Marcella Hazan Bolognese Sauce

There is nothing more delicious and comforting than a true classic Italian Bolognese Sauce. If you’re looking for an incredible pasta sauce to add to your recipe collection, look no further than this one.

This recipe is a light adaptation of Marcella Hazan’s bolognese from her well-known cookbook, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. My version stays true to the original, but is more detailed, simpler in ingredient quantities, and more tomato-forward in flavor.

I’ve made Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese countless times over the years. We love to serve it for special occasions and holidays. This sauce is big on flavor and always, always delivers. It also makes a lovely meal to gift to friends and family (it’s my go-to choice for Meal Trains!).

While the sauce is straight-forward to make, it does require several hours of simmer time, so it is a dish best planned ahead. If you’re looking for an easier recipe, this Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce is a great option!

Marcella Hazan Bolognese Sauce Ingredients

Why You’ll Love This Bolognese Recipe:

  • Classic & Traditional there is nothing more delicious and comforting than a classic Italian bolognese sauce and Marcella Hazan always delivers. I’ve made small changes to her recipe over the years – with tweaks to ingredients, quantities, and instructions – which, in my humble opinion, improve the final result.
  • Flavorful this sauce gets its incredible flavor from 3 to 4 hours of simmer time, which produces a rich, intensely flavorful sauce. Whole milk tenderizes the meat and white wine and canned tomatoes add just the right amount of acid.
  • Easy to Find Ingredients – while all of the ingredients can be found at your standard grocery store, I recommend using the best quality ground beef and canned tomatoes available. No other specialty ingredients required!
  • Easy to Scale – this recipe yields roughly a little more than one quart (4 cups) of sauce, ideal for tossing with 1 lb of dried, cooked pasta. Since the recipe is time-intensive, I often double the recipe ingredients and freeze a portion for later. Your future self will thank you!
Marcella Hazan Bolognese Sauce Ingredients

Ingredients You’ll Need:

  • EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL + BUTTER: a combination of extra virgin olive oil and unsalted butter for sautéing the aromatics.
  • YELLOW ONION, CELERY, + CARROT: make up the base of this sauce. To produce the best texture, you’ll want to chop the onion, celery, and carrot into a small dice (1/4-inch cubes). This attention to detail is worth the added effort, trust me!
  • GARLIC: while garlic is not included in Marcella’s original recipe, I always like to include some for added flavor.
  • RED PEPPER FLAKES: I always like to add a touch of pepper flakes (1/4 teaspoon or less) to bolognese! It rounds out the sauce without lending any detectable heat.
  • GROUND BEEF: you’ll want to use 80% lean/20% fat ground beef (or minimum 15%). If the beef is too lean, the sauce will be drier and have less flavor.
  • WHOLE MILK: a traditional ingredient in classic bolognese, milk tenderizes the meat and produces a richer, more flavorful sauce.
  • NUTMEG: a touch of freshly grated whole nutmeg adds warmth, spice, and fragrance. Just a little goes a long way!
  • WHITE WINE: for acid and balance. Seek out a dry white wine, such as Pinto Grigio, Pinot Gris, or Sauvignon Blanc.
  • CANNED TOMATOES: I prefer a bolognese that has a slightly higher ratio of tomatoes than Marcella Hazan’s original recipe calls for. My version uses one (28-ounce) can of whole Italian plum tomatoes for maximum ease. Use kitchen shears to cut them into small pieces or substitute canned crushed tomatoes if you prefer a smoother texture.
  • PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO RINDS: I love to add parmesan rinds to pasta sauces as they simmer! They add incredible flavor. Be sure to remove and discard them before serving.
Marcella Hazan Bolognese Pasta

How to Make Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese Sauce:

While this bolognese sauce is straightforward to make, it does require quite a bit of planning as you’ll want to simmer it for at least three hours for best results.

See recipe box below for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

  1. Sauté the Aromatics: Heat the olive oil and a butter in a large (roughly 5-Quart) heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or pot over medium-low heat. Add the diced onions and sauté until softened and nearly translucent. Add the celery and carrots and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, if using, and cook for an additional minute or so.
  2. Cook the Beef and Simmer with Milk and Wine: Add the beef, a generous pinch of kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Cook over medium heat, breaking up the meat with a fork as needed, until nearly cooked through and no longer raw. Add the milk and simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, until the milk has mostly cooked out. Stir in the freshly grated nutmeg. Add the white wine and simmer until evaporated.
  1. Add the Tomatoes: Add the canned tomatoes and parmesan rinds and stir mixture to combine. Bring to a slow boil then reduce the heat immediately to a very low simmer.
  2. Simmer Slowly: Simmer the sauce, uncovered, for at least 3 to 4 hours, stirring every so often. This step can be broken up into stages through the same day (see recipe for full instructions). Add a splash of water to thin as needed. Remove and discard the parmesan rinds. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.
How to Make Marcella Hazan Bolognese Sauce Recipe

How to Serve This Bolognese:

Fusilli, cavatappi, and rigatoni are my favorite pasta choices for a classic bolognese. Homemade pappardelle is another wonderful, decadent option.

In my experience, the hearty meat sauce holds and clings onto the nooks and crannies of short pasta shapes better than long pasta.

When possible, I always recommend finishing pasta in a sauce. To do this, transfer the just boiled, al dente pasta directly into the warm sauce using a spider strainer. Toss, adding starchy pasta water as needed, stirring until well coated.

