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Easy Date Night Bolognese Sauce

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Bolognese Sauce with bucatini noodles for a cozy home-cooked meal idea.

Date Night Pasta Shouldn’t be Difficult.

Pasta has a really interesting way of being both comforting and elegant, and this bolognese sauce is no exception.  Bolognese typically takes over three hours to simmer, but with a couple of helpful swaps, this only takes 45 minutes.

Bolognese Sauce with bucatini noodles for a cozy home-cooked meal idea.

Of course, if you have the time and you want the sauce to develop as much flavor and texture as possible, letting it simmer for a couple of hours will not hurt! But this is meant to be quick and relatively easy, so you can choose which path you’d like to take time-wise!

What is bolognese sauce?

Bolognese is true, traditional Italian food heaven delivered over pasta noodles.  It is a tomato-based sauce that is packed with vegetables and meat.  The word “Bolognese” actually refers to the city of Bologna in Italy, which is where this sauce was made famous (of course).  It is truly a ragú sauce, but this variation of ragú originated from Bologna.  So, it’s a delicious, tomato-based ragú sauce with vegetables and meat.

Bolognese Sauce with bucatini noodles for a cozy home-cooked meal idea.

This recipe swaps three ingredients that are in true bolognese: we use red wine instead of white wine, mild Italian pork sausage instead of pancetta, and marinara sauce instead of tomatoes.  We also add a couple of spices, and garlic.  This sauce is packed with flavor, but is a little different than super traditional bolognese.

What should I serve with this?

Simple.  Serve some small batch cheesy garlic bread (this recipe coming on Friday!).  Another delicious idea would be a Caesar salad using this Greek yogurt Caesar Dressing, tossed with some chopped romaine, crunchy croutons (or these toasted croissant croutons), shaved parmesan, and freshly cracked black pepper.  Or if you’re feeling adventurous, try this super unique Caesar salad with dried cranberries and blue cheese crumbles!

Bolognese Sauce with bucatini noodles for a cozy home-cooked meal idea.

What ingredients do I need?

  • Olive oil
  • Finely chopped onion
  • Grated carrot
  • Finely chopped celery
  • Minced garlic
  • Red (or white) wine
  • Italian pork sausage
  • Ground beef
  • Milk (or half-and-half, or cream!)
  • Your favorite marinara sauce (or thick pasta sauce)
  • Dried oregano, basil, dried mint, and crushed red pepper
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Shaved parmesan & Fresh basil, for garnish
  • Oh, and your favorite pasta!

Ingredients for Easy Bolognese Pasta

How to make the best bolognese sauce for date night:

  1. Use fresh vegetables.  Fresh onion, carrot, celery, and garlic are the foundation of the flavor in your bolognese, so fresh vegetables from your recent market trip are the best options.
  2. Choose high-quality meats.  If there is a local sausage or butcher that you love, don’t be afraid to purchase from them.  You only need five ounces of each meat, so it will not be expensive!  However, I do recommend getting a pound, and freezing the rest for later bolognese nights. 🙂
  3. Use a marinara sauce that you love!  You can use a thick, chunky pasta sauce, too.  Roasted garlic tomato sauces, garlic & herb sauces, and mushroom sauces are all great choices.  As long as it’s a flavor that you love, and it’s not a watery sauce, you should use it!
  4. Have a little bit of patience.  Although this recipes is much quicker than traditional bolognese, it still benefits from a bit of time and patience.  Let the sauce simmer for about 30 minutes before boiling the pasta; this buys the sauce a little time to blend the flavors together.  If you have ample time to spare, this sauce can simmer for up to two hours before serving!
  5. Garnish with fresh basil and good Parmesan. Flavor, flavor, flavor.  Fresh basil adds an entirely different layer of flavor to the finished bolognese, and really good Parmesan (preferably grated from a block) adds some umami and depth to the whole dish.  Avoid the plastic canister of Parmesan if you can.

Bolognese Sauce with bucatini noodles for a cozy home-cooked meal idea.

What wine should I serve with bolognese sauce?

  • Barbera :: A delicious, acidic, inexpensive Italian wine that is AMAZING with tomato-based pasta sauces! 
  • Sangiovese / Chianti :: Another inexpensive classic Italian wine that pairs with nearly any form of tomato-based pasta or Italian dish.
  • Carignan :: A personal favorite of mine, Carignan used to be purely a blending grape.  It has recently made a comeback because it is so friendly with so many different foods! Pick up a bottle if you’re looking for something new!

