Pasta with Bolognese Sauce

September 9, 2012

As we move into fall and the nights are getting cooler (50º here tonight!), it’s time to start thinking about homey, tummy-warming dishes. Bolognese sauce, a common type of ragù, fits the bill perfectly. It’s not a quick-cooking sauce, so it’s best for a weekend or a day off. However, the sauce could also be made ahead and refrigerated for a day or two so that all you need to do is reheat it and cook the pasta.

I’ve tried a few different recipes for Bolognese sauce but was generally unsatisfied with my end results – which seemed to turn out too greasy – no matter which recipe I used. I finally decided to try this version from the Gourmet cookbook, and I quickly realized that this one was going to be the winner. Meatloaf mix (made from equal parts ground beef, pork, and veal) is fairly lean but still tender, and there is no heavy cream in this recipe to make it overly rich.

Although I left the recipe below written up as it was originally in the cookbook, next time I will just buy a can of crushed tomatoes rather than puréeing whole tomatoes in juice; the results looked basically the same and it will save a step (and the fewer dishes the better). Enjoy!

Penne with Bolognese sauce

Serves 4 as a main course


  • 2  tablespoons olive oil
  • 2  tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1  large onion, finely chopped
  • 2  garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2  carrots, finely chopped
  • 2  celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 2  tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1  pound meatloaf mix (equal parts ground beef, pork, and veal)
  • 1  cup whole milk
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8  teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1  cup dry white wine
  • 1  (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice
  • 1  pound dried pasta, such as penne, rigatoni, fusilli, or orecchiette
  • Finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for accompaniment


  1. Heat oil and butter in a 6- to 8-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until foam subsides. Add onion, garlic, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add meatloaf mix and cook, stirring, until meat is no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Add milk, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and cook, stirring, until most of milk has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until all liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes.
  2. Coarsely purée tomatoes, with their juice, in a blender or food processor. Stir tomatoes into pot. Cook sauce at a bare simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 1¼ hours (sauce will thicken). Season with salt and pepper.
  3. When sauce is almost done, cook pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water (1 tablespoon salt for every 4 quarts of water) until al dente; drain.
  4. Immediately toss pasta with sauce. Serve with cheese.

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