).

    Add first the finely chopped pancetta and let it brown for a minute. Optionally, you can add some olive oil.

    Then add the ground meat and keep stirring; make sure that the meat does not burn and does not stick to the bottom of the pot.

    When the meat is well browned, add the wine: not all at once, but little by little. Stir the mixture, let the wine evaporate and repeat until all the wine is absorbed.

    Add the ground beef and pancetta
    Ground beef for ragù Bolognese

  3. Add the tomato and cook for 2 hours

    Add the concentrated tomato or the peeled tomatoes. Stir well again so that the sauce is well mixed.

    Turn down the heat to low, cover with a lid and let it cook for at least two hours. Stir occasionally and if the sauce seems too dry, thin the sauce with a ladle of vegetable broth or hot water.

  4. Add salt and optionally milk

    Milk and salt should be added at the end of the recipe. Milk helps to to make the sauce creamy and sweet. Make just sure not to add cold milk straight from the refrigerator.

    Taste the sauce and add salt if necessary.

    Add salt and optionally milk
    Your ragù Bolognese is ready

Your Bolognese sauce is ready 🍝

Bolognese sauce 🍝 Original Italian ragù recipe
Bolognese sauce - Ragù alla Bolognese from our pasta recipe cookbook
Bolognese sauce ready in a bowl
As you can see in the images, we always leave a little liquid in the Bolognese sauce, which should not be too dry

Did you like it? Rate this recipe

In the restaurant in Italy, when you finish eating, the waiter will ask: 🔊 andava tutto bene? (was everything fine?)

Recipe rating Italian translation
🔊Abbastanza buono
🔊Non molto buono
🔊Non buono
Placeholder image

See also our recipe for fusilli and tagliatelle with ragù Bolognese: just like we make them in Italy 👍

How to store Bolognese sauce

The ingredients of our recipe are for 4 people. But because the ragù needs to cook for a few hours, Italian families usually prepare it in large batches and store it for the following days.

Making Bolognese sauce on Sunday is a great idea for all other days of the week when you like to eat a delicious plate of pasta.

Moreover, defrosting and heating up the Bolognese sauce is simple and fast: you don't have to wait long.

How to store Bolognese sauce

Once the ragù is ready, let it cool - not in the fridge, but at room temperature.

You can store it in glass jars, the classic one my grandmother used. It is best to put it in jars as soon as it has cooled.

Storing Bolognese sauce in glass jars
Store Bolognese sauce in glass jars. 3-4 days in the fridge, or about 3 months in the freezer. Foto: Francescobrisa

How long can you store Bolognese sauce?

In the refrigerator you can store the Bolognese sauce 4 or 5 days, in well-sealed glass jars.

If you used fresh ingredients for the Bolognese sauce, you can store it in the freezer, in well-sealed glass jars, for about 3 months.

A tip: if you store the ragù in small jars in the freezer, it is already divided into portions that you can easily take out and thaw if you want a plate of pasta.
Otherwise you have to loosen a piece of frozen ragù to get only part of it; it's not always an easy task to do.

Defrost the sauce before use au bain-marie in warm water. In 30 minutes the Bolognese sauce will be ready to flavor the pasta.

What type of pasta with Bolognese sauce

The most popular Italian pasta with ragù is Spaghetti alla Bolognese, right? Abroad maybe, but not in Italy.

The Italians don't find the combination of spaghetti and ragù particularly satisfying. With ragù Bolognese they prefer tagliatelle or lasagne. Why?

Because every type of pasta has a characteristic that it combines with a type of sauce: the shape or texture of the pasta.

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese
A plate of tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce Foto: Ivan Vighetto

Spaghetti is pasta made with semolina of durum wheat, which grows in southern Italy. For example, spaghetti are very popular in Naples, along with vermicelli.

Bolognese sauce, on the other hand, is typically combined with fresh pasta made in Northern Italy, in Emilia: and therefore with tagliatelle and lasagne. Fresh egg pasta has different properties than dry pasta and is made from soft wheat flour.

Spaghetti with Bolognese sauce is therefore not a traditional Italian dish from the Emilian kitchen.

To know more about Bolognese sauce

As the name implies, Bolognese sauce comes from the traditional cuisine of Bologna, in the region Emilia Romagna


In traditional Italian cuisine, ragù frequently accompanies:

  • egg pasta such as tagliatelle and lasagna

  • gnocchi al ragù, with grated Parmigiano cheese

  • lasagna, along with the bechamel

  • polenta or simply with bread

While you prepare it, it is a must to taste a little ragù, hot and steaming, on a piece of bread.

The origins

Ragù is a term that comes from the French ragôut: meat cut into pieces and cooked with vegetables and other ingredients.

It is not clear why the Italian sauce got this name. In Italy, a version of the ragù was already made in the Renaissance, but it was a dish in itself, not yet combined with pasta.

Macaroni alla Bolognese by Pellegrino Artusi

Pellegrino Artusi is the author of the famous book Science in the kitchen and the art of eating well: one of the most important books of the Italian culinary literature.

In his book, Artusi shares the Macaroni alla Bolognese recipe: pasta made with a sauce very similar to today's Bolognese sauce, but without tomato. White, as they say in Italy.

Artusi also includes optional ingredients to flavor its ragù, such as mushrooms and truffles. Interestingly for us, Artusi doesn't use the word «ragù» yet.

Pellegrino Artusi's book «Science in the kitchen and the art of eating well» Foto: Wikipedia IT

Tomato has been part of the ragù recipe since the first decade of the twentieth century, when the macaroni van Artusi are replaced by tagliatelle, as we eat it in Italy today.

The official recipe of Ragù alla Bolognese

There is an official» recipe for ragù alla Bolognese: the recipe registered in 1982 at the Chamber of Commerce of Bologna by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina.

Bolognese sauce is part of a series of recipes registered by the Academy since the 1970s to ensure respect for the Bolognese gastronomic tradition in Italy and around the world.

👉 This version of the recipe is not necessarily the correct one: but it is certainly a point of reference. For example, it contains both butter and olive oil, pancetta and beef. Many Italian families make ragù in a different way though, even in Emilia, for example with instead of beef meat.

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Hi! We are Italian expats and have been living abroad for years, currently in the Netherlands. Wherever we go, we carry part of our tradition with us. And we often notice that Italy, its heritage and its lifestyle, are very popular.
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