Slow Cooked Pappardelle Bolognese

A bowl of wide flat papardelle noodles covered in bright red Bolognese.

Create the perfect bowl of classic Pappardelle Bolognese with a slowly simmered rich meat sauce featuring beef, pancetta, soffritto, wine, tomato paste, stock, and milk.

Slow food equals delicious. Take the time to fall in love with slow food classics like this Butternut Squash Chicken Tajine or grab a glass (or two) of wine while your oven works its magic on Red Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs.

A bowl of wide flat papardelle noodles covered in bright red Bolognese.

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Pappardelle Bolognese

Sunday Sauce. Meat Sauce. Whatever you want to call it…Pappardelle Bolognese (pap-par-DAY-lay bow-luh-NEIZ) is creamy, rich, delicious, and so very worth the time it takes. Make a double batch so you can enjoy it on fresh pappardelle, then use the leftover sauce in a layered lasagna.

Fresh Pappardelle just calls out for this incredible meaty, beefy, creamy sauce. Add a bit of acid via tomato paste or passata to cut through the rich and bring it all home with a final pour of whole milk.

A pot filled with bright red rich meat sauce.

What is Bolognese Meat Sauce?

In general, Ragù alla Bolognese is an Italian meat sauce containing soffritto, meat (ground beef veal and pork), stock, white wine, and a small amount of tomato paste or (passata). The long cooking time produces a rich, thick meaty sauce.

Soffritto is an aromatic mix of onion, carrots, and celery gently cooked in a generous amount of olive oil. It is the base for most sauces, soups, stews and braises in Italian cuisine.

A bowl of wide flat papardelle noodles covered in bright red Bolognese.

In Italy it traditionally contains dairy, though many North American recipes tend to omit it. American style Bolognese tends to be a thinner, more tomato based meat sauce.

Often the term ‘Ragù‘ describes a thicker sauce that contains larger chunks of meat, not ground beef/veal. However, I have based this recipe on the Classic Ragù Bolognese from bon appetit which uses ground meat.

Let’s take a closer look as to what an ‘authentic’ Ragù alla Bolognese recipe might look like…

A wooden spoon holds bright red rich meat sauce over a pot of sauce.

The Search for Authentic Ragù alla Bolognese

In the interest of full disclosure, there really seems to be no definitive recipe for ragù alla Bolognese. It is a complex meat sauce that contains multiple cooking techniques and is quite open to personal interpretation.

In 1982, the Italian Academy of Cuisine recorded a ‘classic’ version of Bolognese featuring beef, fresh (unsmoked) pancetta, onions, carrots, celery, passata (or tomato paste), stock, white wine, milk, salt and pepper.

While this recorded classic version exists, there are many variations within the ingredients. It seems everyone has their very own traditional recipe when it comes to Bolognese.

A bowl of wide flat papardelle noodles covered in bright red Bolognese.

Variations alla Bolognese

The most typical variation of this classic meat sauce is the Americanized version of Bolognese.

This thinner, tomato based meat sauce contains soffritto, ground meat, and plenty of tomato sauce. It is much closer to a Neapolitan style ragù than sauce style of the Bologna region in Italy.

However, it differs from the Italian sauce as it also contains herbs such as basil and oregano along with vegetables such as mushrooms and peppers.

Other variations arise according to which pasta Bolognese is served with. In America, the dish is affectionately referred to as ‘Spag Bol or Spag Bog’ because it is served with spaghetti.

Italians prefer to eat their Bolognese in pasta dishes with a flat wide pasta such as fresh egg tagliatelle, fettuccine, or pappardelle. The sauce is also great on pastas such as penne and rigatoni. It’s excellent in a layered lasagna or spooned over creamy polenta.

A wooden spoon holds bright red rich meat sauce over a pot of sauce.

