Easy Date Night Bolognese Sauce

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.
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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.


  • 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


  • 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!


*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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