Ancient Bolognese Sauce

ANCIENT BOLOGNESE SAUCE

Bolognese sauce is arguably the most popular pasta condiment globally. The original recipe comes straight from Bologna, located in the heart of Italy and I recently visited, in search of the best one I could find. I was incredibly surprised to come across an antique recipe that absolutely blew my mind.

A secret to making traditional bolognese sauce is to actually use cheaper cuts of meat. In ancient Italian times, they only had access to low-end cuts of meat, so that’s why this recipe calls for chicken liver (the only time a real Italian recipe calls for chicken), guanciale, pork blade roast, and beef blade roast. While the original recipe also contains heart, liver, and other internals of the cow, I switched it so we use more common cuts of meat that are easy to find in a local store near you.

Now, are you ready for the best bolognese of your life?

Watch the Ancient Bolognese Sauce video recipe:

 

How to Make ANCIENT BOLOGNESE SAUCE Recipe like a Great Grandmother from Bologna

how to make ancient bolognese sauce

Vincenzo’s Plate Tips

Choose Cheap Cuts of Meat

This recipe is ancient and authentic, using only the cheapest cuts of meat from beef, pork, and even chicken. You can easily switch certain meats around — pancetta instead of guanciale, beef hearts and beef liver instead of blade roast — and still have a traditional Italian sauce.

Remove the “Nerves”

When cutting the various types of meat, make sure to remove the flabby white sinew on the edges of your meat cuts. I call them the “nerves.” They are tough to cook, and nobody wants to eat them in a sauce. Start by slicing the beef, pork, and chicken, removing all of the “nerves” in the process. Then, dice the slices of meat into small chunks so they cook down well. In this way they are easy to separate once they’re incorporated into the sauce. As for the guanciale, remove the skin and excess spices on the edges of the cut, then slice them into strips and dice.

Select a Deep Casserole Pot for Stewing

You will have to cook this sauce for four to five hours, so getting a large cast iron casserole dish is ideal for the lengthy cooking time. This will help seal in all the flavors while withstanding heat for that long. Whether it’s cast iron or not, the pot must be big and must be deep to make sure every ingredient gets a good share of heat.

Cook the Guanciale First

This does two things. One, it allows the guanciale to become crispy first before it simmers for a few hours. By the end of the cooking, it will no longer be crispy, but it will have maintained its firmness, which adds to the texture of the sauce. Secondly, it releases the oils adding to the rich mixture of flavors in the bolognese sauce.

Use Boiling Water to Avoid Reduction

Throughout the simmering process, add boiling water every 45 minutes or whenever you notice the sauce starts to reduce. You can see the sauce reducing on the sides of the pot as there will be a ring around it from where the sauce used to be. Rehydrate it with half a cup of boiling water. Continue to do this until the five hours of slow-cooking are up.

ancient bolognese sauce

How to Serve Ancient Bolognese Sauce

To serve this classic, out-of-this-world bolognese sauce, simply cook the pasta of your choosing. (Ideally, fettuccine or tagliatelle). Then transfer a portion of pasta to a bowl, and use a ladle to pour a generous serve of bolognese sauce on top. Add a sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano (or pecorino!) at the end and enjoy

ancient bolognese sauce recipe

how to make ancient bolognese sauce

Ancient Bolognese Sauce Recipe

This authentic bolognese sauce from Bologna, Italy gives you all of the meaty, saucy flavors you’re looking for in a pasta bolognese, and it doesn’t cost you much to make. The chicken livers and guanciale really pop as the stars of the sauce, giving your taste buds everything they could ever ask for. Try this version and you won’t look back.
5 from 9 votes

Equipment

  • knife
  • Chopping-board
  • Masher or fork
  • bowl
  • Casserole pot cast iron preferably
  • Ladle

Ingredients
  

  • 4-5 tbsp Extra-virgin olive oil EVOO
  • 200 grams Chicken liver 7 oz
  • 150 grams Guanciale or pancetta. 5 oz
  • 500 grams Pork blade roast 18 oz
  • 400 grams Beef blade roast 14 oz
  • 800 g Peeled tomatoes
  • 800 grams Tomato passata 28 oz
  • 3 tbsp Tomato paste
  • ½ White onion chopped
  • Celery stick chopped
  • Carrot chopped
  • 2 glasses Red wine
  • ½ cup Milk
  • Salt as much as required
  • Pepper as much as required
  • Boiled water as much as required

