Rigatoni Bolognese Recipe

Rigatoni bolognese is a simple, yet elegant dish made with homemade bolognese sauce, rigatoni, fresh herbs, and a dollop of ricotta or mascarpone cheese.

Rigatoni Bolognese Recipe

My rigatoni bolognese is a simple, yet elegant dish made with homemade bolognese sauce, rigatoni, fresh basil, and a dollop of ricotta or mascarpone cheese. Don’t skip this part—presentation is everything and the creaminess is incredible as it mixes. Bolognese is very easy to make, it just takes time and patience.

The best bolognese is simmered for 2 hours on the stovetop so the sauce can really thicken. The good news is, you don’t really need to tend to the sauce as it simmers. This bolognese recipe comes together with your basic pantry ingredients and doesn’t involve any complex steps!

Looking for more delicious Italian recipes? Try my simple creamy gnocchi or my baked gnocchi bolognese! You should also check out my very similar no-boil baked ziti recipe.

What is Bolognese?

Bolognese is a fairly simple Italian meat-based sauce made with ground beef/sausage, onions, carrots, celery, fresh herbs, garlic, diced tomatoes, wine, and whole milk. It’s most famous for its thick and meaty texture that is reminiscent of the texture of sloppy joe.

For this recipe, I used rigatoni but you can pair it with your favorite pasta. I personally love gnocchi and pappardelle, too.

Tips & Tricks

  • I typically make bolognese in a large Dutch oven. It’s best for cooking beef and simmering large quantities of sauce.
  • It’s so important to very finely dice the celery, carrots, and onions. It improves the flavor and overall texture. My favorite hack is using shredded carrots and chopping them further. It’s an easy way to quickly finely chop carrots. If you have a food processor, you can quickly dice the veggies.
  • The sauce should simmer for about 2 hours. This tenderizes the meat, thickens the sauce, and allows the flavors to really meld together. Bolognese should not be runny or loose.
  • The meat should be very finely broken down and almost granular. Use the top of a rubber spatula to break up the meat as much as possible. A beef and pork combo is my favorite.
  • If you can’t find ground Italian sausage, use Italian sausage in the casing and squeeze it out.
  • Use spicy Italian sausage for a spicy twist on this recipe. It’s so good!
Rigatoni Bolognese Recipe

Make It Ahead

You can make the sauce 3-4 days in advance. Sometimes I like to make the sauce up in the morning and store it covered in the fridge so it only takes 15 minutes to prepare just before dinner. If you’re having people over, this is the way to go. If you end up doing this, be sure to warm up the sauce on the stove before adding any pasta.

Freezing Bolognese

Store bolognese in a sealed container and freeze for up to 6 months. Let thaw in the fridge and reheat in a saucepan when preparing. Freeze sauce alone and do not freeze the final dish with pasta in it. It won’t be good. Always serve with fresh pasta.

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Rigatoni Bolognese Recipe

  • Author: Shawn Williams
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 120
  • Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: Italian


Rigatoni bolognese is a simple, yet elegant dish made with homemade bolognese sauce, rigatoni, fresh herbs, and a dollop of ricotta or mascarpone cheese.


  • 1 pound rigatoni, pappardelle, or liguini
  • 1/2 pound 85% lean ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 (28-ounce) can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup carrot, diced
  • 1/2 cup white wine (or red if you prefer)
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 810 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 34 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Dash of crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • Mascarpone or ricotta and or parmesan cheese for topping


  1. Bring oil and butter to medium heat in a large pan or dutch oven. Once hot, add minced garlic and chopped onion. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Stir in celery and carrots, simmering for 3-4 minutes until tender. Add ground beef/sausage and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Use the tip of a spatula to break up the beef and pork into the smallest chunks possible. Season all over with salt and pepper liberally.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the wine. Simmer until evaporated, about 7-10 minutes.
  3. Stir in tomato paste until thoroughly mixed and the meat mixture has thickened.
  4. Add crushed tomatoes, milk, chicken broth, crushed red pepper, chopped basil, oregano, and sugar. Mix until incorporated and reduce heat to low.
  5. Let simmer on the lowest heat setting so the sauce is JUST simmering. Simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours, stirring every 20-30 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. You can use a spoon to skim some of the fat off the top if desired. If the sauce gets too thick, add a splash of chicken broth. Consistency should be similar to sloppy joe filling. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the rigatoni and cook al dente. Strain well and add to a large bowl with some bolognese sauce. Toss to mix and plate topped with fresh basil and a dollop of ricotta or mascarpone cheese, and freshly grated parmesan cheese.


Bolognese can be made ahead of time and reheated when ready to serve. You can also store it in the freezer for 4-6 months. Let thaw in the fridge and reheat in a saucepan. You may need to add some reserved pasta water or chicken broth if the reheated sauce feels too thick.

For a twist and added flavor, I use a 50-50 split of ground beef and ground Italian sausage. You can use all ground beef if you prefer.


  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 669
  • Sugar: 14.7g
  • Sodium: 767mg
  • Fat: 25.5g
  • Saturated Fat: 9.4g
  • Carbohydrates: 74.3g
  • Fiber: 8g
  • Protein: 31.4
  • Cholesterol: 74mg

Keywords: rigatoni bolognese, date-night bolognese