30-Minute Pasta Bolognese Recipe

Pasta with meat sauce has a special place on the dinner table, to be certain. Bolognese, though, is typically a thicker, creamier meat sauce than your standard American fare. Tomato, noodles, meat, plus a few extra ingredients make this 30-minute pasta Bolognese a quick and easy meal that practically anybody will enjoy. The key to making a pasta Bolognese that has everybody at dinner raving, though, is really all the extras you put into your homemade tomato sauce with this recipe. This is a Bolognese sauce to end all Bolognese sauces, especially because the recipe allows you to go from prep to table in just half an hour. 

Of course, another key to really driving this Bolognese home is the combination of beef and pancetta. These two types of meat bring out tons of flavor and give the meal a mouth-watering kick of protein that sets it apart from other pasta dishes. Plus, while you can buy some of the ingredients pre-done, recipe creator Michelle McGlinn is big on using hunks of cheese and actual herbs. As McGlinn says, "It is so important to have fresh ingredients for Italian cuisine!"

Finally, while Bolognese is traditionally a meat sauce, McGlinn has some recommendations for vegetarian pasta lovers out there to make sure everybody can enjoy this super-easy and super-delicious dish.

Gather the ingredients and cook the meat

To make this 30-minute spaghetti Bolognese, you'll need ½ cup diced pancetta, 1 pound ground beef, 1 yellow onion, 1 large carrot, 5 cloves garlic, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, ½ cup dry red wine, 1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes, 1 14-ounce can of tomato puree, salt and pepper to taste, and 1 pound of cooked pasta. Take a minute to dice the onion, and carrot, as well as mince the garlic.

Start with a deep pot or a Dutch oven for the sauce. According to McGlinn, "You can easily use a 5-quart Dutch oven for this sauce. The smallest pot size I would recommend using would be a 3-quart pot or Dutch oven." Throw the pancetta into the pot and fry it over medium heat. Once the pancetta has begun to caramelize, add the ground beef and cook, breaking the meat into small pieces as the beef browns. If you end up with excess grease, carefully drain it before going onto the next step.

There's also a vegetarian option available if you're trying to go plant-based. Consider replacing the beef with vegetarian meat crumbles. Another way to do it, according to McGlinn, is to use "chopped mushrooms or tempeh. The mushrooms will add a nice umami flavor in place of the pancetta." Either way, once your core protein is browned and ready, it's time start adding the rest of the vegetables.

Add the vegetables

Once the beef and pancetta mix (or its vegetarian alternative) is browned, which will take about 4 to 5 minutes, add in the diced onion and carrot and stir to combine. Keep cooking on medium heat until the onions are softened, which should be another 4 to 5 minutes. 

Next, add in the garlic and combine thoroughly. Yes, that's more mixing, but it ensures a perfect blend of everything to get a great balance of all the flavors and textures into each bite. This combination is the heart of the meal and what puts this Bolognese head and shoulders above most meat sauces, so it doesn't hurt to take a minute and make sure all the ingredients are fully incorporated. 

Make the tomato sauce

You should now have your meat mixed with your vegetables and garlic, all nearly cooked to perfection. Now add the tomato paste and incorporate this into the mixture. As the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the pot, add the wine to deglaze. Simmer this tomato and wine mixture on medium for 5 minutes to allow the sauce to reduce and grow thicker. Once the liquid has reduced, add the crushed tomatoes and tomato puree to further heighten the tomato flavors.

If you have not done so already, now is a good time to start cooking the pasta, according to the directions included in the package.

Season and simmer the sauce

Once the wine has reduced and you've added the tomatoes and the puree, you're in the home stretch and that much closer to Bolognese greatness. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste, then turn the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 10 minutes more. Once the carrots are softened and the mixture has thickened, you're ready to remove the pot from heat and put on the finishing touches.

Cook the pasta

This recipe calls for a pound of cooked pasta and, while many recipes call for spaghetti, it really can be whatever kind of pasta that you prefer. "I used fettuccini in this recipe," says McGlinn, "but it is common to use tagliatelle or pappardelle. [These are] essentially, thick, dense noodles that can hold the thick sauce. If you prefer, rigatoni and penne make great alternatives to the long noodles."

However you cook the pasta (we recommend an al dente texture, by the way), the real key to a great Bolognese is that you mix the sauce with the noodles before serving. For this reason, McGlinn suggests starting them around the time you're in the wine reduction stage. When the sauce is ready to serve, be sure that you've drained all the excess water out of the pasta. 

Then, it's just a simple matter of adding that cooked pasta to the pot you've used to cook the Bolognese sauce. "The sauce won't get thick enough to need pasta water to thin it," says McGlinn, "so you can add the strained pasta directly into the pot."

Finish and serve the pasta Bolognese

Now that the sauce is ready and you've fully mixed it with the pasta so that the sauce coats each piece, it's time to serve it up. Once mixed, remove the pot from heat and plate your dish. For an optional garnish, tear up some fresh basil leaves and sprinkle the pieces on top of the dish. The final touch is some freshly grated Parmesan placed right on top.

Serve immediately and watch everybody's eyes light up as they behold the perfect Bolognese that took hardly any time to prepare. It's guaranteed to become a dinner favorite for anybody and everybody.

30-Minute Pasta Bolognese Recipe
5 from 26 ratings
The key to making a pasta Bolognese that has everybody at dinner raving is really all the extras you put into your homemade tomato sauce with this recipe.
Prep Time
5
minutes
Cook Time
30
minutes
Servings
5
servings
plated pasta Bolognese in white bowls with forks and fresh basil
Total time: 35 minutes
Ingredients
  • ½ cup fresh pancetta, diced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 14-ounce can of tomato puree
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound cooked pasta, for serving
Optional Ingredients
  • Fresh basil
  • Grated Parmesan
Directions
  1. In a deep pot or Dutch oven, fry the pancetta over medium heat until it is caramelized.
  2. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking it into small pieces as the beef browns, about 4-5 minutes. Drain excess grease, if needed.
  3. Add the onion and carrot, then stir to combine. Cook until onions are softened, about 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic and combine.
  5. Add the tomato paste and stir into the mixture. As the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the pot, add the wine to deglaze.
  6. Simmer the wine mixture for 5 minutes. Once the liquid has reduced, add the crushed tomatoes and tomato puree.
  7. Season with salt and pepper, then turn the heat to medium-low and simmer until carrots are softened and the mixture is thickened, about 10 minutes.
  8. To serve, mix cooked pasta into the warm Bolognese sauce, then remove from heat. Tear basil and sprinkle on top of pasta, then grate parmesan on top.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 546
Total Fat 24.3 g
Saturated Fat 8.7 g
Trans Fat 1.1 g
Cholesterol 71.9 mg
Total Carbohydrates 53.0 g
Dietary Fiber 7.7 g
Total Sugars 13.8 g
Sodium 1,173.7 mg
Protein 27.2 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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