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Authentic Bolognese Sauce Recipe

Updated on July 1, 2013

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Cook Time

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 2 hours
Ready in: 2 hours 15 min
Yields: Covers 2 lbs. of cooked pasta

Bolognese Sauce When It's Done

This is what your sugo alla bolognese will look like when it's done.
This is what your sugo alla bolognese will look like when it's done. | Source

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 5 or 6 petite carrots, finely chopped or grated
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 28 oz can whole or diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp tomato paste

Regular Olive Oil Is Just Fine

No need to splurge on extra virgin olive oil for sauteeing or browning meat.
No need to splurge on extra virgin olive oil for sauteeing or browning meat. | Source
  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan.
  2. Finely chop the onion.
  3. Saute in the hot oil until softened and just translucent.
  4. Grate or finely chop the carrots and add to the oil. Saute until softened.
  5. Add the ground beef and salt. Note: I use either 85% lean or extra lean ground beef.
  6. Brown the beef.
  7. When the beef is browned, add the tomato paste. Mix well.
  8. Add the canned whole or diced tomatoes and their juice.
  9. Stir and bring to a boil.
  10. Lower heat and continue cooking for about another hour or hour and a half. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking to the bottom of the pan and to keep it from burning.

Carrots Add Sweetness

Carrots add sweetness to the sugo, to offset the sour tartness, the acidity of the tomatoes.
Carrots add sweetness to the sugo, to offset the sour tartness, the acidity of the tomatoes. | Source

A Note about Ingredients

For the ground beef, my mother and I always preferred using the extra lean (93% lean or higher) whenever possible. However, if that is not available, use ground beef no lower than 85% lean for the best results.

Some people add sugar to their Bolognese sauce, but it's not really necessary at all since the carrots lend sweetness to offset and balance the acidity of the tomatoes.

An ingredient that my mother always maintained was absolutely necessary is the tomato paste. However, if you cook the sugo slowly and long enough, no one will ever miss it if you do not choose to use it (or if you do not have any on hand). As long as she did not actually watch me make it, my mother maintained that my sugo was the one that tasted exactly like the one she made, the traditional sugo from her hometown of Galeata, Province of Forli'-Cesena, in the heart of the Romagna.

Where Sugo alla bolognese comes from

Roots of the Sugo alla Bolognese

Sugo alla bolognese is a traditional meat sauce that takes its name from Bologna, perhaps the most famous city of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. There, it is simply known as il rag├╣ (or even just il sugo, in the Romagna region of my mom's birth and childhood). It is a very flexible recipe and is used for most pastas, from ravioli to lasagne. Add peas and this is the filling for Sicilian arancini, or fried rice balls filled with meat sauce. I use this sugo to make sloppy joes, to the delight of all my kids!

Emilia-Romagna is the gastronomic center of Italy, the part of the country that invented the pastas we know and love: ravioli (also called tortelli), lasagne, fettucine (also called tagliatelle). It is where Parma, the city that gave the world the famous parmesan cheese and prosciutto, is located. Modena is also located in this region. Modena is known for balsamic vinegar, Ferraris, and Pavarotti.

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