Bolognese is a classic meat sauce that you should always have in your back pocket. This beef bolognese recipe is one of my favorite Italian dishes that is so easy to put together and so flavorful.
The Meat Base
Every great sauce starts with a great base. In this bolognese recipe we are going to start with crisping up some pancetta. “Stephanie, I have bacon can I use that instead of pancetta?” in short, yes you can. Bacon and pancetta are from the same cut of the pig the pork belly, the main difference is bacon is smoked and pancetta is not. So if you use bacon, it will add a smokey flavor to a dish that may mess with the flavor profile, but won’t completely ruin the dish.
I crisped up the pancetta first for about 4-5 minutes. I wait to add the meat, because I find the pancetta doesn’t get crispy enough if you cook them together from the start. After the pancetta is crisp, add in the ground chuck.
I choose ground chuck instead of ground sirloin, due to it’s fat content being higher. I’ve tried this recipe with leaner sirloin, but you don’t get the full depth of flavor when using it. Once the beef has browned, add some dry white wine. Allow the alcohol to cook off and the liquid will reduce by half. Using a slotted spoon, remove the beef/pancetta and set aside. Leave the oil and bits inside, that will help flavor the sauce.
Building the sauce
If you have made my meatball recipe with homemade sauce, you have seen me put grated carrot into my sauce base before. This makes the sauce less acidic due to the sweetness in the carrot, which helps balance the acidity of the tomatoes. It also adds great texture and body to the sauce, as well as added nutrition.
You’re going to let this cook until the shallots become translucent, about 4 minutes. Then you’ll add the minced garlic and cook that another minute until it becomes fragrant. Then we are going to add 1 can of whole peeled tomatoes to our base. You’re going to lower the heat to simmer, cover, and let the tomatoes break down for 20 minutes.
Once the sauce has simmered for 20 minutes, the tomatoes should be pretty much broken down. If you like your sauce chunky, you can leave it like this, or you can pass an immersion blender through it. You can also use a heat safe blender, but be VERY careful transferring because it’s hot and can get messy.
Return the beef/pancetta back into the sauce and stir to combine. Cover and allow the sauce to simmer for 30 minutes, this will allow all the flavors to meld together. While the sauce simmers, we will work on the pasta.
For this recipe I chose pappardelle pasta. I’ve used all different sizes and shapes and they were all great, so feel free to use your favorite kind. You want to cook the pasta al dente according to package instructions. My favorite is this egg and semolina pappardelle that cooks in 5 minutes and tastes almost like it was made fresh!
Finishing the Sauce
Once the sauce is done simmering, I add a touch of heavy cream. This cuts the acid in the sauce and brings it full circle. This is the time to give it a taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Drain the pappardelle and add it into the pot with the bolognese sauce. Using tongs, keep tossing the pasta noodles until it is fully coated with the sauce.
Place the noodles in a bowl and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
I served this bolognese sauce with my homemade garlic bread, which was perfect for dipping and scooping in the sauce. I highly recommend making it along side!
I hope you enjoy this easy and flavorful bolognese recipe!
- 1 pound ground chuck
- 4 ounces pancetta diced
- 28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes
- 6 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 1 large shallot minced (about 3 tbsp)
- 1 medium carrot grated about ¼ cup
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- ½ cup dry red wine
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 8 ounces pappardelle cooked al dente
- Fresh parmesan for garnish
- Serve with homemade garlic bread
- In a dutch oven over medium heat, add 3 tbsp olive oil and pancetta. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes until pancetta begins to crisp. Add the ground chuck, red pepper flakes, and cook until meat has browned. Add in ½ cup of red wine and allow to deglaze for about 4 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by half. Using a slotted spoon, remove the beef/pancetta and set aside in a dish leaving behind the oil and tiny bits of flavor.
- Add the shallots, carrots, salt, and black pepper. Allow to cook for 5 minutes until shallots become translucent. Add in the minced garlic and cook an additional minute. Add in the whole peeled tomatoes, lower the heat to simmer, and cover for 20 minutes to allow the tomatoes to break down.
- Uncover sauce, break up tomato chunks with a spoon or lightly pass immersion blender to smooth out the sauce. Add back the browned beef/pancetta to the sauce and stir to combine. Cover and allow sauce to simmer for 30 minutes.
- In a large pot, cook pasta until al dente (time depends on the type of pasta, follow package directions). Drain pasta.
- Once the sauce is finished simmering, add in heavy cream, stir until combined. Give the sauce a try and adjust seasoning if necessary. Add in the pasta and using tongs, gently toss until pasta is coated in the sauce.
- Serve with freshly grated parmesan over the top and optional garlic bread on the side. Enjoy!
- If you do not have pancetta, you can substitute with non-flavored bacon. The bacon will add smokey flavor to the dish. To get rid of the smokiness you can boil for 2 minutes before continuing with the dish.