Braden Family Cookbook

Chuck Braden

Recipe Index

Often seen names

Home Page


BEST BOLOGNESE SAUCE Original article and recipes by Jack Bishop 

For the richest flavor and the most tender meat, simmer a mixture of chuck, pork, and veal in milk, then wine, then canned tomatoes with their juice!

The challenge: A good Bolognese should be thick, it should be smooth, and it should have a rich, complex flavor. To accomplish this, tradition points to long cooking over low heat. This seemed worth testing, as did a number of other components of this meaty sauce--especially the meat (what kind to use and how to cook it).

The solution: Unlike many other traditional Italian sauces, which showcase the tomato, the perfect Bolognese depends on the nature and treatment of its meat. Consequently, we began building the sauce by using a combination of ground beef (the foundation), pork (for sweetness), and veal (for its delicate flavor). After an initial brief sautè with onion, carrot, and celery, we simmered the meat in milk, which had the effect of both softening and sweetening it. The flavor and texture of the meat--and the rest of the sauce--were then brought to perfection by means of a slow simmer on the stovetop--and that means slow: over the lowest possible heat with only a few bubbles rising to the surface of the sauce at one time. (Tradition proved to be right.) Three hours of this slow cooking was just enough.

For good measure: If you have trouble getting the heat down low enough to barely maintain a simmer, you may want to try a flame tamer, which slows the heat by adding a layer of metal between the pot and the heating element. You can purchase a commercial tamer or make one yourself from aluminum foil, creating a ring of foil that sits on the burner.


Makes generous 3 cups, enough to sauce 1 pound of pasta

Don’t drain the pasta of its cooking water too meticulously when using this sauce; a little water left clinging to the noodles will help distribute the very thick sauce evenly into the noodles, as will adding an extra 2 tablespoons of butter along with the sauce. Top each serving with a little grated Parmesan and pass extra grated cheese at the table. If doubling this recipe, increase the simmering times for the milk and the wine to 30 minutes each, and the simmering time once the tomatoes are added to 4 hours.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter2 tablespoons minced onion2 tablespoons minced carrot2 tablespoons minced celery3/4 pound meatloaf mix or 1/4 pound each ground beef chuck, ground veal, and ground porkSalt1 cup whole milk1 cup dry white wine1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes packed in juice, chopped fine, with juice reserved

1. Heat butter in large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat; add onion, carrot, and celery and sautè until softened but not browned, about 6 minutes. Add ground meat and 1/2 teaspoon salt; crumble meat with edge of wooden spoon to break apart into tiny pieces. Cook, continuing to crumble meat, just until it loses its raw color but has not yet browned, about 3 minutes.

2. Add milk and bring to simmer; continue to simmer until milk evaporates and only clear fat remains, 10 to 15 minutes. Add wine and bring to simmer; continue to simmer until wine evaporates, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Add tomatoes and their juice and bring to simmer; reduce heat to low so that sauce continues to simmer just barely, with an occasional bubble or two at the surface, until liquid has evaporated, about 3 hours (if lowest burner setting is too high to allow such a low simmer, use a flame tamer or a foil ring to elevate pan). Adjust seasonings with extra salt to taste and serve. (Can be refrigerated in an airtight container for several days or frozen for several months. Warm over low heat before serving.)


There is something very appealing about the simplicity of an all-beef sauce; while it may lack some of the finesse and sweetness of the master recipe, its pure beef flavor is uniquely satisfying.

Follow recipe for Classic Bolognese Sauce, substituting 3/4 pound ground beef chuck for meatloaf mix.


All ground beef works best with the pancetta in this sauce. If you can't find pancetta, use prosciutto, but don't use American bacon, which is smoked and will overwhelm the beef. Last, I found that red wine stands up to the more robust flavors in this sauce better than the white wine.

Follow recipe for Classic Bolognese Sauce, adding 2 ounces minced pancetta to butter along with vegetables, substituting 3/4 pound ground beef chuck for meatloaf mix, and substituting an equal amount of red wine for white wine.