Spaghetti Bolognese

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Spaghetti Bolognese is a rich and hearty meal, bursting with flavor that only gets better the next day! Whip it up quickly in 30 minutes, or let it simmer for a few hours on the stovetop or in a crockpot for even more deliciousness.

Vegetarians and vegans aren’t left out here! Give my Lentil Bolognese a try. And if you prefer leaner meats, check out my Turkey Bolognese recipe.

Spaghetti Bolognese recipe in the pot.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Back when I shared this crockpot Beef Ragu, I also shared a bit about my trip to Italy and the all-day cooking class we took in Siena. Our teacher, Nonna Ciana, and her translators taught us how to make an authentic four-course Italian meal. It was the highlight of the trip for me!

After the class, one of her translators emailed me a bunch of recipes. I’ve been tweaking them a bit and sharing them here and there. Today, I’m putting my own spin on the classic bolognese.

In Italy, they serve this sauce with thicker pastas like pappardelle or tagliatelle because they hold the sauce better. But at my house, we’re all about spaghetti—it’s my kids’ favorite! So, I’m serving up my favorite bolognese sauce (slightly adapted from that Italian class) over spaghetti.

All the ingredients in this recipe prepped out for easy assembly.

The Difference Between Bolognese Sauce, Meat Sauce, and Spaghetti Sauce

Bolognese Sauce: This is a thick Italian sauce made from ground meat, vegetables like carrots, celery, and onions, tomatoes, and often cream. It’s usually served with wide pasta shapes.

Meat Sauce: This is any tomato sauce that includes ground meat. The ingredients can vary a lot.

Spaghetti Sauce: This is a simple tomato sauce (also called marinara sauce in the U.S.) often made with tomatoes, garlic, and herbs. It’s usually served with spaghetti and can sometimes have meat in it.

The veggies being sautéed, then beef being added and browned, and finally the tomato paste and garlic being added and cooked into it.

The “Secrets” To The Best Bolognese:

This spaghetti bolognese is the absolute best I’ve ever had! It’s rich with a deep, savory flavor. Here are the key ingredients that make up the absolute best Bolognese:

  • Veggies: In Italian cooking, soffritto is made from celery, onion, and carrots that are finely chopped and slowly cooked in olive oil. It’s the foundation for many pasta sauces (and soups!). Adding these vegetables not only makes the flavor amazing but also sneaks more nutrition into the dish, which is great for picky eaters.
  • Ground Beef: This gives the sauce its hearty texture. Instead of just using salt and pepper, I like to add beef bouillon, which not only seasons the beef but also amps up the meaty flavor.
  • Crushed Tomatoes: These are key for the sauce’s main flavor, so grab for the best quality you can find
  • Cream: Bolognese sauce usually has cream or milk. I like to use heavy cream because it makes the sauce a bit richer.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: This adds a great flavor boost to the sauce, similar to how soy sauce enhances fried rice.
  • Sugar: A small amount can make the sauce less sour if the tomatoes are a bit acidic.

The crushed tomatoes, seasonings, and cream being added to the pot for this easy spaghetti bolognese.

How To Make Spaghetti Bolognese

This Spaghetti Bolognese recipe is easy to make and can work for a weeknight dinner. If you’re in a hurry, you can simply simmer it for a shorter time.

For the tastiest sauce, though, it’s best to let it simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Slow cooking really helps the flavors come together. You can start this recipe on the stove, and then transfer it to a slow cooker if that’s easier for you.

If you need a super quick and simple option, you might want to try a One Pot Spaghetti recipe.

How To Use Leftover Bolognese Sauce

I love making a large batch of Bolognese sauce and keeping it in the fridge—it’s great for creating various meals throughout the week. This recipe is easy to scale up, so I often double it. Sometimes, we freeze the extra sauce for future use. Other times, we use leftover sauce in the following ways: inc

  • Stuffed Shells: Use Bolognese sauce instead of marinara in this Stuffed Shells recipe. 
  • Spaghetti Squash: For a veggie-rich meal, top a roasted spaghetti squash with a few spoonfuls of sauce.
  • Lasagna or Lasagna Roll-ups: This sauce works wonderfully in lasagna. It’s a big hit and easy to layer. 
  • Stuffed Peppers: Mix cooked white rice with Bolognese sauce, stuff in peppers, and bake. Add cheese and bake again.
  • Italian Sloppy Joes: Heap the sauce on crusty rolls, top with mozzarella cheese, and broil until cheese melts.

The pasta cooked and added to the sauce.

Tips for Making This Recipe:

  • Watch the Salt: Since this recipe includes salted pasta water, bouillon, and Parmesan cheese (all of which add saltiness), you might find you don’t need much more salt. 
  • Toss sauce with the Pasta: Tossing the pasta with reserved pasta water and the meat sauce is a key Italian technique. This process, known as emulsification, creates a creamy sauce that coats every strand of pasta beautifully. That said, on busy weeknights, or for a quicker meal, just spoon the sauce over cooked pasta. 
  • Use a Food Processor: Save time by chopping onions, carrots, and celery in a food processor.
  • Use Two Meats: If you have ground pork or Italian sausage available, try mixing half pork and half beef in the sauce for an even better flavor!

