Quick Bolognese Sauce

OK…perhaps “more quickly prepared” is more accurate. Bolognese sauce is a very traditional, long-simmering, meat sauce for pasta. My method capitalizes on the “quick cooking” aspect rather than the traditional aspect and may give a true Italian pause. But, I love it. Would that I had veal and pork to add to the sauce and 3 hours to slowly simmer it. That would be lovely. But, I do not. I have about an hour these days. This is with homework flying past me, and requests that I jump on the trampoline. I like being asked to jump on the trampoline. I can still do a flip (or flippish-like thing…it is not quite what it used to be).

To make this fast, I have cut a major corner, the exactitude with which I dice my vegetables. I have seen these sauces with simply perfect little cubed dices of carrots. They were awe inspiring. But I am not a chef, nor am I anything of a professional cooking grade. No one yells at me for the quality of my knife work because if they did they would be sent to bed without dinner. So, here, I dispense with the illusion that I am something that I am not and throw my carrots, celery and onion into the food processor for 15 pulses or so. This gives a nice even-ish preparation which is in the pot sweating over melted butter and oil in about 2 minutes. That part alone would take me significantly longer by hand.

Also, I use only ground beef and a fatty grind, at that (85% or so) so it is quite tender right off the bat, and very tender after 30 minutes of simmering. Depending on your stove, this sauce cooks down to a rich, beefy sauce in 30 to 40 minutes. You will need to adjust the time accordingly. The finished sauce should be mostly meat. If it is very soupy, keep simmering. When my kids asked me what Bolognese Sauce is I told them that it is a meat sauce with tomatoes, as opposed to a tomato sauce with meat (which they would call Spaghetti Sauce). This is not spaghetti sauce. It is a meat sauce. When in question, simmer and reduce further. I served this with a darling spiral tube pasta, but tagliatelle is quite traditional. You want a pasta to which the meat will stick. Spaghetti noodles may not be the best choice.

Bolognese Meat

Quick Bolognese Sauce
Recipe type: Pasta
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
This pasta sauce is one you will use over and over again.
  • 3 medium carrots
  • ½ large onion
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 thick slice of bacon
  • 1½ pound ground beef
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2½ cups chicken stock
  • 1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 16 ounces dried pasta, cooked according to directions
  1. In a large stockpot, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the slice of bacon and allow it to render and brown slightly for one minute.
  2. Meanwhile, rinse the carrots, onion and celery and chop them into large chunks. Place them into a food processor and using the “pulse” button, chop them until they are finely and uniformly chopped, about 15 to 17 pulses. Add the vegetables to the fat and bacon and sauté them for six minutes over medium heat. Add the ground beef and cook until it is no longer pink. Turn off the stove and tip the pot slightly to remove excess fat with a paper towel. Using a paper towel, dab out the excess fat. Discard the paper towels.
  3. Resume cooking at medium-high heat. Add the tomato paste and stir it to meat. Pour the wine into the pot and use a spatula to scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Then, pour in 1 cup of milk and stir to combine. Simmer until the milk has reduced by half. Add 2½ cups of chicken stock and the diced tomatoes. Add the basil, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Keep the sauce on a low boil for 30 minutes, or until the sauce is greatly reduced and the meat is tender. You may remove the slice of bacon before serving. The sauce should be meaty. Serve with your favorite pasta and freshly shredded parmesan cheese.

Note: I am not trying to make a list of my not-so-professional ways, but I also assume a trained chef would cringe at me dabbing the fat out of my pot with paper towels. But, I’m a weakling and that pot is heavy…and I don’t want to do any more dishes than I absolutely have to. So, dab I do. But take a dish over to unload the sodden paper towels from the pot. They are drippy and hot.

Some of my other favorite pasta dishes:

Pasta with Checca Sauce

Artichoke and Mushroom Pasta

Chicken Pomodoro


  1. Dalnapen says

    Thanks Pie Lady. I would have thought what mainly distinguished Bolognese was the addition of the milk? What say you?

  2. Kelly says

    That was my impression too, but I think that traditional Bolognese sauces are simmered in both broths, milk, and combinations like this. I’m not sure it is definitive…but it is surely distinctive. I’m a huge fan of the milk and I think it helps with the silky finished texture of the sauce. And, you are welcome. I hope you like it.

  3. Gail Storti says

    I love your recipes and want to print them out, but you don’t seem to have a Printer Friendly version. I don’t want to have to print all your lovely pictures so was wondering if you have a way to print the recipe from your site without photos.

  4. Kelly says

    Gail, thank you for asking. ABSOLUTELY! There is a green button at the bottom of the post that says “Print Friendly” and if you click that it will take you to a screen for printing. At the top of that screen you can uncheck a box that says “print images” and the photos will disappear. Then you can also click on any of my chatty paragraphs and the will magically disappear, too, leaving you with just the recipe. Hit the print button and you are good to go. Let me know if this doesn’t work. And thanks for giving me an excuse to remind everyone of how to print my recipes without the photos!

  5. Elsa says

    Kelly, I have never had B. sauce. It never appealed to me, although I could not tell you why. However, your recipe has changed my mind. I really like the idea of adding milk. When I make a tomato based pasta sauce, I add clam broth. My favorite brand is Crown Prince. I also serve grated Peper Jack or plain MJ cheese as an alternative to parmesean. My grandchilren’s friends really like MJ.

  6. bobbie says

    I’m a chef. we don’t cringe at removing excess fat with a paper towel haha. Whatever works is a common theme in kitchens.

  7. susan marie says

    This is my favorite sauce, and with all the veggies, it’s got to be good for you, right?! Absolutely no reason to feel guilt over using the food processor to mince those veggies, either. I use mine for that all the time. I’ll have you know, I’m drooling over that picture of the finished dish…

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