Pappardelle Bolognese Ingredients

  • onion
  • carrot
  • celery
  • garlic
  • olive oil
  • ground beef
  • white wine
  • pancetta
  • tomato paste
  • passata
  • beef stock
  • whole milk
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh pappardalle

Finely diced onions, celery, and carrots (soffritto) form the basis for this sauce and many other Italian soups, stews, and braises. The three become aromatic as they slowly cook in a generous amount of olive oil.

Choose a premium cut of medium ground beef such as top sirloin for this dish. If you prefer, use half the amount of ground beef and make the other half ground veal as per the original recipe.

Classic recipes often contain unsmoked pancetta. However, feel free to add the smoked pork product of your choice. Bacon adds a lovely layer of richness and smokiness to this sauce.

A bowl of wide flat papardelle noodles covered in bright red Bolognese.

No one is judging you if use white or red wine. Or no wine at all. However, if you can, add a little vino to the sauce. You won’t be disappointed.

While traditional recipes only include a small amount of tomato paste, this recipe also has some of my homemade passata. I can never resist using it to create amazing tomato dishes.

This post features Pappardelle Bolognese so I highly recommend this large flat noodle. However tagliatelle, fettuccine, penne, or rigatoni also make a fabulous choice of pasta.

How to Make Pappardelle Bolognese

Begin by gently cooking the finely diced soffritto (onion, celery, carrot) with a generous amount of olive oil in a heavy bottomed Dutch oven. Stir intermittently the vegetables do not scorch.

Once the vegetables have become aromatic and softened, add the garlic and cook a few more minutes. Add the pancetta (or bacon) and allow the pork fat to gently render out into the vegetables before adding the ground beef.

Break up the ground beef as it cooks. Once it has browned, deglaze with the white wine and allow it to cook for another two minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste and passata (if using) then pour in the beef stock. Simmer uncovered over low heat for 2-3 hours stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon until the sauce is rich and luxurious.

Before adding the milk, it needs to be heated up. Otherwise you run the risk of it curdling as it hits the acidic sauce. Heat the milk up in a microwave or in a pot on the stove until it reaches a slight simmer. Gradually add milk into the sauce, stir and simmer uncovered for another hour.

A fork standing in a bowl of wide flat papardelle noodles covered in bright red Bolognese.

Boil up the pappardelle over medium high heat in a pot of salted water as per package instructions and drain, saving some of the pasta water. Stir some of the sauce into the drained pasta, adding the hot starchy water to thin as needed.

Serve the Pappardelle Bolognese with chopped Italian flat leaf parsley and finely grated Parmesan Reggiano. Finish off this classic Italian dinner with Authentic Tiramisu for dessert!

Pappardelle Bolognese as Leftovers

You have leftover Bolognese in your fridge…lucky you! This classic sauce tends to get better as it sits in the fridge so I really hope you made a double batch.

If you’ve already mixed it with pappardelle or another pasta, no problem! Just reheat it gently in a saute pan or in the microwave under a cover.

This meaty sauce is so easy to freeze and reheat via your stove top. Or, bake up a brand new dish by layering it with lasagna noodles and cheese.

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Pinterest image featuring a bowl of bright red papardelle Bolognese and a Dutch oven filled with the same sauce.
Yield: 6 servings

Slow Cooked Pappardelle Bolognese

A wooden spoon holds bright red rich meat sauce over a pot of sauce.

Create the perfect bowl of classic Pappardelle Bolognese with a slowly simmered rich meat sauce featuring beef, pancetta, soffritto, tomato paste, stock, and milk.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 15 minutes


  • 1 medium onion; fine diced
  • 2 carrots; peeled and fine diced
  • 2 stalks celery; finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic; minced
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2/3 cup pancetta or bacon; finely diced 
  • 1 lb ground top sirloin beef
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 250 ml passata (optional)
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lb fresh pasta
  • Italian Parsley for garnish
  • finely grated Parmesan Reggiano to serve