Instructions
 

To make the bolognese sauce:

  • Cut the chicken livers, pork blade roast, beef blade roast, and guanciale into small pieces. Set aside.
  • Pour the peeled tomatoes into a bowl and mash them down.
  • Next, add EVOO into the large pot and heat on a grill or stovetop on medium heat before adding the onions, celery, and carrot, and cook for 15 minutes or until soft.
  • Five minutes into cooking, add half a cup of red wine.
  • Now add the chopped guanciale along with more red wine when the mixture starts to dry out.
  • Add chopped chicken liver, beef blade roast, and pork blade roast then sprinkle a small pinch of salt into the pot. Use a wooden spoon to combine.
  • Add a full glass of red wine and simmer on low for 5-10 minutes or until the wine evaporates.
  • Then combine the tomato paste, peeled tomatoes, and tomato passata before stirring well.
  • Keep the temperature on low and stir every 20 minutes for 4-5 hours.
  • Add ½ cup of boiling water to the sauce whenever it appears to be drying up or simply each time you check it. This will help the sauce remain liquid.
  • Once the sauce is ready - 5 hours of simmering time - add plenty of salt and pepper and transfer a generous helping to a frying pan on low heat.
  • At this point add cooked pasta in, stir to incorporate the sauce into the pasta, and add a little more bolognese on top. Toss for a full mix of pasta and sauce!
  • Serve on a plate with a twist of the pasta to keep everything together. Add even more sauce on top, and a sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano. Get ready for an explosion of flavor!

Video

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

E ora si mangia, Vincenzo’s Plate…Enjoy!

ancient bolognese sauce Vincenzo's Plate

Want to know where to find the best food in Bologna?

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31 Responses to Ancient Bolognese Sauce

  1. Katharine August 20, 2023 at 7:29 PM #

    Okay, so this looks bomb, and much more authentic. But for the first time in my life I am going to be that person…I think the word “ancient” could use a refresh. Ancient times are before 500 AD.
    And tomatoes only came to Italy when Spain brought them back to Europe from South America in the 1500s. So truly authentic “ancient” Italian recipes don’t include tomatoes at all.

    Regardless, love the authenticity and I’m going to try this one out, because bolognese is bomb and I’m always looking for that one special recipe!

    • Vincenzo's Plate August 23, 2023 at 2:49 AM #

      I agree with you that the word “ancient” is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to this recipe. Tomatoes were not introduced to Italy until the 1500s, so a truly ancient Bolognese sauce would not include them.

      However, I think the term “ancient” can still be used to describe this recipe in a relative sense. It is a traditional Bolognese sauce that has been passed down for generations, and it is much closer to the original recipe than the modern versions that often include tomatoes.

    • Vasilis KazakoVadsvVa May 27, 2024 at 9:14 PM #

      Very good comment , observative and informative

  2. Tom August 21, 2023 at 1:03 PM #

    5 stars
    I grew up in rural Iowa here in the US. Yes, many folks ate all of those chicken, beef, and pork inner parts and they could be DELICIOUS! Depending on the cook, they could also be horrid 🤢. Every possible part of the animal was used. There were definitely parts I have never tried but my grandparents definitely ate them.

    I have heard chefs say that “Americans throw out the best parts of the animal.”

    • Vincenzo's Plate August 23, 2023 at 2:56 AM #

      I agree with you that many Americans throw out the best parts of the animal. Organ meats, such as liver, heart, and kidneys, are often considered to be offal and are not eaten by many people. However, these organs are actually very nutritious and can be delicious if cooked properly.

      • Michael Morella September 1, 2023 at 6:09 PM #

        5 stars
        First off, I made a double portion of this recipe yesterday and it was going for about 11 hours and the flavors are fantastic. I’m a tremendous fan of your food and how passionate you are about the traditional recipes of Italian culture. I’m half Italian and can tell you that just watching your program has really opened my eyes to how bastardized these recipes have become by restaurant chains and popular chefs.

