Bolognese (meat) sauce for pasta

The important thing about a pasta sauce is that it be aromatic, the tiny amounts of sauce coating the pasta and wafting up delicious smells. In this sauce the meat combines with the odori (carrot, onion, celery) to give a wonderful aroma. It is very light on tomato – I prefer to just use a small can of tomato paste. In Tuscany they do not combine onion and garlic in any dish that I know, and this one is no exception, so no garlic. I don’t really follow the recipe in the book, but I show it for comparison.

This recipe needs nothing else. The Italian version in the photo calls for more tomato, and bone marrow. We use about a half pound of meat for every pound of pasta that serves about 5 people. I use more of the odori than most people because I love their flavor. The recipe is similar to the one my mother used to make, but that one had canned tomatoes, and garlic, in addition, and was wetter and less oily. We used a lot more of it on those big childhood plates of spaghetti.

We make this maybe once for every 30 times we make Rita’s tomato sauce, and I can’t believe I don’t see a recipe for that. I’ll fix that soon.

Meat sauce for pasta

1/3 cup olive oil

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped onion, yellow or red

1 6 oz. can tomato paste

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1.5 lb. lean, free range hamburger, or a mix of hamburger and buffalo meat

To Cook:

Saute the onions in the olive oil. Add the carrots and celery and cook another 5 or 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste, the salt, the red pepper flakes and the meat, and cook until done, 20 or so minutes. It does not need long cooking.


We call it Bolognese, but this is from a Tuscan cookbook, and so it couldn’t be called that!


This is all about the odori, onion, carrot, celery, in equal proportions. For the small amount of tomato, I use tomato paste.


I made enough for about 4 pounds of pasta.


Dave wasn’t too happy to see whole wheat pasta, but it was delicious!


About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
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