Slow food: Ragù alla Bolognese

One of the most well-known Italian dishes outside of Italy is Spaghetti alla Bolognese. The funny thing about this is that Bolognese Meat Sauce (Ragù Bolognese) originates from the city of Bologna, where it is never eaten over spaghetti but always over fresh tagliatelle! So Spaghetti alla Bolognese is not really an Italian dish, even though today you can eat it in restaurants in Italy, especially the tourist traps.

Another common misconception is that Ragù alla Bolognese is a quick sauce of tomato sauce and ground beef. First of all it is not quick but should simmer for hours, and second instead of ground beef in most cases ground veal is used. Since it takes a while to make (even though it is not a lot of work, just a lot of waiting while you stir now and then) and it freezes well, I usually make a big amount at once and freeze what I don’t need straight away. It is also a good idea to make the ragù a day before because it will taste better after a day. You could of course just make a quarter of the recipe below if you don’t want to make so much at once. You’ll probably regret not making more when you taste the result, though…

There are many recipes for Ragù alla Bolognese. Each family from Bologna has its own recipe and they all have slight variations. Common ingredients are ground veal, sometimes ground pork and/or beef as well, tomatoes in some shape or form (fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes, sieved tomatoes, or tomato paste diluted in meat stock), milk, cured pork (prosciutto and/or pancetta), red or white wine and finally what I call the trinity of Italian braises and stews: carrots, onions and celery. Here’s my version. I like to use sieved tomatoes or canned tomatoes rather than tomato paste because I like the ragù to have a bit more of a tomato flavor. I only use fresh tomatoes when I can get really good ones (which in the Netherlands is hardly ever).

Tomorrow I will follow up with my recipe for lasagne alla bolognese.


For about 2,5 litres (10 cups)

1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) ground veal, or a mixture of 50% veal, 25% pork and 25% beef

200 grams (0.44 lbs) prosciutto di parma, sliced and finely chopped

160 grams (1/2 cup) finely chopped onion

140 grams (1/2 cup) finely chopped carrot

100 grams (1/4 cup) finely chopped celery

90 grams (6 Tbsp) butter

1500 ml (6 cups) passata (sieved tomatoes)

400 ml (1 2/3 cup) dry white wine

400 ml (1 2/3 cup) milk

freshly grated nutmeg



Melt the butter in a large pan or pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and prosciutto. Sauté for 5-10 minutes until golden.

Increase the heat to high. Add the ground meat and cook the meat, breaking it up with two wooden spoons, until all of the raw meat color has disappeared.

Add the wine. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Add the milk and freshly grated nutmeg. Cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Now add the sieved tomatoes and stir to mix.

Lower the heat to the merest simmer. There should only be an occasional bubble.

Continue to simmer like that, uncovered, stirring now and then, for 4 hours (!). Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt.

The ragù alla bolognese is now ready to be served over tagliatelle or for example to make lasagne alla bolognese, although it is even better the day after. Make sure to cool the ragù quickly (by putting the pan in cold water and stirring the sauce, if needed with ice in the water) to prevent it from spoiling while it is cooling.


13 thoughts on “Slow food: Ragù alla Bolognese

  1. Other than my mother’s recipe, I never saw anyone else using milk in ragout. Where did you get that tip from? Estremamente bolognese ed e’ vero, non ci sogneremmo di metterlo sugli spaghetti….


    1. That’s interesting, because almost all recipes from a reliable source for ragù alla bolognese I know include milk! The ability to predict whether a recipe will work for me is probably one of my most useful talents when it comes to cooking, and there are only a few recipe writers that write good recipes consistently. These include, Biba Caggiano and a lady who used to work for the newspaper I read. All of them include milk.


  2. Good recipe, the prosciutto and white wine are a change from our usual version- we will try this out. The blog is great, btw- we may be getting a home sous-vide setup soon…your posts keep reminding us.


  3. I am so happy to share your blog. I’m always interested in trying new recipes for my family and I feel I owe you a big thanks. Cooking is much more interesting these days and the food much tastier. Well done.
    Maria Camilleri Malta

    Liked by 1 person

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