The original recipe for authentic bolognese sauce

It's often imitated, but rarely improved. Artisan pasta maker Silvana Lanzetta shares the official recipe for authentic ragù bolognese as registered with Bologna's chamber of commerce.

The original recipe for authentic bolognese sauce
Tagliatelle with ragù bolognese. Photo: Depositphotos

Despite or maybe because of its incredible success, the number of recipes – found on amateurs’ blogs and in celebrity chefs’ books – claiming to be the real bolognese sauce is staggering.

Probably just one or two of them are close enough to the traditional recipe. Close, but still not there! To this day, I have not seen yet any recipe that would be able to sustain a claim to be the authentic or traditional one. 

READ ALSO: Mayor of Bologna rails against spaghetti bolognese: 'It's fake news'

Bolognese sauce, or ragù – from the French word ragoûter, which means “to revive the appetite” – was originally intended as a festive meal served on its own (without pasta) to soldier and sailors.

Today, bolognese sauce is traditionally served with fresh egg tagliatelle, but it is also used to season other pasta, such as lasagne (with the addition of béchamel sauce), and the queen of peasant cuisine, polenta.

In 1982, the Bologna delegation of the Italian Academy of Cuisine, after years of research consulting old recipe books, hundreds of families, cooks, and sfogline (pasta makers who specialize in pulling paper-thin pasta sheets by hand), published and registered with Bologna's chamber of commerce the official recipe for bolognese sauce. This was meant to preserve the cultural heritage and the historical prestige of the dish.

READ ALSO: Silvana's ten golden rules for cooking pasta like the Italians

And this is the one I give you today. The only and the original.

Of course, there are variations. For instance, I don’t use pancetta, I add more tomatoes, and I prefer to add red wine instead. I also let it cook for far longer than two hours: this because I’m from Naples, and I’m used to ragù cooked for ages.

Variations are a natural occurrence, as we all modify a recipe to adapt it to our tastes and the ingredients we have at hand. However, when people publish a recipe and claim that it’s the real deal, they need to be careful. We Italians have gone a long way to protect our culinary traditions: bolognese sauce is not the only recipe that has been registered with the local chamber of commerce!

READ ALSO: Ten 'Italian' dishes that don't actually exist in Italy

Photo: DepositPhotos


300 g minced beef meat (20 percent fat)
150 g unsmoked pancetta
50 g brown or pink onion
50 g celery
50 g carrot
300 g peeled tomatoes OR tomato passata OR 5 tbsps of double tomato concentrate
200 ml white wine
200 ml milk
Up to 200ml of vegetable stock
1 tbsp tomato concentrate
2 tbsp creme fraiche (optional)
50 gr butter OR 3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


Step 1:
To prepare your bolognese sauce, start by finely chopping the pancetta. Put it in a large, thick-bottomed casserole – ideally cast iron, or the traditional earthenware casserole – and render it over slow heat for about ten minutes.

Step 2:
Meanwhile, finely chop the vegetables. Add the oil OR the butter to the casserole, and stir in the chopped vegetables. Cook on a low heat until they become soft and transparent (about ten minutes). Be careful that the onion doesn’t turn brown.

Step 3:
Add the minced meat, raise the heat to medium, and let it brown, stirring often. Pour in the wine, and keep stirring until it has completely evaporated.

Step 4:
Stir in the tomatoes (either pelati – peeled – OR passata. However, the use of pelati is recommended for ragù). Cover the casserole, and cook for about 2 hours. Add a ladleful of vegetable stock when the bolognese sauce starts to dry up.

Step 5:
About 15-20 minutes before taking your Bolognese sauce off the heat, add the milk and season to taste. When the ragù is ready, take it off the heat and stir in the creme fraiche, which is recommended if using the bolognese sauce with dried pasta. If using fresh pasta, the use of cream is facultative.

Silvana Lanzetta. Photo: Private

Silvana Lanzetta was born into a family of pasta makers from Naples and spent 17 years as a part-time apprentice in her grandmother’s pasta factory. She specializes in making pasta entirely by hand and runs regular classes and workshops in London.

