Bolognese Meat Ragu

This sauce is a specialty unique to Northern Italy and takes spaghetti with meat sauce to another level. It differs from the meat sauces of southern Italy- in the north tomatoes are used to tenderize the meat rather than the base for tomato sauce. Both are wonderful, of course, but the lesser known meat ragu from Bologna is a unique experience and far from the more familiar “Italian” meat sauce. Once anyone has eaten tagliatelle bolognese, lasagna verde, or the unique Renaissance Tortellini pie, they’ll never again settle for anything else.

Ragu Bolognese – Bolognese Meat Sauce

This sauce is a specialty of Northern Italy and is way more interesting than the traditional tomato sauce with meat from the south. Once anyone has eaten bolognese with tagliatelle pasta or in a "real" lasagna with bechamel, they can never again settle for anything less. Like most Italian dishes, the best ingredients are essential for success. In this case, ground skirt steak or chuck, a good dry white wine and dry masala combined with whole milk and long cooking make for a truly special ragu deserving of the best grated Parmigiano-Reggiano available. This recipe makes enough raju to freeze half of it for future use.
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, Northern Italy
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 6 cups
Author: My Hungry Traveler


  • Large pot
  • Food processor, if desired for minincing


  • 2 tbsp Vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp Butter
  • 1 small Onion, minced
  • 1 stalk Celery, minced
  • 1 large Carrot, peeled and minced
  • 2 cups Whole milk
  • cups Dry white wine
  • ¼ cups Dry Marsala wine (or more white wine)
  • lb Ground skirt steak or chuck
  • ½ lb Ground pork or sweet sausage with casings removed
  • ½ tsp Each: nutmeg, sage, oregano
  • 1 Can 24 oz San Marzano peeled tomatoes with juice, chopped
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp Soy sauce or Asian fish sauce


  • In a large pot over medium heat, cook butter, oil, and onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add celery and carrots and cook 3 minutes more.
    Add meats and cook until no longer red. Break up meats while cooking. Add milk and gently simmer, stirring, until gone. Add marsala and stir until it evaporates. Add spices and wine and continue until wine has evaporated as well. (meat sauce may be frozen or refrigerated at this point).
    Crush tomatoes and add to the meat along with their juices, soy sauce, and the bay leaves. Simmer for 3+ hours over the lowest possible heat. Season to taste with salt.
    Serve with fresh or dried tagliatelle, penne, spaghetti, or linguine. Boil and drain pasta, put in a bowl with 2 tbsp butter. Add 1 cup bolognese and mix. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on the side.


  • Bolognese can be used to make traditional lasagna and the show stopping Renaissance tortellini pie.
  • The sauce can be made well in advance and frozen or cooked and refrigerated days before the final long cook.


Calories: 488kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 108mg | Sodium: 401mg | Potassium: 895mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 2328IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 167mg | Iron: 4mg

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