Pasta Bolognese

A while back I made Meatballs Subs because I had a craving. They’re not that difficult to make and when you make them at home, you can use better ingredients than the versions you get elsewhere. Fortunately, there’s good bread in France and no shortage of cheese. And meatballs aren’t much of a challenge to make either. (Interestingly, a few weeks after I posted that recipe, an American woman living in Paris came up to me and said, “I don’t know how you knew, but I was craving the exact same thing! So I made your recipe…”

There must be something about ground beef, because I recently found myself craving Pasta Bolognese; tubes of pasta tossed in a thickened tomato sauce made with ground meat, red wine, garlic, and enriched with tomato paste – Capisce? 

I scanned a few of the cookbooks on my shelf for a recipe. One recipe I’m sure was amazing had thirty ingredients. My friend Adam made the Canal House recipe that takes five hours. Since I’m usually home, I don’t mind the time commitment, and if I spent a few minutes (or hours) rifling through my kitchen cabinets and refrigerator, I could have probably gathered the 30 ingredients on hand for the other recipe.

But I didn’t go with either of those Pasta Bolognese recipes, because I got a copy of Food You Love But Different, and there it was: Pasta Bolognese with Chorizo. The recipe practically fell in my lap, and who was I not to make it?

Food You Love But Different by Danielle Oron is a cookbook dedicated to riffs on favorite recipes, but elevated with creative seasonings and multicultural flavors and ingredients. Danielle is famous for her Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies, and like those cookies, I love how her book takes ordinary dishes in intriguing directions.

There are White Chocolate Coconut Blondies, Shawarma with harissa mayonnaise and pickles, and a Cheeseburger which has you roll out the beef so it’s uber-thin, which you pan-fry so there are lots and lots of crispy edges and surfaces. Once it’s done, you fold the thin patty between two slices of griddled-til-crisp white bread. I don’t know about you, but that sounds really, really good to me. I guess I’ve got my next craving lined up…

The curveball in this Italian-American Bolognese recipe is that it uses Spanish chorizo, which is different than its Mexican counterpart. Mexican chorizo is usually sold fresh whereas Spanish chorizo is cured sausage, sold in links that are ready to slice ‘n go. I stuck with non-spicy chorizo but you could take it in a livelier direction by using the spicy kind.

After sautéeing everything on the stovetop in a big pot, the mixture simmers in the oven for a few hours – you don’t even have to stir it. When it’s ready, you’ve got a big pot of warm, richly-thick tomato sauce that gets tossed with warm pasta and served with grated cheese.

It certainly filled my craving (and then some…as we enjoyed leftovers for several days later), and if you give it a go, I think it’ll fill yours, too.

