Beef/ Dressings and Sauces/ Main Dishes

Weeknight Spaghetti Bolognese

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Weeknight spaghetti bolognese is the ultimate in quick, simple comfort food that sacrifices nothing in terms of flavor! A bit of Ina and Marcella, together in one.

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A pan full of a simple weeknight bolognese sauce.

There are a handful of semi-unfortunate side effects of being a food blogger and obsessed with recipes in general. One of these is the tendency to so frequently seek out new recipes that tried and true favorites completely disappear from your mind. Sometimes this happens for a short while, other times for months or years on end. I regret deeply that this has been the case with this weeknight bolognese sauce.

I love it. My husband really loves it. I love making it. It’s simple and fast to prepare, yet still has a complex, hearty taste, as if it’s been simmering on your Italian nonna’s stove for hours on end.

Just look at that spoon. With a sauce like that, you could be forgiven if you start drooling even before you add the pasta!

A close-up of a simple weeknight bolognese sauce.

{On a photography side note: I am thinking about biting the bullet and investing in a macro lens, in hopes that it will help me make pictures like this sharper and more shamelessly drool-inducing. Welcome any tips or suggestions!}

I started making bolognese sauce about three years ago, thanks to Ina Garten. As a friend said once, I trust Ina; she looks like she actually eats.

Many bolognese sauces take all day to prepare, and granted those might be more authentic. Ina’s gift, however, is to make a delicious bolognese accessible to mere mortals and home cooks. You can have this on the table in 40 minutes. What’s more, a lot of that time is blissfully inactive, leaving you a realistic amount of time for the million other chores that seem to pop up immediately before dinner.

And yet, with all this recipe has going for it, I somehow, just … forgot about it.

And then, somewhere along the way, I stumbled across the collected works of Marcella Hazan, and specifically this New York Times feature on her most beloved recipe: a classic bolognese sauce. I was smitten. I mean, it has a 5-star rating over 2,079+ reviews. It can only be a thing of a beauty. But, it takes at least 4 hours to prepare. I love Marcella Hazan. I kind of want to be her if I ever grow up. But, sadly, I just don’t have that kind of time. So back to Ina I go. But not without a few additions.

Hazan is known for introducing English-speaking cooks to authentic Italian cuisine. So if she includes veggies in her bolognese sauce, you better believe I’m going to do the same and feel doubly good about it – more authentic! More vegetables!

I’m sticking with the red wine in Ina’s recipe, though. For some reason, adding white to a sauce with ground beef just doesn’t do it for me. I really recommend using a robust red here, and something you’re happy to drink, as well, because you’re definitely going to taste its flavor in the finished sauce. 🙂

A pan full of simple weeknight spaghetti bolognese.

So even though I’m sticking with Ina’s basic method, in order to keep this a weeknight-friendly meal, I’m thrilled that I stumbled across Marcella’s version, both for the tweaks it inspired and because it reminded me that we all need bolognese sauce in our lives.

To go without this meal for months at a time is a damn shame, I’m telling you right now. And it’s my most sincere hope that by finally, you know, writing down and sharing the recipe here, I’ll remember it more often when running short of meal planning inspiration, and wipe the scourge of insufficiently frequent spaghetti bolognese from our lives once and for all.

A serving fork twirled around a large helping of simple weeknight spaghetti bolognese.

Or something like that. Try it, enjoy it, and let me know how it goes!

A pan full of a simple weeknight bolognese sauce.

9 votes


Weeknight Spaghetti Bolognese




Yield 6-8 servings

Weeknight spaghetti bolognese is the ultimate in fast, easy comfort food that sacrifices nothing in terms of flavor!


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and finely chopped or julienned
  • 1 pound (500 grams) lean ground sirloin or beef
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/4 cups dry red wine, divided
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes, ideally San Marzano or another brand of Italian plum tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound (500 grams) dried pasta
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, or fresh grated if you have it
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, leaves packed and lightly chopped
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • freshly grated Parmesan, to serve


  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the celery and carrots, stir, and cook for 3-4 minutes, until they just begin to soften.
  2. Add the ground beef and cook, crumbling the meat, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat begins to brown. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. Add 1 cup wine and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, and pepper, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt, and cook the pasta according to the box directions.
  4. To finish the sauce, add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and remaining 1/4 cup wine and simmer for about 10 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until thickened. When the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the sauce. Serve immediately with Parmesan, as desired.


Adapted from Ina Garten with a few additions inspired by Marcella Hazan via the New York Times.

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Weeknight spaghetti bolognese | A fast, simple recipe for the classic bolognese meat sauce. Perfect for comfort food on busy days! #bolognese #weeknightrecipes

And follow me on Pinterest for more ideas and easy recipe inspiration! I’m always sharing new ideas!

More weeknight dinner ideas:

Simple Weeknight Marinara SauceSimple weeknight marinara sauce is a quick dinner hero. Perfect for pizza, pasta, and more!

Frittata with Spinach, Gouda, and Parmesan

Easy Spiced Cashew Chicken and Rice
Easy spiced cashew chicken and rice - a quick, delicious one-pot weeknight dinner with curry, cilantro, and fresh ginger.

Quick Lemon Thyme Chicken

Spaghetti with Roasted Garlic and Tomatoes
This lightning fast weeknight meal relies on an emulsified sauce to deliver luscious flavor with simple, fresh ingredients - spaghetti, cherry tomatoes, and garlic.


