Bolognese, or meat sauce, happens to be a huge hit in my house. My picky toddler gobbles it up when it’s on his pasta, and my husband goes back for seconds. I don’t think this is a coincidence. It is really tasty.
I have been cooking up a storm in preparation for Baby #2, and I recently posted a recipe for my spinach lasagna, which I froze (to eat when I am sleep deprived after the newborn arrives and I am incapable of making more than a cup of coffee). It was well received, but I quickly noticed how much people love meat, and missed it in that vegetarian recipe. I can’t say that I blame them. To that end, I decided to make my family’s recipe for meat sauce. I froze half, and we ate the rest. But most importantly, this sauce can be used in that lasagna recipe. If you’re a carnivore, and can’t get enough meat, then the swap is simple: use this recipe for the sauce (instead of a pomodoro or marinara), and remove the spinach from the ingredients. It is literally that simple to make a meat lasagna.
There are countless ways to make a Bolognese. But this is how we make it in my family, and it’s a crowd-pleaser every time.
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 small to medium onion, diced
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- ½ lb. of ground beef
- ½ lb. of Italian sausage (sweet or hot) – removed from the casings and broken apart
- 1-28 ounce can of peeled whole or crush tomatoes (I prefer San Marzano tomatoes)
- 1-6 ounce can of tomato paste
- a handful of fresh basil, torn or cut into ribbons
- 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 1/3 cup of red wine – preferably cabernet or something on the fuller side
- ¼ teaspoon of crushed red pepper, divided (optional)
- Salt and pepper
Next page: Step-by-step directions with pictures!
- In a large sauce pot, heat up the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the onions.
- When the onions are beginning to get translucent, add the garlic and a little pinch of your basil. If you’ll be using sweet sausage and want to add a tiny kick, add 1/8 of teaspoon of crushed red pepper to the pot. Be careful not to burn the onion or garlic.
- When the aromatics are fragrant, add the broken up sausage to the pot. Allow it to cook and brown for a few minutes until it loses its raw color.
- Add the ground beef, and mix it into the sausage. Season with a teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of ground black pepper.
- When the meat is mostly cooked (it’s ok if some parts are still pink), add the tomatoes, paste, the rest of the basil, the oregano, wine, and sugar. Season with another teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of ground black pepper. Mix everything together.
- If you use whole tomatoes, they will probably break apart during the cooking process, but I like to help them along by crushing them a bit with my spoon or a fork.
- Allow the sauce to cook over medium heat for a while—the longer it simmers, the more flavorful it will be. At the very least, leave it (but stir occasionally) for a half hour. Adjust heat as needed.
- When it’s done, adjust salt and pepper as desired. I have a bit of a salty palate, so I always end up adding more salt at the end.
- Use the sauce in a lasagna or over a bowl of pasta. Top with some grated parmesan cheese and enjoy!