Pasta Bolognese
Print Recipe
6 to 8 servings
Adapted from Food You Love But Different by Danielle Oron I made a few changes to the original recipe, including reducing the type and amount of red wine, which was rather strong. She uses a full bottle Tempranillo and I went with a fruitier red. I dialed down the amount (and type) of wine because I prefer the livelier punch of Pinot noir and similar red wines, and having a half-bottle of wine leftover was perfect to enjoy with dinner. The first time I made this Pasta Bolognese I used ground beef that was 20% fat, as the recipe indicated. It threw off a lot of oil, which I spooned off the top of the sauce when it was finished. The next time I made it with leaner, grass-fed beef and it came out just fine, although the meat was less-moist. (As grass-fed beef can also be.) The pictures in the post were the second batch; the sauce of the first one, made with non-lean beef clung more to the pasta, due to the higher fat content. Both versions, however, were equally flavorful. (Also my oven didn't go down to 250ºF (120ºC), as indicated by the original recipe, so I cooked it at 275ºF (135ºC), for the time indicated in the recipe here.) To make sun-dried tomato paste, blitz sun-dried tomatoes with a teaspoon or so of the oil they are packed in. If using sun-dried tomatoes not packed in oil, gently warm the tomatoes in olive oil, remove from heat, and let stand overnight to soften. (I actually used the oil in the sun-dried tomato jar for the olive oil in step #2 for sauteeing.) If you don't want to use them, just add another dab of tomato paste. I used doux chorizo, which is sometimes called "sweet" chorizo, but if you want to spice things up, you're welcome to use spicy chorizo. Note that the chorizo used in this recipe isn't fresh (like most Mexican chorizo is), but cured and dried and sold in links that are firm. It often referred to as Spanish chorizo. Lastly, a dash of Asian fish sauce, or even colatura, gives the sauce a little je ne sais quoi. It won't taste fishy, but the sly anchovy flavor will boost the umami factor of the sauce.
2 tablespoons olive oil or the oil from the sun-dried tomato jar
8 ounces (230g) Spanish-style chorizo, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 1/4 pounds (560g) ground beef (see headnote)
1 teaspoon kosher or salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste or puree
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 1/2 cups (355ml) fruity red wine, such as Pinot noir or Merlot
1 28 ounce (800g) can whole tomatoes, crushed
1 tablespoon sugar
2 bay leaves
1 rind Parmesan (optional)
1-2 teaspoons fish sauce (optional)
1 pound (450g) dried pasta, such as rigatoni, penne, garganelli, or tagliatelle (fresh or dried)
Parmesan or pecorino cheese, for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 275ºF (120ºC).
2. In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven heat the olive oil. Add the chorizo slices and cook, stirring occasionally, until they're warmed through and releasing their oil. Remove the chorizo with a slotted spoon and add the garlic and onions to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are wilted and translucent, about 5 to 6 minutes.
3. Add the beef, season lightly with salt and a few good turns of freshly ground black pepper, and cook, stirring, until the meat is cooked through browned, about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, sun-dried tomato puree, and oregano. Slowly add the wine, scraping the bottom of the pot to remove any stuck-on browned bits.
4. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, sugar, bay leaves, Parmesan rind (if using), and cooked chorizo. Bring the mixture to a low boil, remove from heat, cover, and braise in the oven for 3 hours. No need to stir while cooking.
5. After three hours, remove the sauce from the oven. Taste (carefully, as the sauce is hot), and season with additional salt and pepper, as well as fish sauce, if desired. Remove the bay leaves and Parmesan rind. Use a tablespoon or turkey baster to skim excessive oil, if any, off the surface of the sauce and discard it.
6. Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve 1 cup (250ml) of the pasta water and drain the pasta. Stir the hot pasta into the sauce, adding a little bit of the reserved pasta water to loosen things up, if necessary. Serve in bowls with Parmesan or Pecorino cheese alongside for guests to grate over each serving.

Another serving suggestion: The original recipe advised to serve it with a bottle of Tabasco sauce on the table, so people can season and spice up their own pasta.

Notes: Perhaps a number of you would use a slow cooker or Instant Pot for a sauce like this. I haven't had the best of luck using my slow cooker for anything but rice, and don't have an Instant Pot. But if you make it in either of those machines, feel free to share in the comments how you did it.

This makes enough sauce for six to eight servings of pasta. You can freeze half of the sauce and make it with 8 ounces (225g) of pasta. The sauce will keep for at least two months in the freezer, or up to five days in the refrigerator.

The classic Italian pasta, hearty and bold!

Never miss a post!


  • September 30, 2019 3:06pm

    This recipe looks and delicious and I will definitely try it. When I make Marcella Hazan’s recipe for spaghetti bolognese here in Paris I use ground beef that I get from Polmard at Beaupassage – it is worthy of a fine bowl of Spag Bol that you let simmer for 3 or more hours.

    • Nitsa
      October 1, 2019 10:41am

      Hi david
      Can i use other kind of chorizo ( whats the difference between the spanish kind and the others?)
      And can you indicate what kind of lean meat you recommend?
      Thanks and shana tova

      • October 1, 2019 1:47pm
        David Lebovitz

        Spanish chorizo is cured and sold in links. Mexican-style chorizo is generally uncooked and either sold in links, or “loose,” like ground meat.

        In terms of lean meat, I made this with grass-fed beef, which is lean. Leaner ground meats are turkey and chicken, but suspect they will not produce the same results, so I recommend sticking with ground beef.