  • Reply
    October 23, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    I’ve never made spaghetti bolognese. You have me inspired!

    • Reply
      October 23, 2017 at 8:53 pm

      Terrific – I hope you love it as much as we do!

  • Reply
    Shadi Hasanzadenemati
    October 23, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    Nothing beats a good and delicious easy weeknight dinner. This spaghetti bolognese will be every family’s favorite!

    • Reply
      October 23, 2017 at 8:54 pm

      That is for sure! Thanks so much, Shadi!

  • Reply
    Karyl | Karyl's Kulinary Krusade
    October 22, 2017 at 8:41 pm

    Oh my, this look fabulous! I’ve never tried to make my own bolognese sauce before. This one looks really easy. I’m pinning this to make very soon

  • Reply
    Prasanna Hede
    October 22, 2017 at 9:26 am

    What a wonderful weeknight option and lovely sauce! I wish I could have this right now.

  • Reply
    October 22, 2017 at 4:04 am

    Such a delicious recipe and so perfect for those weeknight dinners when you need something that doesn’t take forever to cook but is still loaded with flavor and comfort.

  • Reply
    Marisa Franca @ All Our Way
    October 21, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    We love our Bolognese sauce!! It tastes so rich and good. We do the long slow cooking. I guess we like it because the aroma permeates the entire house. Talk about hungry once it is done. Your sauce looks very rich – which makes it extra thick in coating the pasta — YUM!!

  • Reply
    Lois. O
    October 20, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    For your photography note, I would recommend a macro lens 100%. If you have a small shooting area, a 50mm or higher will be perfect. I don’t see much difference between the f1.4 and f1.8 in the 50mm lens especially when you have good lighting.
    Your recipe for bolognese takes me back to when I visited one of my aunts in England as a kid. She had the most delicious spag-bol as we called it, and it was always ready in an hour. I will definitely try this our one of these days.

    • Reply
      October 20, 2017 at 8:35 pm

      Thanks so much, Lois, that is really helpful! I do have a small shooting area, thanks mostly to backdrop limitations. I might do a little price comparison this weekend on the 1.4 vs. 1.8! Also, I’m glad the recipe takes you back to a happy memory-here’s hoping the recipe is as tasty as your aunt’s! 🙂

  • Reply
    Ashley @ Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen
    October 20, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    This looks like TOTAL comfort food! And YES – we *do* all need a good bolognese sauce in our lives. Pass me a fork!

  • Reply
    Denise Wright
    October 20, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    You are making me so hungry right now. I love that all that flavor is on the table in 40 minutes. That’s my kind of meal!

    • Reply
      October 20, 2017 at 2:31 pm

      I couldn’t agree more; thanks so much, Denise!

  • Reply
    Dominique | Perchance to Cook
    October 20, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    This looks fantastic! I don’t think there is a better meal than spaghetti bolognese. I think I could eat it once a week for the rest of my life. Your photos are making me want to eat some for breakfast! 🙂

    • Reply
      October 20, 2017 at 1:25 pm

      Haha, and why not!? Start the day off right! Thanks so much, Dominique, for stopping by. 🙂

  • Reply
    Claire P
    October 20, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    Wow! Monica What a great weekend options on the lists I will definitely try these out it just looks so delicious and wonderful 🙂 thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Reply
    October 19, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    This looks so delicious and I love that you can make this in only 45 minutes! Love the use of a red wine in the bolognese; it just gives the sauce that extra flavour and richness.

    • Reply
      October 19, 2017 at 5:36 pm

      Thanks, Marie! Totally agree – the red wine sort of makes it!

  • Reply
    October 19, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    What a great weeknight option! I need more easy recipes like this!

    • Reply
      October 19, 2017 at 5:36 pm

      Agreed! Don’t we all! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  • Reply
    October 19, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    🙂 Made spaghetti Bolognese sauce yesterday. Love this sauce and love your version. Would have never thought myself of adding cream in it as well.

    • Reply
      October 19, 2017 at 5:38 pm

      Hi Julia – great minds! I think the cream helps thicken it a little bit, which is obviously not exactly the same as letting it simmer for hours like in Marcella Hazan’s original version, but helps get you pretty darn close in a fraction of the time. 🙂

  • Reply
    Edyta at Innocent Delight
    October 19, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    This looks fantastic! I always add red wine to mine too :). I have not made bolognese in a while. Time to have it for dinner 🙂 And I do trust Ina too!

    • Reply
      October 19, 2017 at 5:38 pm

      Thanks so much, Edyta!

  • Reply
    Lisa|Garlic & Zest
    October 19, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    I’ll pick up the wine and be right over! This sauce looks wonderful — homey and delicious! My husband wishes I made him dinners like this — all he gets is kale!

    • Reply
      October 19, 2017 at 5:39 pm

      Hahaha.. fantastic! I’ll set a place for both of you, then! 😉

  • Reply
    Ben Myhre
    October 19, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    I’m glad you didn’t leave the wine out. IMO, it is a must-have for any bolognese sauce.

    • Reply
      October 19, 2017 at 1:08 pm

      Couldn’t agree more! 🙂 Plus, if you left out the wine, it would be an extra step to open a bottle to sip on while you cook, so…

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