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+ servings
Light grey bowl with rigatoni bolognese and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top.
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5 from 4 votes

Best Italian Rigatoni Bolognese Recipe

The traditional Italian meat sauce made with simple ingredients with a full hearty flavor.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time2 hours
Total Time2 hours 10 minutes
Course: Main Course, Sauces
Cuisine: Italian
Diet: Low Calorie
Servings: 6 portions
Calories: 532kcal
Author: Elle John


  • 3 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Onion Finely Chopped Any Color
  • 1 Medium Carrot Peeled and Chopped
  • 1 Celery Stick Washed and Chopped
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic Peeled and Minced
  • 450-500 g Ground Beef
  • 700 ml Passata Smooth or Chunky
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 450 g Rigatoni


  • Heat up the olive oil in a large saucepan with a heavy bottom [or a large dutch oven] over low to medium heat.
  • Once warm, add the chopped garlic, onion, carrot, and celery and season with a little salt and pepper. Mix well and allow to cook until the vegetables are soft and the onion transparent. This will take about 5 minutes.
  • Next, add the ground beef [or ground meat of choice] and increase the flame to medium high heat. Using a wooden spoon, break down the meat and mix it until all of its sides change color [start to cook] and all the ingredients are well mixed together. This step will take approximately 5 minutes.
  • OPTIONAL: Should you decide to use wine, add it at this stage and allow it to simmer away until it fully evaporates. You won't need much wine, less than a glass will suffice.
  • OPTIONAL: At this stage add your herbs of choice, and mix them well to the meat. Should the tomatoes you choose to use watery, add also a tablespoon of tomato paste at this stage and allow it to fry for a minute.
  • Once ready, add the tomato passata and the same amount of water. Mix well the meat sauce and allow it to come to a light simmer.
  • OPTIONAL: If using broth or stock instead of water, ensure you use less salt while seasoning.
  • Cover the saucepan with a lid and reduce the flame to low. The sauce will need to simmer lightly for a minimum of an hour, however, ideally two and a half hours would be best, as the longer this is cooked for the more the flavor will blend together and the meat pieces break down to create a thick and meaty texture. Bolognese sauce is ready once the fats can be seen gathering at the sides of the pan and you can see little crates form in the centre of the Bolognese. Remember to keep on stirring occasionally.
  • OPTIONAL: If adding milk, 15 minutes before the Bolognese is ready, start adding a little milk at a time, incorporating it well to the sauce before adding more.
  • Once ready, taste for seasoning.
  • Before serving, in a large pan of boiling salted water, cook the rigatoni pasta according to package directions. Before driving the pasta, save a cup of cooking water on the side.
  • Heat up the bolognese sauce in a large skillet and, once warm, add the al dente pasta to the Bolognese and a couple of spoons of the cooking water. Add more pasta cooking water if necessary.
  • Serve the pasta with some grated parmesan cheese and a nice slice of bread [or warm garlic bread for a little extra on the side!]


Optional Ingredients
  • Herbs and Spices: Dry or fresh herbs work well, good options are dry or fresh chopped parsley, fresh basil, or a few sprigs of rosemary. To add heat, opt for a little red pepper flakes or paprika.
  • Broth: Beef, Chicken, or Vegetable Broths or Stock all work well. Make sure to reduce the salt used for seasoning if using this instead of water.
  • Milk: If following this recipe, you can add half a cup of whole milk 15 minutes before the sauce has finished cooking; add it a bit at a time, incorporating it well to the sauce before adding more. 
  • Wine: In my bolognese sauce recipe you can find how and when to add wine to the recipe.
  • Grated Cheese: Grated Parmesan cheese, Pecorino Romano, and Grana Padano are the best for the job!
  • Tomato Sauce: Should the tomatoes you use be too watery, add some tomato paste to the Bolognese to give it that missing richness. Add one tablespoon once the meat has browned [mix it well and fry the paste for a minute before continuing with the next step].
How to store rigatoni bolognese?
  • In the fridge: Bolognese sauce on its own can be stored in the fridge for up to four days. I would not recommend storing ready-cooked pasta, however, leftovers can be stored in the fridge overnight and thoroughly reheated in the microwave or in a saucepan with a little added water, although the consistency of the pasta will not be the same as freshly cooked rigatoni pasta.
  • In the freezer: The homemade bolognese sauce can be frozen for up to three months on its own. If freezing the pasta sauce with the cooked pasta in it, when reheating it is best to turn it into a baked dish by adding some mozzarella cheese on top and baking until thoroughly hot.


Calories: 532kcal | Carbohydrates: 70g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 0.5g | Cholesterol: 49mg | Sodium: 97mg | Potassium: 1014mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 2331IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 57mg | Iron: 5mg