weeknight bolognese

Pasta sauce should smell and taste like it’s been simmering on the stove all day long, huge wafts of garlic and red wine, woof, it’s everything a soft pants Sunday should be. Please don’t get me wrong, if you have the time to REALLY luxuriate over a pot of bolognese, please go for it, but this 45 minute “weeknight” version will give you all the same feels, just so much faster.

Bolognese is a classic Italian meat sauce cooked with red wine, tomatoes, and a touch of cream. It originates from the city of Bologna, in northern Italy, ragù alla bolognese. My FAVORITE way to eat bolognese is with homemade pappardelle, wide, fat ribbons of fresh pasta, (see my pasta making blog post for recipe and instructions) but of course whichever vehicle you choose (pasta, bread, rice or spoon) is the right way to each bolognese. Hopefully my New York + Italian friend Carmela approves. She will tell me if she doesn’t.

The secret to making this sauce taste like it’s been cooking all day is cooking out the liquids before adding MORE liquid. Cook down the red wine before adding the canned tomatoes and then cook down the wine/tomatoes before adding the can of water. It will thicken the sauce – adding huge depth and flavor.

Weeknight Bolognese

Serving Size:
45 minutes


  • 2 blorps olive oil
  • 2 nubs butter
  • 2 whole peeled carrots 
  • 2 celery
  • 1/2 large white onion
  • 2 pounds ground sirloin or farm fresh beef
  • 4-6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups dry red wine 
  • 2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes 
  • 1 (28 ounce) can of water
  • 2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
  • kosher salt
  • fresh-ground black pepper
  • pasta any shape
  • 1/4 cup cream 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil
  • freshly grated Parmesan 


  1. Warm olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Blitz carrots, celery and onion in a food processor until resembling a yellow paste. Add the holy trinity to your olive oil and butter, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add beef and cook, crumbling it as you go, for 5 minutes or until the meat is mostly browned. Stir in the garlic and spices, cook 1 minute more.
  4. Add the tomato paste and cook a few minutes more to open up the canned taste of the tomato paste.
  5. Add the wine and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Let the wine cook down 5-10 minutes before adding the crushed tomatoes. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, salt, and black pepper. Bring sauce to a simmer and let it bubble for roughly 10 minutes, add the can of water and repeat for another 10 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a palmful of kosher salt, and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  7. To finish the sauce, add a nub of butter, fresh basil and cream, if using. Simmer 5-7 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Add drained pasta to the sauce.
  8. Heap with fresh grated Parmesan cheese and eat directly out of the pan. Or a bowl – you do you.

Thank you to my friend and photographer Nathalia Rocha (@nathrochaphotography) for her beautiful lens work. Even though she promised not to photograph me without makeup on……but since I don’t regularly cook with a full blowout and “night face” – this is as real as it gets.

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