  • September 30, 2019 3:25pm

    This is exactly what I needed to see on a dreary Monday morning, to remind me of how much I love Bolognese sauce. I will make mine tonight and use buffalo instead of ground beef and skip the chorizo. It’s one of my all time favorite comfort foods. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Philip
    September 30, 2019 3:50pm

    Nice variation! I guess you could call it Bolognese alla Spagnolo. My own is to use pancetta, ground pork and beef with a lot of dried porcini mushrooms (soaked and chopped) a little tomato paste (no other tomato product) and white wine (instead of red) and the porcini soaking liquid.

  • Michael McDaniel
    September 30, 2019 4:30pm

    Looks interesting. I think I will try it but add a wee bit of milk to make it a little closer to the original.

  • ronald shapley
    September 30, 2019 4:36pm

    Where’s the milk ??? and… I hate Chorizo………

  • DokYo
    September 30, 2019 4:44pm

    Yummy!… but will have wait until after Rosh Hashana. Bolt of lightning and all that.

  • Ellen Napier
    September 30, 2019 5:03pm

    Sounds lovely and I will try since I have never had Spanish chorizo. However, I don’t understand why you don’t drain the excess grease after browning the beef and before adding the wine and tomato paste, etc. You could leave the brown bits for flavor but not have to skim the finished sauce later.

    • September 30, 2019 10:04pm
      David Lebovitz

      There wasn’t much excess oil after I fried the beef. But after the long braising, I think that encouraged the fat to render out, the first time I made it. There was very little when I used grass-fed beef.

  • September 30, 2019 5:04pm

    Wow, this looks good. I’m getting a big craving for this, or a meatball sub, this weekend!

  • E E Deere
    September 30, 2019 5:04pm

    David, this looks great. Do you think I could slip in a crushed anchovy or two instead of fish stock?

    • September 30, 2019 10:04pm
      David Lebovitz

      Absolutely. I didn’t try that but often slip anchovies into things.

    • Thorunn Sleight
      October 1, 2019 4:04pm

      Note that it’s not fish stock, but fish SAUCE that is called for in the recipe, which can be found in Asian markets, or in most supermarkets. I have long used it as a more convenient substitution for anchovies, as I don’t always want to have a half a tin of anchovies sitting around the refrigerator for weeks and weeks.

  • Balthazar B
    September 30, 2019 5:15pm

    David, what an interesting variation on bolognese sauce. I’ll have to see if the local Fatted Calf stocks something like Spanish chorizo, and try it out.

    When it comes to suchlike Italian ragus, I’ve always been most partial to butcher’s sauce, made with the holy trinity of beef, pork, and lamb, and which includes some milk (for sweetness) and anchovies (for umami). Have to think someone in Paris makes it well, but it’s the perfect thing to do at home, as it has perhaps a dozen ingredients and an easy prep/process. One of those examples of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts, to be sure. Cheers!

    • September 30, 2019 10:06pm
      David Lebovitz

      Interestingly I’ve found Spanish chorizo are supermarkets in the U.S. fairly easily. (Of course, it can be bought online as well.) But if you have Fatted Calf nearby, I’m sure they have something wonderful.

  • Tom
    September 30, 2019 6:14pm

    I’m not sure it can fairly be called bolognese. I am not a purist when it comes to dish names but for me bolognese has specific connotations and flavor profile that if this dish was served to me at a restaurant I’d not be pleased. It would be safer to call it spaghetti with spicy meat sauce.

    • September 30, 2019 10:26pm
      David Lebovitz

      There’s nothing spicy in this sauce, unless someone opts for spicy chorizo.

      • Kathryn F
        October 3, 2019 5:41am

        I was determined to make this with my instapot but…I started off cooking onions in oil on sauté mode. Then I added garlic once onions were blond and medium dark. Then I added 1 lb ground beef and three links raw Mexican chorizo I was trying to use up. This I cooked until no longer pink. Added salt and some pepper. Then I accidentally added too much wine, (2 cups Cabernet Sauvignon 2010) and paste and sundried tomatoes, oregano. Then I tried to figure out how to pressure cook instead of using the oven. So then I added diced carrots because I like them and I stuck it on beef stew setting for 30 minutes but forgot to close the vent.

