Some Sundays just beg me to be in my kitchen working on a labor of love.

When that feeling strikes, there’s a good chance you’ll find me making BA’s Best Bolognese.

I stumbled upon this Bon Appetite (BA) recipe years ago and when I make it, I make it.

That means doubling the recipe so I fill my freezer with this goodness and create easy meals for crazy days ahead.

That means taking my time making it and enjoying the feeling of not being rushed to get something on the table.

That means tasting the Bolognese endlessly throughout the process and remembering why I relish making this meal start to finish.

It’s that good. And there’s a bonus…

You probably have most of the ingredients in your house right now.

Made to Impress — BA’s Best Bolognese

Source: Bon Appetit

Bolognese gets its name from the Bologna region in Italy where it originated some time around the 15th century. This meat-based sauce always includes the holy trio of celery, carrots, and onion, but also adds milk which may seem like an odd ingredient in a tomato-based Italian sauce.

Trust me, it’s not. Also trust all the chefs who have been making this…since the 15th century.

The milk adds a depth of flavor to the dish, offsets the acidity of the tomato and helps tenderize the meat.

This slow cook, big flavor recipe comes together in 3-4 hours, but a lot of that time is just letting the ingredients mingle with each other in the pot. Letting them get to know each other. Letting them find their ingredient friends.

You just stir them around a bit to make sure everyone is meeting everyone they should meet to create the profound flavor that is Bolognese.

And then you wait. Patiently. For the perfection that is Bolognese.

This Bolognese is usually a pantry pull for me.

13 things to know about the BA’s Best Bolognese recipe:

  • You need to set aside around 3 1/2 to 4 hours for this recipe. You’re going to get big flavor from this dish, but you can’t rush that flavor. You must let it simmer. And then simmer some more. And then simmer again. You get the picture.
  • This is a Simple to Make dish as well as being Made to Impress. There’s nothing complicated about the ingredients, the prep or the cooking. It just takes patience. And that patience pays off big time in the final product.
  • You can easily double the recipe. And you’ll be glad you did! Grab a bigger pot and spend a bit more time browning the meat and pancetta and increase your simmering time by around 30 minutes to accommodate the added ingredients. The extra time pays off with leftovers.
Almost fully browning the ground beef (left); Crisping the prosciutto (right).
  • The recipe calls white wine, which I never have on hand, so I substituted additional chicken stock. While omitting the wine shifts from the traditional preparation, you can make this with all chicken stock. Some people always have white wine in their house. Some people rarely do. Some people prefer not to cook with wine. Whatever your situation is, it’s ok to use all chicken stock if you don’t have white wine. You’ll still get the depth of flavor.
  • I fully (and I mean fully) minced the carrots, celery, and onion this time. The recipe says to get them to the ‘finely chopped’ level. Sometimes I leave them a bit larger, but I got a little carried away with the food processor this time. Not to worry, the flavor is still there.
Oops. Over processed the carrots, celery, and onion, but the flavor is still there!
  • Take some time to smash the meat with a wooden spoon. Wait…that sounds a bit odd. But it’s a necessary step to get the sauce to the right consistency, so smash away!
Smash the meat. And then smash it some more.
  • Once you get the sauce to the simmering stage, check back often to stir and to make sure there is no rapid bubbling. A few big, slowly erupting bubbles like those you see at the mudpots in Yellowstone are fine and to be expected. But turn down the heat if you’re seeing rapid boiling.
No boiling during the simmering process.
  • Taste the sauce throughout the cooking process. Not only will you determine if it needs additional salt, but you’ll get a glimpse of the yumminess that will be your reward once the sauce is finished. Every time I taste the sauce when I’m cooking it, I find myself saying, “OMG, that is sooooo good.”
  • Always serve Bolognese with a thicker noodle because the sauce needs that surface area to cling to. I used pappardelle this time but tagliatelle or rigatoni also work as the recipe notes. Just avoid spaghetti or fettuccini or all the sauce will fall to your plate and you’ll be eating plain noodles. That would be a crime after all the work to make the Bolognese.
  • Undercook your noodles by about 2 minutes. The recipe specifies this and you really need to do it this way. You’re going to add them to the sauce with some pasta water and parmesan and they will finish cooking at that point.
Pappardelle noodle nests offer the thickness needed to support the Bolognese.
  • Make sure you add the pasta water to the sauce and noodles. Do NOT skip this step. Not only does the pasta water add another layer of flavor to the noodles, it also thickens the sauce a bit which helps it cling to the pasta.
Sauce. Pasta. Pasta water. Parmesan. Heaven.
  • Bolognese freezes well for a go-to weeknight meal on a crazy day. This is why I double the recipe when I make it. I want the leftovers in my freezer for a night when I really need a great meal and I need it quickly.
  • Freezing tip−Place the sauce in a gallon Ziploc bag and flatten it before freezing. This saves space in the freezer and with the sauce flattened, it will thaw more quickly on those days when you need a quick meal.
Literally the BEST Bolognese!