Classic Bolognese Meat Sauce

Ragù alla Bolognese


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes enough for

    1 pound

    dried pasta

Appears in

How to Cook Italian

How to Cook Italian

By Giuliano Hazan

Published 2005

  • About

Ragù is a generic term for a slow-cooked meat sauce usually with tomatoes. This is the famous meat sauce of Emilia Romagna (of which Bologna is the capital). Practically everyone from this region makes their own version with subtle changes from one generation to another. My family is from Emilia Romagna and we are no exception. I learned to make the sauce from my mother, Marcella, who learned it from my grandmother Mary. This recipe is how I make it now.

Its classic pairing is with homemade tagliatelle or pappardelle, and I would be hard pressed to think of a more satisfying dish. It is also very good with rigatoni, shells, or any substantial pasta shape, preferably one with ridges, that has nooks and cavities to trap the sauce. When tossing with pasta, add a generous sprinkling of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and a tablespoon of butter.


  • ½ small yellow onion
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 rib celery
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces ground beef chuck
  • Salt
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 cups canned whole peeled tomatoes with their juice


  1. Peel and finely chop the onion. Peel the carrot and celery and cut into ¼-inch dice to get ¼ cup each. Put the onion, carrot, celery, butter, and olive oil in a heavy-bottomed sauce pot and place over medium-high heat. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the ground beef and break it up with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and continue stirring until the meat has lost its raw red color.
  3. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is almost completely evaporated. Add the milk and nutmeg and cook, stirring occasionally, until the milk is mostly evaporated.
  4. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and add them to the pot. Season with salt. Once the tomatoes have started bubbling, turn the heat down very low so that the sauce is barely simmering. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. If all the liquid evaporates before the cooking time is up, add ½ cup water as needed. After 3 hours, make sure all the liquid is evaporated before you remove the sauce from the heat.


You can prepare the sauce ahead of time and refrigerate it for 2 to 3 days or freeze it for up to 2 months.