Find out more at her website,, including this recipe and others.

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OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

Michelin-starred food has its merits but it doesn't fit with the Italian tradition of cuisine, argues Silvia Marchetti and some frustrated Italian chefs. There's nothing better than a plate of steaming lasagne, she says.

OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

I’ve never been a great fan of sophisticated dishes, twisted recipes and extravagant concoctions that leave you wondering what is it you’re actually eating. T-bone steak with melted dark chocolate as topping, burrata cheese with apples, spaghetti with blueberry sauce aren’t my thing.

Hence, I never eat at Michelin-starred restaurants, and it’s not because of the exorbitant bill – paying €200 for a salad simply because it was grown in the private garden of a chef which he personally sprinkles with mountain water each morning, is a bit over the top.

I just don’t think such fancy food has anything to do with the real Italian tradition.

The ‘nouvelle cuisine’, as the name suggests, was invented in France by chef Paul Bocuse. And it’s ‘nouvelle’ – new – not anchored to past traditions.

The philosophy of serving small morsels of chic food on humongous plates as if they were works of art is the exact opposite of what Italian culinary tradition is all about.

We love to indulge in platefuls of pasta or gnocchi (and often go for a second round), and there are normally three courses (first, second, side dish, dessert and/or coffee), never a 9 or 12-course menu as served at Michelin establishments (unless, perhaps, it’s a wedding).

Too many bites of too many foods messes with flavours and numbs palates, and at the end of a long meal during which you’ve tasted so many creative twists you can hardly remember one, I always leave still feeling hungry and unsatisfied. 

So back home, I often prepare myself a dishful of spaghetti because Michelin pasta servings often consist in just one fork portion artistically curled and laid on the dish. In fact, in my view Michelin starred cuisine feeds more the eye than the stomach.

The way plates are composed, with so much attention to detail, colour, and their visual impact, seems as if they’re made to show-off how great a chef is, than as succulent meals to devour. I used to look at my dish flabbergasted, trying to make out what those de-constructed ingredients were and are now meant to be, and then perplexed,

I look at the chef, and feel as if I’m talking to an eclectic painter who has created a ‘masterpiece’ with my dinner. I’m not saying Michelin starred food is not good, there are some great chefs in Italy who have heightened a revisited Italian cuisine to the Olympus of food, but I just don’t like it nor understand it.

There’s nothing greater than seeing a plate of steaming lasagne being brought to the table and knowing beforehand that my taste buds will also recognise it as such, and enjoy it, rather than finding out it’s actually a sweet pudding instead.

More than once, after a 4-hour Michelin meal with a 20-minute presentation of each dish by the chef, the elaborate food tasted has given me a few digestion problems which lasted all night long.

Michelin-starred food has started to raise eyebrows in Italy among traditional chefs, and is now the focus of a controversy on whether it embodies the authentic Italian culinary experience. 

A Milanese born and bred, Cesare Battisti is the owner of restaurant Ratanà, considered the ‘temple’ of the real risotto alla Milanese.

He has launched a crusade to defend traditional Milanese recipes from what he deems the extravagance and “contamination” of Michelin-starred cuisine. “Michelin-starred experiments are mere culinary pornography. Those chefs see their own ego reflected in their dishes. Their cooking is a narcissistic, snob act meant to confuse, intimidate and disorientate eaters”. 

Arrigo Cipriani, food expert and owner of historical trattoria Harry’s Bar in Venice, says Michelin-starred cuisine is destroying Italy’s real food tradition, the one served inside the many trattorias and historical osterias scattered across the boot where old recipes, and cooking techniques, survive.

“Tasting menus are made so that clients are forced to eat what the chef wants, and reflect the narcissistic nature of such chefs. Italian Michelin-starred cuisine is just a bad copy cat of the French one”, says Cipriani.

I believe we should leave French-style cuisine to the French, who are great at this, and stick to how our grannies cook and have taught us to prepare simple, abundant dishes. At least, you’ll never feel hungry after dinner.