Transform your dinners with this easy Rigatoni Bolognese, a flavor-packed Italian classic made with ground beef, pork and sausage. This rich meat sauce is perfect for both weeknight dinners and special occasions. It’s even better served over my favorite pasta–rigatoni!
I think bolognese is one of those dishes that is always popular, but I would imagine that its popularity peaks in the winter months. It’s cozy, comforting and a lot easier to make than you think!
I’ve been experimenting and perfecting bolognese sauces for years (it was one of the first recipes I posted when I started my blog in 2010!). And I think I’ve finally found the one that stands out from the rest. This recipe is consistently delicious every time I make it–it’s rich, meaty and savory.
📋 Ingredients you’ll need
Over the years I’ve added different ingredients here and there to help balance the richness and acidity. But the real secret to creating the perfect bolognese?
Taste as you go!
- The sauce starts by sauteing aromatics in olive oil. In this case, onions, carrot and garlic. I don’t love celery, so I’ve left it out, but you can add it back in if that’s your preference.
- For the meat, I use a combination of ground beef, ground pork and Italian sausage. You can choose hot or mild Italian sausage, based on what’s available and suits your family’s taste preferences.
- I use three types of tomatoes, whole tomatoes (you’ll want to cut these up in the can with a pair of scissors), crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. I do like my sauce to have a bit of a thicker tomato consistency so that’s why I’ve added the crushed tomatoes–you could also use passata.
- Red wine is a must! It adds acidity and helps to round out the sauce.
- Bell pepper is one of my favorite ingredients to add to a bolognese, I really like the hint of sweetness that it adds.
- For herbs, I stick with Italian seasoning because it has a bit of everything in it, but you could also use a combination of oregano, thyme, rosemary and fennel.
🔪 Step by step instructions
This recipe is really simple to make, let’s go!
Add olive oil to a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, carrot and garlic and saute for 3-5 minutes, or until onion is translucent and carrot has started to soften.
Add ground beef, ground pork and sausage meat. Cook and crumble for 7 minutes, until browned. Season with 1 teaspoon salt.
Add the tomato paste and red wine, cook for 2 minutes, allowing the alcohol to cook off from the wine and the tomato paste to coat the meat.
Add bell pepper, whole tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning and remaining salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently, to avoid the bottom of the pan burning.
After 30 minutes, you’ll have a deep red sauce!
Stir into your favorite pasta (I love rigatoni for bolognese) and serve with Parmesan and fresh basil.
Make sure that you’re tasting the sauce as you go. You may need to adjust for the seasonings at the end, either by adding a little more salt or a pinch of sugar to balance out the tomatoes.
There are a few easy swaps you can make in this recipe.
- Meat – instead of a combination of ground meat, you could also use just beef or pork. Don’t skip out on the sausage though, it adds a ton of flavor!
- Tomatoes – You could also use diced tomatoes in place of whole tomatoes and passata in place of crushed tomatoes. If you don’t want a thicker tomato sauce, you can replace the crushed tomatoes with beef broth.
- Vegetables – You can add celery to your onion and carrot for a traditional mirepoix. If you’re not a fan of bell pepper, leave it out, but you’ll need to balance the sauce with some sugar at the end.
This is one of my favorite recipes to make and freeze! It will last in your freezer up to 3 months. I freeze in a resealable freezer bag, so it can lay flat in the freezer and not take up too much space.
💭 Cooking tips
While this recipe only cooks for 30 minutes, you can simmer it for longer for even more flavor. Just make sure to keep an eye on it to avoid any burning.
This recipe was originally published on October 1, 2014 and updated on December 10, 2023.