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Drunken Bolognese

What do you get when you mix red wine and white wine? Not rosé.

I love cooking with wine but usually its one or the other - this recipe provides an opportunity to cook with both! That's why I call it drunken bolognese, creative - I know.

The first time I ever made bolognese was during a cooking class in the Tuscan region of Italy. It's one of my top 5 favorite family memories and I'm so lucky to have gotten the chance to learn there. My main takeaway was that if you want to make bolognese the right way, you need to take the time to do so. Also, making Italian food is always more fun with wine! Luckily we were at a vineyard.

This Bolognese isn't meant to be saucy like a ragu or a alfredo sauce. Most of the liquid in this recipe you'll notice actually gets simmered down and reduced nearly fully which concentrates the flavor and cooks it into the meat and veggies.

You'll need:

  • nice olive oil (really makes a difference, darker is better)

  • 1 white onion

  • 2 large carrots

  • 3 celery stalks

  • a lot of garlic (like 4 cloves or more)

  • red pepper flakes (to taste)

  • 5 tablespoons of butter (will be used throughout, not all at once)

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used a dry sauvignon blanc, use a dry Italian white!)

  • 1.5 lbs ground red meat (see note in "Tips" at the bottom)

  • 2 cups whole milk

  • 1 parmesan rind + 1 cm of parmesan still attached

  • 1.5 + 1/2 cups dry red wine

  • 28 oz canned San Marzano Italian tomatoes (should yield about 3 cups)

  • 1 teaspoon each, dry basil and dry oregano

  • 20 oz wide flat pasta such as Pappardelle


  1. Dice your onion, carrot, and celery finely (1/2 cm pieces), then add to a large sauce pan or braiser with 3 tablespoons of nice olive oil, over medium low heat. Let it sweat for about five minutes until it all begins to soften, add 2 tablespoons of butter and let it melt in, stirring to make sure it all gets coated. Smash and chop you garlic cloves, add them in with a pinch of red pepper flakes (a big pinch), mix. Once the garlic is fragrant, add in your white wine and let it simmer for about 15 minutes until the wine has cooked down.

  2. Once the white wine has simmered down and completely reduced and the veggies are really wilted (onions are translucent looking), add in your meat along with a big pinch of salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. As the meat cooks, be sure to stir and break it apart into small pieces. Once the meat is browned on the outside, no longer red and raw, add in your whole milk and parmesan rind and let it simmer until its cooked down.

  3. Once the milk has simmered down to about half (no longer as saucy) add in your red wine and let it simmer down for about 10 minutes on low until all the wine and milk has been reduced. Then add in your canned tomatoes, use your spoon or spatula to break them down so you won't have those big chunks. Next add dry basil and dry oregano then mix and simmer over low for about 30 minutes, checking and stirring occasionally (every 5 to be safe)

  4. Once the tomatoes and their juices have cooked down, add another 1/2 cup of red wine + tablespoon of butter to finish it off and let it cook down once again.

  5. While the red wine is simmering, bring a large pot of water to boil, add a generous pinch of salt, then add your pasta and cook according to the instructions it comes with (fresh pasta will take much less time than dried pasta, use what you find!) Be careful not to overcook your pasta, al dente is better than too soft.

  6. When the pasta is done cooking, save a cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta, mix it with 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil, and add it to the bolognese sauce along with a half cup of pasta water, add the other half cup if you feel its needed for mixing the pasta into the sauce. Let sit for about 5 minutes so the noodles can really finish cooking IN the sauce.

  7. Serve your bolognese with fresh grated parmesan and enjoy!


  • I used 1lb ground elk and 1/2 lb mild Italian pork sausage the first time making this. I highly recommend using some pork sausage in this recipe because it'll add some fat and flavor to the meat. Elk is really lean but most people don't have elk sitting in their freezer. I suggest using 2 parts lean meat (like lean ground beef) and 1 part sausage because in my experience, it works really well for this. In general I like using 2 different meats to give it an extra layer.

  • Eat this as soon as its ready! If you're making it ahead of time, complete all the steps then cover to keep it warm, dutch ovens will keep some heat even without a flame or stove on.

  • If you're making this to freeze - great! Skip the pasta and just make the bolognese sauce. Freeze in a tupperware or plastic bag after it cools to room temp. Try to make sure there is little or no extra air in the container. To cook, either put it in the fridge the night before to defrost, or just add it to a pot still frozen and warm it up slowly.

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