Fettuccine Bolognese is the best comfort food for a cold day. Rich, meaty homemade sauce is tossed with pasta that you can twirl around your fork.
I generally like something that is relatively quick to pull together or comes out of the slow cooker (like slow cooker chicken burrito bowls) on a weeknight.
But I have a little more time on Lazy Sunday afternoons to make something that takes a little bit longer. And one of my favorite weekend recipes is bolognese.
I’ve already shared my love for meat sauce rigatoni and today I’m back with the best fettuccine bolognese recipe. Because sometimes you just want a long, luscious noodle that you can twirl around your fork. At least I do!
What is fettuccine bolognese?
Bolognese is a meat-based Italian pasta sauce, named for the city of Bologna. It is also known as ragu alla bolognese or simply ragu.
It can be used to prepare lasagna cottage cheese, or just stirred together with cooked pasta like fettuccine (or other options, discussed below).
Just like my shrimp wonton soup, I classify bolognese as relatively easy – if a little time consuming – but worth it. There’s some time spent up front getting a good brown on the beef, then the vegetables, then breaking up the meat into little bits.
But then, you get to the most important (and hands off) part of this fettuccine alla bolognese – the two hour SIMMER.
This is where you can go take a walk around the block, because you only need to stir every 30-40 minutes or so.
After the simmer, you’ll just need to cook some pasta and then stir it together with the bolognese before serving.
If you’re looking for a quicker pasta dish, my Greek yogurt pasta comes together in about 40 minutes, so it’s perfect for a weeknight.
What is the difference between bolognese sauce and spaghetti sauce?
In the United States, “spaghetti sauce” is typically very tomato-heavy. It may sometimes have ground meat like beef or sausage in it. And it’s always served with, of course, spaghetti!
Bolognese sauce is meat-forward. It may or may not have some type of tomato product in it (in my pasta bolognese recipe, there’s just a smidge of tomato paste). It’s thicker and richer than spaghetti sauce.
Bolognese also typically includes milk, which tenderizes the meat.
What is the best pasta for bolognese sauce?
While in Italy, it is traditional to serve bolognese with freshly made tagliatelle, that’s not something that I can typically get my hands on.
Making fresh homemade pasta is not my favorite thing to do, and I don’t always have access to freshly made pasta to buy.
So, as evidenced by the name of this recipe, I love fettuccine! It’s probably the closest alternative to tagliatelle while also still being widely available.
Rigatoni is also great because both the tube shade of the noodle, and the ridges on the outside, make it an ideal pasta shape for the meaty sauce to cling to.
One of my favorite tips for fettuccine alla bolognese:
Don’t want to open a bottle of wine to make one batch of fettuccine alla bolognese? Neither do I.
I like to keep mini bottles (187 mL) of both red and white wine on hand, just for cooking.
They’re SO handy to have around. Each bottle equals just a smidge over 3/4 cup. Since you need 3/4 cup of wine for this fettuccine bolognese recipe, you can either take a few sips first, or just round up on the wine a little bit and use the entire bottle.
What type of red wine should I use for the best fettuccine bolognese recipe?
I typically use cabernet sauvignon in this bolognese recipe, but pinot noir would also be great in this pasta bolognese.
As long as it’s not too sweet, just about any red wine will be just fine for fettuccine alla bolognese.
Or, if you have white wine left over from a wine and cheese board, that works in a pinch for this fettuccine bolognese recipe, too. But red wine is always my first choice for this recipe, if possible.
Variations on fettuccine alla bolognese:
- fettuccine bolognese with sausage – replace half or all of the ground beef in this recipe with ground Italian sausage (either mild or spicy).
- fettucine bolognese with ricotta – dollop a spoonful of ricotta cheese on top of each bowl when you serve! Use the extra cheese to make baked lemon ricotta cheese!
- fettuccine bolognese with peas – stir thawed frozen peas (also great for breakfast fried rice!) in at Step 8 in the recipe below to add an extra serving of vegetables to this dish.
- fettuccine bolognese with cream – to make a creamy fettuccine bolognese, stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream at Step 8.
- lamb bolognese – swap out the beef for lamb using my lamb bolognese recipe!
Can you freeze this fettuccine bolognese recipe?
Yes! Bolognese sauce itself freezes great!
I recommend that you make and freeze the sauce on it’s own (make the recipe through step 6, then freeze).
Then, when you’re ready to eat it, simply thaw and warm the sauce, and cook the pasta at that point. Then, stir it all together and eat (steps 7 through 9). My vegetable lasagna recipe is another freezer superstar.
What to serve with fettuccine bolognese:
There’s hidden veggies built right into this pasta bolognese, but if you’d like even more, I’d suggest a simple green salad with citrus salad dressing.
My Thanksgiving salad also pairs really well with rich, meaty dishes like this fettuccine bolognese recipe, whether it’s Thanksgiving or not!
- 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
- 2 small carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- Kosher salt
- 3/4 cup red wine
- 1/3 cup tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 large sprig thyme
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup whole milk
- 12 ounces dry fettuccine
- Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh parsley, for serving
- In bowl of food processor fitted with knife blade attachment, pulse celery, carrots and onion until very finely chopped.
- Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Break ground beef into about 8 chunks and add to pot. Season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally but not breaking up meat, 6 to 8 minutes or until outside of beef chunks are browned. Using slotted spoon, transfer beef to medium bowl.
- Add celery mixture to pot and cook 10 to 15 minutes or until all moisture has evaporated and vegetables begin to lightly stick to bottom of pot, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in wine and reserved beef. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until wine is evaporated, using spoon to break beef into small bits as it cooks.
- Add tomato paste, bay leaf and thyme and cook 5 minutes or until tomato paste is slightly browned, continuing to break beef up as it cooks.
- Stir in water, milk, and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered, 2 hours or until mixture has reduced to a sauce consistency and meat is very tender, stirring about every 30 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf and thyme sprig. Taste sauce and season with additional salt if necessary.
- Heat large pot of salted water to boiling over high heat. Add fettuccine and cook for 2 minutes less than package directions for al dente.
- Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water. Drain pasta and transfer to pot with bolognese. Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water. Increase heat to medium, and cook, while stirring pasta and sauce together, 2 minutes or until pasta is al dente and everything is combined. Add additional pasta water if necessary, to keep things saucy!
- Serve topped with Parmesan cheese and parsley.
Adapted from Bon Appetit.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 623Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 108mgSodium: 348mgCarbohydrates: 40gFiber: 4gSugar: 9gProtein: 39g