If you make this pico, please tag me on Instagram so I can see your awesome creation!  And as always, feel free to reach out to me directly if you have any questions.  If you comment and rate this recipe below, I would also very much appreciate it!

Enjoy! xx Sara

Bolognese Sauce with bucatini noodles for a cozy home-cooked meal idea.
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Easy Date Night Bolognese Sauce

An easy bolognese sauce that is perfect for a cozy night in.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Bolognese Sauce
Servings: 4 servings
Author: sara a.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion yellow or white
  • 1/3 cup grated carrot
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped celery
  • salt & freshly cracked pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 5 ounces ground beef best quality
  • 5 ounces mild Italian pork sausage
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. dried mint
  • 2 cups your favorite marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup whole milk or half and half / or cream*
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano divided
  • 8 ounces dried pasta noodles bucatini or pappardelle recommended

Instructions

  • Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and a pinch of salt. Cook until softened, about ten minutes.
  • Add minced garlic, stir, and cook one minute.
  • Pour in red wine, and cook until absorbed, about two minutes.
  • Add ground beef and Italian sausage, and sprinkle a healthy pinch of salt and pepper onto the meats. Cook until browned, breaking into very small pieces as they cook.
  • Pour in milk* and simmer for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper, dried mint, and marinara sauce. Taste the sauce, and season with salt and pepper if desired. Simmer the sauce, uncovered, for 40-45 minutes.** Stir occasionally and taste again to season if necessary.
  • Cook pasta according to package directions, minus one minute.
  • Transfer strained, cooked pasta noodles directly into the sauce.*** Stir in freshly chopped basil and half of the parmesan.
  • Serve hot with remaining parmesan sprinkled on top!

Notes

*If using half-and-half or heavy cream, decrease amount to 1/3 cup.
**This sauce can simmer for up to 2 1/2 hours if time allows!
***Use a slotted spoon (or strainer spoon) to transfer cooked pasta directly from the pasta water into the bolognese sauce.  If a little water gets into the sauce, that is totally fine.  The starches from the pasta water can help the bolognese sauce thicken!
Easy Date Night Bolognese Sauce
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  1. Reply

    5 stars
    I love a good bolognese sauce and I’m happy to see you use sweet sausage in your recipe. It really makes a delicious sauce!

    1. Reply

      Thank you so much, Dennis! I LOVE balancing the sweet / savory / spicy flavors in this bolognese! I so appreciate your comment!

  2. Reply

    5 stars
    Perfect and delicious and combination to making this amazing recipe. Thanks for sharing. My family loves such delicious and yummy and easy to make Dinner options.

    1. Reply

      Thank you! I’m so glad your family enjoys this pasta!!

  3. Reply

    5 stars
    Tried this tonite. Lovely flavors. It was just amazing. We all loved it.

    1. Reply

      SO glad you loved it, Aditi!! Thank you for the kind comment!

  4. Reply

    5 stars
    This bolognese looks incredible! I’m always looking for new dinner ideas, so I’ll definitely be adding this to the rotation.

    1. Reply

      Love that, Taleen! I can’t wait for you to try it!

    • Tracy
    • August 19, 2020
    Reply

    5 stars
    Elegant and comforting indeed! This is one of my favorite pasta dishes, it’s easy to make, delicious, and a great date night dinner and pairs well with a red wine!

    1. Reply

      Thank you so much, Tracy! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!!

  5. Reply

    5 stars
    You speak my language here… Pasta, bolognese sauce, how comforting is this. Adding this to my dinner menu because sometimes you just want comfort food after a long day at work.

    1. Reply

      I SO agree, Linda! Sometimes a big bowl of pasta is what your mind and body need to just relax into the evening!

    • Heidy Linn
    • August 20, 2020
    Reply

    5 stars
    This Easy Date Night Bolognese Sauce was perfect for sinner the other night. I love an Easy Bolognese Sauce and will be making your recipe again one night soon,

    1. Reply

      I am SO glad to hear that, Heidy! Thank you for the kind words!

  6. Reply

    5 stars
    I know what I’m making for my next date night. I’m a huge fan of love, dates, and pasta…but pasta first, LOL!