Marcella Hazan Bolognese Sauce with Rigatoni

Make-Ahead Tips + Reheating Instructions:

While this sauce is straight-forward to make, it does require at least 3 to 4 hours of slow simmering. If you’re looking to get ahead, here are my best tips:

  • Prep the Vegetables Ahead: To reduce active time, the diced vegetables (onion, celery, and carrot) can be prepped a day or two in advance. Store in separate containers in the refrigerator.
  • Cook in Stages: As Marcella explains, the simmering time can be broken up into various stages throughout the same day if you can’t be home for that length of time. Simply remove the sauce from the heat, cover with a lid, and resume simmering later.
  • Utilize the Slow Cooker: Once the base of the sauce has been prepared, feel free to transfer it to a slow cooker or Instant pot (set to low ‘slow cook’ mode) for an easy, hands-off simmer option.
  • Make Ahead and Reheat: Alternatively, this bolognese can be made ahead and stored in a covered container in the fridge for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months. The sauce will thicken considerably once chilled. To reheat, gradually bring to very slow simmer on the stovetop. It will thin as it warms, but you’ll most likely need to stir in a generous splash or two of water as needed. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

More Pasta Recipes to Try:

If you enjoy this recipe, you’ll love these other flavorful pasta recipes:

Marcella Hazan Bolognese

Marcella Hazan Bolognese

5 stars (3 ratings)
This classic bolognese is a light adaptation of Marcella Hazan's bolognese from the famous cookbook, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. My version stays true to the original, but offers more detail, simplified ingredient quantities, and is slightly more tomato-forward in flavor. While the sauce is straight-forward to make, it does require at least 3 hours of simmer time, so it is a dish best planned ahead. See note section for detailed make-ahead and reheating instructions.
This recipe yields one generous quart (4 cups) of sauce, ideal for tossing with about a pound of pasta. I'll often double the recipe and freeze a portion for later. Your future self will thank you! 

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (160g) small dice yellow onion about ½ medium yellow onion
  • Diamond Crystal kosher salt to taste
  • 1 cup (120g) small dice celery about 2 large celery stalks
  • 1 cup (140g) small dice carrot about 2 medium carrots
  • 3 large garlic cloves finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes optional
  • 1 lb (16 oz) ground beef preferably 80% lean/20% fat (min. 15% fat)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup (240 mL) whole milk
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup (240 mL) dry white wine Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole or crushed Italian plum tomatoes in their juices (see recipe notes) *if using whole, cut the tomatoes into smaller pieces with kitchen shears
  • 2-3 parmigiano-reggiano rinds

Instructions 

  • Heat a large (roughly 5-Quart) heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or pot over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil and butter. Once the butter has melted, add the diced onions and ½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt (note: if using a different brand of cooking salt, reduce quantity by at least half). Sauté the onions, stirring often, until softened and nearly translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and another pinch of salt. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, if using, and cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 1 minute or so.
    How to Make Marcella Hazan Bolognese Sauce
  • Add the ground beef, a generous pinch of kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Cook over medium heat, breaking up the meat with a fork as needed, until nearly cooked through and no longer raw, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the milk and simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, until the milk has mostly cooked out, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the freshly grated nutmeg. Add the white wine and simmer until evaporated, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes and parmesan rinds and stir mixture to combine. Bring to a slow boil, then reduce heat immediately to a very, very low simmer (*only a few and small bubbles on the surface of the sauce).
    How to Make Marcella Hazan Bolognese Sauce
  • Simmer the sauce, uncovered, for at least 3 to 4 hours, stirring every so often. Add a splash of water as needed throughout the simmer time. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and remove and discard the parmesan rinds.
    Cooking Note: As Marcella explains, the simmer time can be broken up into various stages throughout the same day if needed. Simply remove the sauce from the heat, cover with a lid, and resume simmering later. Once you have prepared the sauce base, you can also transfer it to a slow cooker or Instant pot (set to low 'slow cook' mode) for an easy, hands-off simmer option.
    How to Make Marcella Hazan Bolognese Sauce Recipe
  • For Serving: Toss with boiled cooked pasta – ideally finishing the al dente pasta in the warm sauce – until well-coated. Serve with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese on the side.
  • If you enjoyed this recipe, please leave a review and ⭐️ rating! Thanks so much!

Make-Ahead & Cooking Tips: 

  • If you prefer some chunks of tomatoes, use whole Italian plum tomatoes (cut them into smaller pieces with kitchen shears before using). If you prefer a smoother texture, use crushed Italian plum tomatoes. 
  • As Marcella explains, the total simmer time can be broken into various stages throughout the same day if needed. Simply remove the sauce from the heat, cover with a lid, and resume simmering later. Once you have prepared the sauce base, you can also transfer it to a slow cooker or Instant pot (set to low ‘slow cook’ mode) for an easy, hands-off simmer option.
  • This sauce can be made ahead and stored in a covered container in the fridge for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months. The sauce will thicken considerably once chilled. To reheat, gradually bring to very slow simmer on the stovetop. It will thin as it warms, but you’ll most likely need to stir in a generous splash or two of water as needed. Season with salt and pepper before serving.
Lightly adapted from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.
Serving: 1serving, Calories: 488kcal, Carbohydrates: 5g, Protein: 22g, Fat: 37g, Saturated Fat: 14g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 17g, Trans Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 103mg, Sodium: 105mg, Potassium: 451mg, Fiber: 0.1g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 308IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 105mg, Iron: 2mg