        As I was reading it said not to cook recipes with lots of wine in a pressure cooker because the alcohol can’t evaporate and dish will turn out acidic and tart or possibly malty. So then I turned off the instapot and thought I’ll cook it open on sauté mode until alcohol evaporates and then switch to pressure cooking. So after some time on sauté I put it back on beef strew mode but it told me beeped and said Burn. So I stopped it . And sure enough it had burned on bottom from sauté mode. How does the machine know this?

        So I added a cup of water stirred it and added mushrooms and cooked it a few minutes more, still on sauté and served it. Tasted great but had a burned taste. So I don’t recommend instapot. Sauté is too high heat and stove top would have had same result but I could have turned it down to prevent burning. You could evaporate alcohol off, I suppose, with some other setting besides sauté, but it isn’t easy to do. Also you need to make sure volume is no more than 2/3 pot.

  • Don
    September 30, 2019 6:58pm

    Going to make as written tonight! But… Since we are going to Hawaii next week, I will serve it over Zucchini noodles instead of of my beloved pasta. If you have a spiralizer, it really is delicious and adds all the veggies you need. Don’t get me wrong… Nothing beats pasta! But… the thought of a week in a bathing suit has kept us low carb for the last month!

  • Liz W.
    September 30, 2019 8:11pm

    This sounds delicious, but Spanish chorizo is hard to come by where I live. I might try to use ground Mexican chorizo along with the ground beef and go in a bit of a different direction. Does that sound weird?

    • NucGal
      September 30, 2019 8:30pm

      I would try pepperoni before trying Mexican Chorizo, which is definitely gonna take it to a weird direction.

  • Bonnie L
    September 30, 2019 10:47pm

    Even in VT we can buy Spanish chorizo. Here, it’s sold with the cheeses. Worth searching out.

  • Jennifer
    September 30, 2019 10:49pm

    David, if you’re interested in a similar sauce with even fewer ingredients (but absolutely delicious), do a search for Biba Caggiano’s Roman Ragu. Good ground beef, minced prosciutto, a traditional onion/carrot/celery soffritto, red wine, can of Italian tomatoes, beef broth, e basta! I even leave out the beef broth, which I never have on hand, and use a bit more wine instead. A lot of the flavour comes from letting the beef get good and stuck to the pan, and then deglazing when you add the wine. The one drawback is that it’s so simple and so good it makes you lazy about trying out anything more involved….

    • Anne
      September 30, 2019 11:47pm

      Love Biba’s recipes and restaurant; sad she is no longer with us

      • Jennifer
        October 4, 2019 11:36pm

        Oh, how sad–I had no idea she’d recently passed away. Her “Biba’s Italy: Favourite Recipes from the Splendid Cities” has been one of my standbys for both cooking and Italian travel since it came out in 2006 (just looked at the date…it seems so much more recent.)

        On the subject of tomatoes vs. no tomatoes, there’s a recipe in the “Bologna” section of this book for “Spinach Tagliatelle with Pork Ragu” that has a mere tablespoon of tomato paste in it (and nothing else tomato-related) to two pounds of pork and 3 cups of milk. I’ve made this one too, and it’s wonderful. The headnote for it describes it as more old-fashioned than the more tomatoey kind and says it’s not eaten much these days, even in Bologna.

    • October 1, 2019 3:30am
      David Lebovitz

      It’s interesting because I was just looked at her Bolognese recipe, since someone elsewhere on social media remarked that Italian Bolognese doesn’t have tomatoes in it. (That’s why I dubbed this “Italian American.”) Biba, used tomatoes as did Marcella Hazan – both their recipes seem interesting to try as well. Biba was quite special and although I never met her, she seemed like a lovely person and a great cook.