What To Serve With Spaghetti Bolognese:

  • Bruschetta: Olive oil brushed bread topped with tomatoes makes the perfect appetizer!
  • Bread: Crispy, buttery focaccia or rolls are perfect for soaking up any sauce left on your plate.
  • Caesar Salad: Fresh and crunchy, this salad is a classic side to a hearty Bolognese.
  • Caprese Salad: This simple, refreshing salad has fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.
  • Roasted Vegetables: Roasted broccoli, onions, bell peppers, and sweet potatoes all work well with the meaty sauce.
  • Dessert: Also, make sure to save room for a classic Italian dessert: Tiramisu.

Spaghetti Bolognese with tongs scooping some up some.

STORAGE

Bolognese sauce stores and reheats well, often becoming even more flavorful over time. For the best results, store the sauce separately from any pasta that’s already been mixed with sauce. Pasta tends to absorb the sauce and can become dry or bloated when stored together.

  • Storage: Keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • Reheating:
    • Microwave: Quick and easy.
    • Stovetop: For better flavor, reheat in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add a splash of water if the sauce is too thick.

More Italian-Inspired Recipes:

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Spaghetti Bolognese

5 from 4 votes
Spaghetti Bolognese, a hearty, delicious, and veggie-packed dish, is versatile enough for both gatherings and quick weeknight meals.
Spaghetti Bolognese recipe in the pot.
Print Recipe

Spaghetti Bolognese

Spaghetti Bolognese recipe in the pot.
5 from 4 votes
Spaghetti Bolognese, a hearty, delicious, and veggie-packed dish, is versatile enough for both gatherings and quick weeknight meals.
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword crockpot spaghetti bolognese, Spaghetti Bolognese, Spaghetti Bolognese recipe
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Simmering 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 4 -6 servings
Chelsea Lords
Calories 540kcal
Cost $16.24

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons each: olive oil & unsalted butter (or just use 4 tbsp olive oil)
  • 3 cups finely diced mirepoix (carrot, celery, & onion) (Note 1)
  • 1 lb ground beef (I use 93/7)
  • 1/2 cup red wine (or beef broth or water)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 dried (or fresh) bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons beef bouillon powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: dried thyme, dried basil, dried oregano, & pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Finishing additions (if needed): 2 teaspoons white sugar, 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • For serving: 13-16 oz spaghetti (13 oz for saucier pasta) Optional: fresh parsley (finely chopped), freshly grated Parmesan

Instructions

  • VEGGIES: Heat oil & butter in a large pot (or 6-quart dutch oven) over medium heat. Add mirepoix and cook until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Press to edges of pot.
  • BEEF: Increase heat to high, add beef to the center of the pot, sear, then break it up and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.
  • DEGLAZE: Pour in red wine (or broth/water) and cook until most of the liquid evaporates.
  • ADD FLAVOR: Stir in tomato paste and garlic, sauté for 2 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes and cook, stirring constantly, for another 1 minute.
  • ADD EVERYTHING ELSE: Stir in Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, seasonings, and cream. If serving immediately, stop here. If simmering, add 1-1/2 cups hot water.
  • TO SIMMER: Swap pot to smallest burner. Cover and cook on lowest heat for at least 1-1/2 hours up to 3 hours. Stir occasionally and add more water (1/2 cup at a time) IF needed to prevent the sauce from sticking.
    OR transfer everything to a slow cooker and cook on low for 5-6 hours.
  • FINISH: When sauce has thickened to the consistency of sloppy joes, it's ready! Adjust seasoning if needed; I typically add 1/2 tsp salt. Add sugar and balsamic vinegar to balance flavors.
  • PASTA: Cook spaghetti according to package instructions. Don't forget to salt the water (I add 1 tbsp salt to 12 cups water). Reserve 1-1/2 cups of pasta water before draining.
  • OPTIONAL: EMULSIFY: Add cooked pasta directly into bolognese sauce and use tongs to toss until pasta is well coated. Add reserved pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce.
  • ENJOY: Grate fresh Parmesan on top, add fresh parsley, and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

Note 1: It's crucial to finely dice these veggies so they integrate nicely into the sauce. You can use a food processor if you prefer. I typically use about 1-1/4 cup onion, 3/4 cup celery, and 3/4 cup carrots, which is equivalent to 1 large onion, 2-3 celery stalks, and 2-3 carrots.
MAKE AHEAD: The sauce gets better overnight! Cool completely, then refrigerate. Warm it on low heat before adding pasta. It can be frozen for 3 months or kept in the fridge for 3-4 days. Once tossed with pasta, it's best eaten within 3 days, but fresh pasta is always the tastiest!

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 540kcal | Carbohydrates: 67.3g | Protein: 28.5g | Fat: 66.8g | Cholesterol: 66.8mg | Sodium: 679.8mg | Fiber: 5.8g | Sugar: 11.7g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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4 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Great idea to make a big batch to re-purpose for other meals. Another idea would be to top over zucchini noodles. I love pasta but there are times I want to do lower carb like the spaghetti squash and stuffed peppers you suggested. Thanks! Am sending the link to your web page to a few friends. Your recipes are delicious.

  2. 5 stars
    Another great recipe! I only made half a recipe (1 28oz can of the Muir Glen roasted tomatoes). Husband and son loved it.
    I was a bit confused by the mention of “thick” spaghetti, but after thinking about it I decided you wanted to make sure we didn’t use thin spaghetti. Thick spaghetti is normal spaghetti because I could not find anything called thick spaghetti on the web.

  3. 5 stars
    Wow! Definitely not a one-note sauce. The depth of flavor is incredible.
    I did the recipe without cream but I’ll try that next time.
    I used part hot & part sweet sausage because my son likes spicy.
    Brava! Great recipe!

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