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Ragù alla Bolognese

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Ragù – an intensely rich and flavourful meat, tomato and red wine sauce, originating in Italy, and typically served with pasta and parmesan cheese. There are many different ragù recipes in Italy and they vary by name, location and ingredients. The common factor is that they all contain meat! Bolognese, from Bologna, is perhaps the most well known meat sauce served with pasta in the UK. There is no one recipe either in Italy or anywhere – there are many variants so you just need to find one that you like!

I’ve been making bolognese for years but until I found this recipe, my results were fairly inconsistent. I was always changing it a bit but never measuring anything so if I produced a really good version, I could never remember exactly what I did! Very frustrating! A few years ago, I came across this recipe by Nagi from Recipe Tin Eats. We all love it! It is consistently awesome and I now stick to it like glue. I have made only the tiniest of changes and have used it as a guide for my vegetarian version as well. (no meat obviously!). You can see the recipe for my vegetarian version here.

How to make Ragù alla Bolognese

Although the ingredient list is quite long, the ingredients are easily available in your supermarket and there are a number you will more than likely have in your store cupboard.

  • olive oil
  • minced beef
  • onion
  • red pepper
  • carrot
  • garlic
  • dry red wine
  • passata
  • tomato puree/paste
  • sugar
  • Worcestershire Sauce (not classic but adds a lovely unami and depth of flavour to the dish)
  • fresh bay leaves (if available)
  • fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper

To make this delicious sauce simply collect all your ingredients together and start by cooking your beef. Whilst the beef cooks, prepare and chop the vegetables. When the beef is cooked remove from the pan, add some olive oil and cook the vegetables for 10 minutes until lightly caramelised. It is worth taking the time to do this as it adds a delicious depth of flavour and sweetness to the dish.

Add the wine and cook on high to reduce. Scrape up all the delicious sticky residue whilst you do this. Return the beef to the pan along with the remainder of the ingredients. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Cover and transfer to a pre-heated oven and cook for 1 hour. Take it out of the oven and stir well. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Cooking on the Hob

You could continue to cook the bolognese on the hob. Simply cover, turn the heat to very low and gently simmer. Cook for an hour, stirring from time to time. I personally prefer the oven as I can forget about it for an hour and not worry about it catching on the base of the pan or remembering to stir it. Your choice – both ways work well!

NB If you re in a hurry you could eat this ragù after 30 minutes cooking time. However to achieve the best consistency and depth of flavour, I really recommend an hour.

Cooking in a Slow Cooker

Alternatively cook your ragù in the Slow Cooker. Simply make as described in the recipe to the end of point 5. Transfer your mixture so far and then add the remaining ingredients to a slow cooker. Cook on high for 3 hours or on low for up 6 hours.

Batch Cooking

Ragù alla Bolognese is ideal for batch cooking and freezing. It freezes well and can be used in a variety of different ways. When batch cooking, I freeze in small portions. I freeze the food in a silicone muffin tray and then simply pop them out when frozen, and bag. You can then defrost as many as you need depending on the dish and number of people and because they are frozen in small amounts, they defrost quickly and easily. I realise however that you might think this is a bit fiddly; it is certainly more beneficial for small families or people wanting meals for just 1 or 2. If you are regularly cooking for larger numbers, you may wish to freeze in larger quantities.

A variety of recipes using Ragù alla Bolognese

Look out for the following recipes which I shall be posting on the blog:

  • Lasagna
  • Bolognese and Chorizo Pasta Sauce
  • Bolognese and Chorizo Pie
  • Sloppy Joes
  • Baked Penne with Bolognese, Roast Mediterranean Vegetables and Burrata
  • Bolognese with Baked Sweet Potatoes, Parmesan, Mozzarella and Basil Pesto
  • Cannelloni
  • Quesadilla with Bolognese, Mozzarella, Tomatoes and Pesto
  • Baked Capsicum stuffed with Bolognese, Orzo Pasta, Mozzarella and Parmesan Cheese
  • Cheese Polenta with Bolognese Sauce and Garlic Mushrooms
  • Baked Courgette/Zucchini with Bolognese Sauce, Fresh tomatoes, Red Onion and Mozzarella
  • Bolognese with Courgettini, Spaghetti, Fresh Basil and Red Chilli

Made this recipe?

If you make this recipe, do please tag me on instagram @daffodil_kitchen. You could also leave a comment in the box directly below the recipe.

Ragù alla Bolognese

Ragù – an intensely rich and flavourful meat, tomato and red wine sauce, originating in Italy. Typically served with pasta and parmesan cheese.

Course Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine Italian, Western
Keyword beef, bolognese, Italian, tomato, red wine,
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Author Slightly adapted from Nagi, Recipe Tin Eats


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

  • 500g minced/ground beef (Ideally 5% fat)

  • 125g/1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped 

  • 125g/1 carrot roughly chopped, OR

  • 150g/1 red pepper, stem and seeds removed, roughly chopped

  • 16g/4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

  • 125ml/½ cup dry red wine (or sub with water or stock)
  • 680g – 700g passata (plus ½ cup water to swill out the bottle/carton)

  • 70g tomato puree

  • ½ – 1½ teaspoons sugar (I use ½ – plus ⅛ teaspoon)

  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce

  • 2 fresh or dry bay leaves, if available

  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme (or ¼ tsp dried thyme)
  • ½ plus ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper



  1. Chopping board and knife

  2. Kitchen scales

  3. Measuring spoons and cups

  4. Cast iron casserole/Dutch oven/saucepan

  5. Food processor


  1. Preheat oven to Fan Oven 130°C /150°C/300°F/Gas 2

  2. Put 1 tablespoon olive oil in cast iron casserole and heat over a moderately hot heat. Add the minced beef and cook until slightly caramelised. Remove the meat from the pan when cooked and set aside.

  3. Whilst you are cooking the minced beef, prepare the onion, carrot/pepper and garlic. Tip into a food processor and blitz unitl finey chopped. If you prefer you can chop the vegetables by hand.

  4. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan, turn the heat down to medium and add the vegetables.  Cook for 5 – 10 minutes, until softened and slightly caramelised.  

  5. Add the wine and cook on high until reduced by half. Remember to scrape up the delicious stickly residue left by cooking the beef and the vegetables.

  6. Add all the remaining ingredients, including the beef, to the cast iron casserole dish. Start with ½ teaspoon of sugar only and add more to taste. Stir well and bring to a gentle simmer.

  7. Cover with the lid and cook in the oven for 1 hour, until the vegetables are very soft and the liquid has reduced a little. Taste and adjust seasoning. 

Recipe Notes

What meat to use:

I normally  use beef to make my spaghetti bolognese. However you can also have a mix of meats such as 50% beef and 50% veal or pork.

Serve with spaghetti:

This recipe is most commonly served with spaghetti. I would allow 100g spaghetti per person.

  • Cook the spaghetti in salted water as described on the packet, minus one minute
  • Remove 250ml/1 cup of cooking water from the pasta and then drain the pasta in a sieve or colander.
  • Add the pasta to the sauce with 1 – 2  tablespoons cooking water per person.
  • Toss the pasta and meat sauce and continue to cook for 2 minutes until the sauce thickens and is coating the pasta. Add more cooking water if necessary.
  • Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese and shredded basil.

I serve my pasta sauce as they do in Italy – with the sauce just coating the pasta. Emma prefers more sauce on her pasta than me – just go with your own personal taste! Eat it just the way you like it!


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