      • Margaret
        October 1, 2019 8:16am

        Your recipe looks delicious — I’m going to try it this weekend. If you’ve never made Marcella Hazan’s bolognese that goes with her green spinach noodle lasagne, you should try it sometime. It’s made from ground beef, white wine, milk, nutmeg, carrots, onions, celery, tomatoes and you cook it for three hours. She tells you how to make the spinach lasagne noodles and bechamel sauce as well. It takes a long time to make but well worth it. I don’t make it very often because of the time factor, but when I do people swoon over it. It’s probably the most memorable and magical dish I’ve ever made.

      • Ingrid Wilson
        October 1, 2019 10:16pm

        I have tried various versions of bolognese sauce recipes, some with pork mince or pancetta added to the beef mince, some with white wine and some with red, etc. etc. but my real favourite and the only one I use now is Marcella Hazan’s recipe. It is simple yet flavourful. The addition of chorizo sounds interesting and I will definitely try it.

  • Keith
    September 30, 2019 11:59pm

    slight typo.

    “The first time I this Pasta Bolognese” there should be a another used in here.

    Fixed! – dl

  • October 1, 2019 12:02am

    When I went to culinary school back home (Peru), my Italian cuisine teacher, who is of German heritage, taught us to add chorizo to bolognese sauce. Peruvian chorizo is not dried like Spanish-style ones, so you can remove it from the casing, crumble it and mix it with the beef – quite nice! I will try this version to see which one I like best :)

  • Deborah
    October 1, 2019 6:16am

    Thank you, David, as always. Will experiment with my Instant Pot and report back.

  • marta
    October 1, 2019 10:54am

    Italian bolognesa does have tomatoes, passata, really.
    You can look for truly italian recipes at the Giallo Zafferarano and translate them.

    • October 1, 2019 1:51pm
      David Lebovitz

      Apparently there is an “official” Bolognese recipe. But every version that I’ve seen is different (which may be a result of blurry translations.) One I looked at on the Giallo Zafferano site has 750g of tomato puree, which is about 3 cups.

  • Clara
    October 1, 2019 3:05pm

    I love bolognese souce! Thanks for this recipe <3

  • Carol George
    October 2, 2019 5:55am

    Dear David, been meaning to write and tell you that I made your lemon almond cake a few weeks back and it is stunning – now a family favourite.
    Regards Carol George Melbourne, Australia.

  • Erin
    October 2, 2019 5:13pm

    Bolognese sauce is one of my winter faves. Instead of ground beef, I like to use beef ribs, sweet and spicy Italian sausage, and a little thick-cut bacon.
    The pasta in your photo are gorgeous! Did you make them by hand?

    • October 2, 2019 5:41pm
      David Lebovitz

      I didn’t make it by hand. Those kinds of pastas are a little more complicated to form. I do sometimes make other kinds of pasta; My pasta recipe is here.

  • October 2, 2019 6:02pm

    Since you cut the wine back by half, did you need to make up for the liquid in any other way (water?). It didn’t sound it from the recipe, just wondering though as a cup and a half is a significant difference.

    • October 2, 2019 8:11pm
      David Lebovitz

      I cut back the cooking time from the original recipe by an hour.

      • October 2, 2019 10:41pm

        Thank you, that makes sense. Mine is in the oven now. I did go with chorizo picante as we really like spicy food. It smells delicious already, and I love how quickly it came together, much quicker than Marcella’s recipe (which IS fantastic, and the only one I’ve ever used before).

  • Susan
    October 3, 2019 1:57pm

    As I live in SE Mass. where there is a huge Azorean community, it is quite common to add linguica or chourico to red sauce. It adds a wonderful smoky flavor and can be either sliced, chopped or removed from the casing and added as ground meat. And as cool weather creeps back it is a delicious Fall sauce . Thanks David

  • Deborah N Flanagan
    October 4, 2019 1:04am

    Made this tonight and LOVE it. Easy and delicious. Wonderful flavors. Hubby and I had if for dinner over pasta. The rest goes in the freezer and will reappear on top of polenta. Thank you, David, for a new favorite.

  • Mihai
    October 12, 2019 7:16pm

    ” je ne sais quoi” – would be more appropriate, me think…