This easy Rigatoni Bolognese is a flavorful one-pot dinner recipe. This Italian meat sauce is a classic meal that’s perfect for both weeknight dinners and special occasion, and extra delicious served over rigatoni pasta.
I’m always up for crusted salmon or ramen when I need a quick dinner, but when the flavor gods are calling to me, I turn to Rigatoni Bolognese recipe. Not only is it a hearty and comforting meal, but it’s incredibly easy and made in one pot. It also just happens to be perfect for chilly nights!
Just like ragu, bolognese is an Italian meat sauce made with ground pork and beef, tomatoes, herbs, and soffrito (onion, carrots, and celery). The major difference is that this sauce features more meat than tomatoes. This way, you can enjoy all of its meaty glory over a big bowl of rigatoni pasta (don’t forget the parmesan!).
With each scoop of rigatoni alla bolognese, the wide tubular pasta stores extra sauce inside and gives you bursts of meatiness and flavor. It’s a heavenly meal you have to make for Sunday dinners, special occasions, or whenever you’re craving comfort food!
- The ingredients are surprisingly simple while the flavors are complex.
- It’s an easy one-pot recipe you can make for any occasion.
- Make the sauce and freeze it for later! You never know when a meat sauce emergency might come up.
- Ground beef and pork - A great bolognese sauce is meaty and rich. Using both ground beef and pork gets this done! When you’re feeling adventurous, go ahead and use just one kind of ground meat, lighten it up by swapping the beef or pork for ground chicken or ground turkey, or add in meatballs, Italian sausage, or bacon.
- Diced tomatoes - I used fire roasted tomatoes for an extra bite but you can use regular diced tomatoes if you prefer.
- Vegetables - Onion, carrots, celery, and garlic give the bolognese a great baseline of flavor.
- Beef broth - This will give you the best flavor but bone broth or chicken broth work well too.
- Herbs and seasonings - Basil and oregano (dried or fresh) are a must in this Italian recipe. To take it up a notch, add a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, fresh basil or parsley.
- Heavy cream - Or sub half and half; I originally made this recipe without cream and let me tell you, it's way better with cream (as most things are). A little bit goes a long way!
- Pasta - Tubular rigatoni pasta is the best at scooping up the extra sauce (it’s perfect in this vodka rigatoni recipe as well) but you can swap it for your favorite pasta instead.
Step 1: Sauté the vegetables. Sauté the onion, carrots, and celery in olive oil in a large skillet. Once they’re soft, add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
Step 2: Brown the beef and pork. Push the vegetables to the side of the skillet and add the beef and pork. Use a wooden spoon to break down the meat and cook it fully.
Step 3: Add the flavor. Once the meat is brown, add in the basil, oregano, salt, and red pepper flakes and stir for one minute, then add in the tomato paste and sauté for two minutes so the flavors mend together.
Step 4: Let it simmer. Next, add the diced tomatoes and broth. Bring the mixture to a simmer over low heat. Cook the rigatoni pasta while you wait. Once the sauce is done, pour in the heavy cream, then taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings/cream as desired.
Step 5: Serve. Scoop some bolognese over the cooked rigatoni in a bowl, add plenty of parmesan cheese on top, garnish with fresh parsley or basil and enjoy!
Tips and FAQs
- Looking for vegetarian rigatoni bolognese? Try my lentil bolognese recipe instead.
- Finely chop the onions, carrots, and celery to improve the texture of the finished dish.
- Cook this sauce in a heavy-bottomed pot or large dutch oven.
- Don't love rigatoni? Try making it with tagliatelle or fettuccine noodles instead.
- Give the sauce a little extra flavor with a splash of red wine and of course a sprinkle of parmesan cheese before serving. You could even serve it with a dollop of ricotta cheese if you'd like!
- You can serve rigatoni bolognese as-is or layer the sauce in lasagna instead.
- Make sure you serve this with garlic bread or dinner rolls on the side to soak up every last drop of sauce.
Can you make bolognese ahead of time?
The bolognese (without the pasta) can be made 3 to 4 days ahead of time. Once it’s done cooking, let it cool and transfer it to an airtight container. Cook a fresh batch of rigatoni pasta before serving and reheat the sauce in a skillet on the stove.
Can you freeze the sauce?
Definitely. Pour the cooled bolognese into an airtight container or ziplock bag and store in the freezer for up to 6 months. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
More comforting pasta recipes
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The Easiest Rigatoni Bolognese
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion diced
- 2 carrots diced
- 2 celery ribs diced
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 6 oz. tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 28 oz. fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 1 ½ cups beef broth
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup parmesan cheese optional; grated
- 1 lb. rigatoni pasta or pasta of choice
- Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat, then add the onion, carrots and celery and sauté for 8 minutes; add the garlic and sauté for 1 more minute until fragrant.
- Next, press the cooked vegetables to the side and add the ground beef and pork on the other side, using a wooden spoon to break them up, cooking until they're no longer pink.
- Add the oregano, basil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and stir for one minute. Then, add the tomato paste and stir everything together for 2 more minutes to allow the flavors to come together. Last, pour in the diced tomatoes with their juices and the beef broth. Bring the bolognese to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer it for 30 minutes. NOTE: If you're serving this over pasta, now is the time to cook the pasta as well.
- Last, stir in the heavy cream. Before serving, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and fresh parsley or basil and enjoy!
UPDATE NOTE: This post was originally published in February 2022. It was updated with new text in March 2023.
I made this last night with my toddler and it was a huge hit! I threw in extra veggies (used 2 pints of pre-chopped mirepoix from the grocery to save time) and forgot to add the oregano & basil, still turned out amazing. Highly recommend!
Cheryl Ford says
This recipe has quickly become a family favorite! It is flavorful, uses ingredients I already have, and is all made in one skillet! I used ground chicken as a low-fat option and it was just as flavorful as using ground beef or pork. The beef brother and seasonings really bring out the flavor of the meat and vegetables. I made this for my 87-year-old mother who is on a low-fat restricted diet and she loved it! Don't wait any longer to make this delectable dish!