        Secondly, this throwing away of the organ meats is a much bigger thing that just America. I live in Germany (moved from the USA) and unless you go to a Russian or Turkish market, you’ll likely not find much in the way of organs here outside of chicken/beef liver and chicken heart.

        It would really be amazing to see you cook more recipes using these off-cuts, Vicenzo. It’ll be a hard sell, but I’m going all in if you show us how!

        • Vincenzo's Plate October 6, 2023 at 6:22 PM #

          You’re right, organ meats are often underappreciated and discarded. This is a shame, because they are incredibly nutritious and delicious. I’m glad that you’re interested in learning more about how to cook with organ meats.

  3. Joseph August 21, 2023 at 5:17 PM #

    5 stars
    I love the recipe

    I assumed to add the milk after all the meat is simmering? I didn’t see in the instructions when to add the milk. Unless I mis read ..

    But very yummy and will most definitely make again

    • Vincenzo's Plate October 6, 2023 at 6:18 PM #

      I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe. You’re correct, you should add the milk after all the meat is simmering. I’ll make sure to update the instructions to reflect this.

  4. Marco August 26, 2023 at 2:14 AM #

    5 stars
    Nonna grew up near Bologna. Her recipe is very similar to yours. She did not use liver. Everything else is spot on. I think that combo of onion, celery, and carrots, along with good butter and oil, over a simmering heat, create a special base for the tomatoes and the meats. The brazing of the guanciale or bacon, makes it extra special. She also used a cube of the beef Knorr bullion. The pasta should be home made, fresh tagliatelle, like in the pics. Thanks.

    • Vincenzo's Plate September 1, 2023 at 8:53 PM #

      I agree that the combination of onion, celery, and carrots, along with good butter and oil, over a simmering heat, creates a special base for the tomatoes and the meats. The brazing of the guanciale or bacon also makes it extra special. I’ve never tried using a beef Knorr bullion cube, but I’ll have to give it a try. And of course, homemade fresh tagliatelle is the best!

  5. Otso August 27, 2023 at 1:39 AM #

    The sauce is cooking at the moment on the stove. Took the liberty of adding some Finnish forest mushrooms to the mix. Hope that the Food father will approve 😀 Thanks for the recipe and thanks for teaching the traditional ways of cooking Italian food. It is much appreciated!

    • Vincenzo's Plate October 6, 2023 at 6:22 PM #

      Adding Finnish forest mushrooms is a great idea! They will add a unique and delicious flavor to the sauce.

  6. Ron G. September 10, 2023 at 2:19 AM #

    I made this for some close friends the day before I was serving it. All that I have to say is WOW! It was definitely better the second day and in fact I had some 2 days later and it was even better. I think this is because the ingredients had more time to “make love”! I did have to stray from the recipe because during the first 2 hours the sauce was not reducing at all with the lid on. I have a very tight sealing dutch oven so I then removed the lid for the last 3 hours and added boiling water as needed. Outstanding flavor and definitely worth the time and effort, thank you so much for the amazing recipe!

    • Vincenzo's Plate September 15, 2023 at 8:59 PM #

      I’m not surprised that the sauce was better the second day. Bolognese sauce is one of those dishes that benefits from time. The flavors have more time to meld and develop, and the sauce becomes even richer and more complex. I’m really impressed that you were able to make such a delicious bolognese sauce, even though you had to make some adjustments to the recipe. I’m glad that you enjoyed it, and I’m sure your friends did too!

  7. Annette September 27, 2023 at 7:15 AM #

    Omg, i made this amazing ancient bolognese sauce on Sunday and served it to my adult children on Monday night. I have tried many versions of making a great bolognese sauce but this recipe is by far the greatest. It was out of this world. I added cream on the day that I served it and all I can say is WOW, WOW, WOW. My family that always rate my cooking as I value their opinions, rated it a 20 out of 10. Exceptional!!!! Worth every minute spent cooking this wonder. Thank you for helping me create magic 🙏

    • Vincenzo's Plate October 6, 2023 at 6:25 PM #

      I’m so glad that I was able to help you create magic in your kitchen. Thank you for sharing your experience with me. It means the world to me.