    1. Reply

      Hahaha Marta you and I are one in the same! lol

  7. Reply

    5 stars
    This bolognese sauce is everything you want smothered in pasta!! This is delicious and I made a double batch of it! Thank you!

  8. Reply

    5 stars
    I love how much more quickly this comes together compared to traditional bolognese. It’s such a delicious recipe for a weeknight meal!

    • Jenn
    • August 20, 2020
    Reply

    5 stars
    This really made bolognese look a lot easier to make than many of the recipes I’ve seen — and the ingredients show it’ll be just as flavorful! 🙂

  9. Reply

    5 stars
    You’re so right, pasta is both comforting and elegant at the same time. Not many dishes are! This bolognese sauce looks perfect and so easy to make too.

  10. Reply

    I love how hearty this sauce is and the added flavors from the carrots and wine are what I like.

  11. Reply

    5 stars
    Your bolognese sauce look so flavorful, I would love to make this for my husband and he loves to have a good sauce on his pasta. YUM!

    • Kushigalu
    • August 22, 2020
    Reply

    5 stars
    Total comfort food. What a gorgeous looking pasta and totally love that sauce. Beautiful presentation too. Thanks for sharing

  12. Reply

    5 stars
    This pasta sauce looks really good and sounds scrumptious!! I love all the herbs you’ve added in there. Great weeknight option!

  13. 5 stars
    I love ragu and your recipe looks lovely. Your food styling and photography is gorgeous too.

  14. Reply

    5 stars
    What a great recipe to try for a midweek meal for my family, I like how you use Italian sausage. Thanks for sharing.

  15. 5 stars
    What a wonderful bolognese sauce! The flavors in this are perfect and I’ll totally make for our next date night. Such a tasty recipe.

    • Sondra Barker
    • August 22, 2020
    Reply

    5 stars
    your recipe looks absolutely delicious and pictures too! this is a recipe i can’t wait to try for myself

    • Beth
    • August 22, 2020
    Reply

    5 stars
    This looks so scrumptious, and I’m so glad for a suggestion to sub for pancetta, which I want to like, but don’t. GREAT idea to serve a Barbera with this, too.

  16. Reply

    5 stars
    What a wonderful pasta dish you have created here! I really appreciate the wine tip as well 🙂

    1. Reply

      5 stars
      It’s a nice and devouring recipe. We all loved it and definitely making it again

  17. Reply

    5 stars
    This is such an easy and doable date night recipe! I love pasta bologanese!

  18. Reply

    I love a good Bolognese sauce and this was amazing! Thanks for sharing this simple recipe.

  19. Reply

    5 stars
    I love all the veggies that are snuck into the sauce… Definitely romantic and beautiful for date night! The fresh basil on top adds a pop of color and flavor!

  20. Reply

    5 stars
    What an easy pasta recipe! We love homemade bolognese in our house. I load my pasta bowl up with tons of fresh parmesan! This is such a fun recipe to make.

  21. Reply

    5 stars
    This bolognese sauce is so delicious! My husband loved all the rich flavors and I will definitely be making again!

  22. Reply

    5 stars
    My hubby would totally enjoy this spaghetti bolognese for date night – comfort food at the highest level! YUM!

    • sapana
    • August 24, 2020
    Reply

    5 stars
    I totally agree that date night pasta shouldn’t be difficult. It looks really easy to make and would make date night more special when paired with a glass of wine.

    1. Reply

      Wine pairings with bolognese are one of the best parts! And yes, simpler pastas can be just as rewarding as those that are more complicated!

  23. Reply

    5 stars
    Yesss, I’ve been needing this recipe for a long time and I finally came across a clear and amazing one! This is perfect for me because I was planning on making spaghetti bolognese and I needed to make a sauce. I pinned this so I can use it tomorrow and any day where it comes in handy. I’m very excited to try this out, thank you for sharing this recipe!

    1. Reply

      My pleasure, Ramona! I’m so glad you are as excited about it as I am! You’ll have to let me know what you think once you make it!

  24. Reply

    5 stars
    Have heard a lot about Bolognese sauce but haven’t tried yet. I’m sure my husband would love this. Will be trying soon.

    1. Reply

      Love it! You have to let me know what you think!!

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