This pasta bolognese is a savory meat sauce tossed with spaghetti and served with parmesan and fresh basil. A classic Italian meal that always gets rave reviews and is perfect for feeding a crowd!

You can never go wrong with pasta for dinner, whether it’s creamy shrimp linguine, baked mac and cheese, chicken parmesan pasta or this hearty pasta bolognese. This is the best meat sauce that I’ve ever had.

Pasta bolognese with spaghetti tossed in the most delicious homemade meat sauce. Pasta bolognese with spaghetti tossed in the most delicious homemade meat sauce.

A pan of pasta bolognese garnished with basil sprigs and parmesan cheese.

Pasta bolognese is a restaurant classic that’s actually super easy to make at home! With a handful of ingredients and 30 minutes of time, you’ll have a complex sauce that’s perfect over pasta, and can even be used in other Italian dishes such as lasagna.

How do you make pasta bolognese?

Start by making the sauce, which begins with ground beef, pancetta and vegetables. Add red wine, tomatoes, seasonings and a bit of cream. Simmer the sauce until it’s thickened and the meat and vegetables are tender. Spoon the sauce over cooked spaghetti, then toss to coat the pasta. Add a topping of fresh basil and parmesan cheese, then serve and enjoy.

Ground beef and pancetta cooked in a pan.

Tips for the perfect pasta bolognese

  • I recommend using 90% lean ground beef for this recipe. It has plenty of flavor without a lot of grease. You can use meat with a higher fat content, just be sure to drain off any excess fat after it’s cooked.
  • Finely dice the pancetta and vegetables so that they melt into the sauce as it cooks.
  • I prefer to use Italian San Marzano tomatoes in this dish for the most authentic flavor. This type of tomato can be found in large cans with the rest of the tomato products.
  • This sauce needs at least 30 minutes to simmer to properly develop the flavors. You can also let it go for longer, up to 2 hours. If the sauce is overly thick, add a little pasta cooking water to thin it out.
  • While I love to top this dish with fresh basil, parsley will also work just fine.
  • The heavy cream helps to round out the flavors of the sauce and adds a rich flavor. If you don’t have cream on hand, whole milk is an acceptable substitute.
  • Pancetta is an Italian style bacon that is available in the deli area of most grocery stores. If you can’t find it, it’s ok to omit it or use regular bacon.

Meat and diced vegetables cooked together in a pan.

What kind of pasta goes in bolognese?

This dish is traditionally served with spaghetti, but bolognese sauce really goes well with most shapes of pasta. If you don’t have spaghetti on hand, try another long pasta such as fettuccine, linguine or bucatini. You can also use a variety of short pasta varieties including penne, rigatoni and fusilli.

Meat sauce for pasta in a skillet.

What can you add to spaghetti bolognese to make it better?

This is a basic recipe for bolognese sauce, but you can add a variety of other ingredients to the mix to bring out even more flavor.

  • Add other types of meat such as ground veal, ground pork or Italian sausage.
  • Stir in some fresh diced cremini mushrooms, or dried porcini mushrooms that have been reconstituted in hot water.
  • Olives add a great salty finish to this dish.
  • Feel free to add other vegetables such as leeks, red bell peppers or greens such as spinach or kale.
  • Instead of red wine, try using white wine, or skip the wine and use beef broth.

A plate of pasta bolognese topped with parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

Slow cooker bolognese sauce

You can make a similar dish with your slow cooker, which is an easy and convenient method to get the same great tastes. Simply follow the ingredient list and directions in my slow cooker bolognese sauce recipe.

This bolognese is always a big hit with both kids and adults – it’s a must try recipe!

More Italian favorites

Pasta Bolognese Video

5 from 14 votes

Pasta Bolognese

AuthorSara Welch
A pan of pasta bolognese garnished with basil sprigs and parmesan cheese.
This pasta bolognese is a savory meat sauce tossed with spaghetti and served with parmesan and fresh basil. A classic Italian meal that always gets rave reviews and is perfect for feeding a crowd!
Time
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Total Time1 hour 10 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine Italian
Serves 6

Ingredients 

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta finely diced
  • 1 pound ground beef I use 90% lean
  • 3/4 cup onion finely diced
  • 1/2 cup carrot peeled and finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes do not drain
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 12 ounces spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves thinly sliced

Instructions 

  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook for 4-5 minutes until browned and crispy.
  • Add the ground beef to the pan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 5 minutes, breaking up the beef into small pieces with a spatula.
  • Add the onion and carrot to the pan. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add the garlic and Italian seasoning, then cook for 30 seconds. Drain off any excess grease.
  • Add the red wine to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until wine is reduced by half.
  • Stir in the tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Bring the sauce to a simmer. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until sauce has thickened.
  • Stir in the heavy cream and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Cook the spaghetti in salted water according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water.
  • Pour the pasta in with the sauce and toss to combine. If the sauce is too thick, add a little pasta cooking water to thin it out.
  • Top the pasta with basil and parmesan cheese, then serve immediately.

Nutrition

Calories: 593kcal | Carbohydrates: 59g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 81mg | Sodium: 698mg | Potassium: 1023mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 2494IU | Vitamin C: 17mg | Calcium: 193mg | Iron: 5mg

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  1. 5 stars
    I washed my ground beef and drained it before browning it, didn’t use wine, pancetta or onion, did use garlic, substituted 1% milk for the cream, used 2 small tins tomato paste and two fresh tomatoes, used 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar–didn’t have those things…and the recipe was great. Thank you.

  2. 5 stars
    I have an obsession with pasta dishes right now! I definitely need to try this. That sauce looks amazing!

  3. 5 stars
    I saw this recipe and had to try it, right away. Mine came out every bit as tasty as the recipe pictures looked, and the pancetta put it over the top! Fabulous recipe!