  8. Barbara October 8, 2023 at 3:54 AM #

    Can I use minced meat (pork and beef) versus chunks??

    • Vincenzo's Plate October 9, 2023 at 8:16 PM #

      Yes, you can use minced meat (pork and beef) instead of chunks in your authentic bolognese sauce recipe. In fact, many people prefer to use minced meat because it is easier to cook and creates a smoother sauce.

  9. David David October 22, 2023 at 1:07 PM #

    5 stars
    Superb! The depth of flavour is impeccable. I’ve made a few batches and frozen them they’re that good! Thanks Vincenzo!

    • Vincenzo's Plate November 8, 2023 at 7:14 PM #

      I’m delighted to hear that you found the Bolognese sauce superb and enjoyed its deep flavors! Freezing batches is a great idea for quick and convenient meals in the future. Thank you for trying out the recipe, and you’re very welcome. Happy cooking and enjoy those delicious meals from the freezer! 🍝❄️😊

  10. Esteban esesteban November 16, 2023 at 9:07 AM #

    5 stars
    I had to make some adjustments since our apartment has a glass cook top stove and not a gas burner like I’m used to and things tend to burn when left even on low setting, so I ended up following the recipe until step 8, and then transferring everything over to a “crock pot” slow cooker, and setting it on high for about 5 hours to get the temperature back up to a simmer as quickly as possible, and also get a little bit of reduction going, but if I do it again I’ll I probably just keep it on low and extend the cooking time if possible. Still, a very delicious and hearty recipe.

    • Vincenzo's Plate November 17, 2023 at 7:49 PM #

      I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the bolognese, and I appreciate your creative adaptation for the glass cooktop! Using a slow cooker is a smart workaround, especially to control the temperature. Adjusting and making it work in your kitchen is part of the fun. Thanks for sharing your experience, and I hope your next batch turns out just as delicious!

  11. Dmytro January 14, 2024 at 12:51 AM #

    This is the second “authentic” recipe for Bolognese from you. The first one has different proportions and no chicken liver.

    • Vincenzo's Plate January 23, 2024 at 12:49 PM #

      Both recipes are authentic, just came from different regions in Italy. If you prefer the first recipe or the other way around, go for it! Feel free to stick with what you love.

  12. Charles Tarantini February 11, 2024 at 4:31 AM #

    5 stars
    Vincenzo why no garlic? Love your show!!

    • Vincenzo's Plate February 14, 2024 at 2:01 PM #

      I skipped the garlic in the Bolognese sauce to let its flavors shine without being overpowered.

      • Charles Tarantini February 18, 2024 at 3:11 AM #

        5 stars
        Thanks Vincenzo. My father is from Lettopalenoa and we have many relatives in Australia.
        Thanks again, Vincenzo

        • Vincenzo's Plate February 21, 2024 at 4:07 PM #

          It’s great to hear about your family ties to Lettopaleno. If you haven’t tried out this recipe yet, I suggest you do and share it with family and friends.

  13. Erwin June 10, 2024 at 8:27 AM #

    5 stars
    I’ve made this 2 times now and all I can say is wow wow wow 😍😍
    The chicken liver gives this such a savoury kick, it’s almost unbelievable. Fan-tas-tic recipe.

    I can imagine the first time you tasted this in Bologna your mind was absolutely blown. Mine was, when I made it like you said!

    The 2nd time I added leek and capsicum, because I like it with a bit more vegetables, and especially the leek carries the flavours very well and adds a bit of creaminess to the sauce.

    So glad you found this and shared it. My family considers it one of the best pasta recipes of all time. Those chicken livers are a keeper ♥️

    • Vincenzo's Plate June 10, 2024 at 9:40 AM #

      Ciao Erwin! I’m thrilled to hear how much you and your family enjoyed the recipe, especially with your tasty twist of adding leek and capsicum! It really sounds like you’ve taken it to the next level. Chicken livers are indeed rich and flavorsome, aren’t they? They add such a depth of flavor that’s hard to match. I’m glad you loved the recipe. What dish are you planning to cook next?

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