Sunday Supper: Pasta alla Bolognese

Finished Pasta Bolognese.jpg

Last week, I shared a recipe for my mother’s Sunday Sauce.  This week, I want to show you how the Sunday Sauce can be used to make another Italian favorite, Pasta alla Bolognese.  This pasta sauce originated in Bologna, Italy way back in the 18th century.  It consists of a tomato based sauce mixed with ground meat. Traditionally, it is served on top of tagliatelle or another long pasta like linguine. 

After years of making it, I prefer a shorter pasta like penne or my favorite - rigatoni.  Reason being, I love how the chunky meat sauce gets caught in the middle of each pasta piece giving you the perfect bite of pasta and meat.  With the longer varieties, I find that I eat the pasta and the meat all slides to the bottom of the bowl.  In short, any pasta will do - it’s just a matter of taste.

Another way I veer from tradition is with the soffritto.  Soffritto is a sauté of celery, onion and carrot as the base for the sauce.  I’ve made this sauce so many times and honestly, I don’t see the point of the carrot and celery.  I know Mario Batali might disagree, but my family NEVER puts carrots in the sauce.  I made sauce once for my mom with carrots in it and to this day, she still teases me about it. “Remember when Anna put carrots in the sauce?” It didn’t go over well.

Therefore, my version of Pasta alla Bolognese might not be 100% traditional but I promise, it’s very good and Nonna Gina approved - which is all that matters to me!

Pasta alla Bolognese


Serves 6 to 8
Prep time:         Total time: 

3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ medium onion or 1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
¼ lb pancetta, finely chopped
1 lb organic ground beef, 93% lean
½ cup good red wine
4 cups Sunday Sauce
1 bay leave
½ cup mascarpone cheese
1 lb pasta of choice
1 cup fresh ricotta

  1. In a large sauté pan, heat oil and brown the pancetta in the pan until crisp before adding the onion and garlic. Add onion.  Maintain low heat to cook onions and garlic until translucent careful not to brown.
  2. Increase heat to medium high and add ground beef, breaking it up with the side of a wooden spoon, incorporating the onion and garlic as you work.
  3. Allow meat to brown until almost cooked though and all excess liquid has evaporated.
  4. Deglaze pan with wine and let it cook until meat is aromatic and the wine has reduce by half.
  5. Add Sunday Sauce and bay leaf and reduce heat to simmer.  Add bay leaf and cover.  Allow to simmer for 1 ½ hours until sauce has become very thick.
  6. Cook pasta and uncover the sauce.  Remove the sauce from heat and add mascarpone cheese, mixing it to melt it and create a slightly pink hue.
  7. To assemble, add the sauce to the cooked pasta and place in each bowl.  With a large dinner spoon, add one dollop of fresh ricotta to the top each plate.
  8. Remember, if the bay leave ends up in your plate, sorry, but it’s your turn to do the dishes!

Buon Appetito!