  1. Place fine diced onion, carrot, and celery in a large Dutch oven. Drizzle with olive oil and cook on medium low heat until softened. About 8 minutes.
  2. Add garlic (if using) and cook for a few more minutes. Season with salt.
  3. Add pancetta (or bacon) and ground beef to the pan. Use a wooden spoon to break up the beef into very small pieces as it cooks.
  4. Once the beef has browned, deglaze the pan with the wine and let it simmer for a minute.
  5. Add the tomato paste and passata (if using) then the stock. Stir to combine.
  6. Simmer uncovered on low heat for 2-3 hours stirring occasionally until the sauce is rich and luxurious.
  7. Heat the milk for 2 minutes in the microwave (or simmer it on the stove) then stir it in to the simmering sauce in small amounts.
  8. Cover slightly, and continue simmering for another hour, stirring occasionally.
  9. Boil pasta in salted water according to package directions. If the Bolognese becomes too dry, add some of the pasta water later.
  10. Drain, then add sauce to the hot pasta and toss to coat.
  11. Serve with finely chopped Italian parsley and grated Parmesan.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 487Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 116mgSodium: 398mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 1gSugar: 5gProtein: 31g

Nutritional calculation was provided by Nutritionix and is an estimation only. For special diets or medical issues please use your preferred calculator.

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  1. Lisa

    Perfect meal for a cold winter night!


    1. Bernice Hill

      oh yes. so comforting!

  2. Jamie

    Such a rich, and hearty bolognese that’s sure to make any home smell wonderful! I love making sauces in my slow cooker and this will be a favorite I’m sure!


  3. Naiby

    I find pappardelle is such a pretty noodle. And it’s perfect to be coated with a thick sauce like that.


    1. Bernice Hill

      It really is! The thick noodles really seem to go with this sauce.

  4. Veronika Sykorova

    I love pappardelle! This bolognese was so good, great recipe!


    1. Bernice Hill

      Thank you Veronika…enjoy!!

  5. Kristen

    Hmmm one of my favorites. We always make a huge batch and freeze it. Now I’m going to ahve to amke it again, because this post has me craving it big time.


    1. Bernice Hill

      Great idea…it freezes so well!

  6. Elaine

    I am so glad that I’ve stumbled upon your pappardelle bolognese hungry… that makes me even more exciting! 🙂 I can’t wait to make it!


    1. Bernice Hill

      I’m so glad you stumble upon it too Elaine…enjoy!

  7. Moop Brown

    This pasta recipes looks so filling and I love how it can be made so easily with the slow cooker. Thanks!


    1. Bernice Hill

      Hmmm. I actually wouldn’t cook it that way because it needs to reduce to become a rich thick sauce.

  8. Sabrina

    Rich and delicious, I love the milk in there, not many recipes include that.


    1. Bernice Hill

      Yes, the more ‘American’ style Bolognese usually does not include milk.

  9. NANCY

    always love a easy pasta sauce recipe that i can throw in the slow cooker and forget about it!


    1. Bernice Hill

      I would not use a slow cooker for this recipe…it needs to reduce in a vessel with no lid.

  10. Colleen

    Your sauce looks amazing, Bernice! You can never go wrong with a classic bolognese, and pappardelle is my favourite pasta shape. Pinned for later.


    1. Bernice Hill

      Such a cozy classic dish!

  11. Shelley

    I absolutely adore pappardelle – somehow it’s just such a perfect pasta texture. This flavor-packed bolognese is such a wonderful topper for it. Beefy, savory, creamy … all the things you’d want in a glorious bowl of pasta!


    1. Bernice Hill

      It is indeed, glorious. Thank you Shelley.

  12. Chef Dennis

    Oh boy this is making me super hungry! Your Slow Cooked Pappardelle Bolognese recipe looks sooo delicious. This will be a hit on our table.


  13. Gloria

    I am a pasta lover. This would be perfect for any night of the week. Paired with a nice glass of red wine, dinner is served.


    1. Bernice Hill

      It’s true…always a good idea to make a big batch and have some handy in the fridge.

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