Classic Cookbooks: Marcella Hazan's Homemade Tagliatelle with Bolognese Meat Sauce Recipe (2024)

Marcella Hazan, who introduced an America familiar with red sauce joints to true Italian food, was a teacher and writer with whose books every home cook should spend some time. She was born in Italy but immigrated to the United States as a bride. Though she had never cooked before, she had to learn to feed her husband (hey, it was the 1950s), and luckily for all of us it turned out that she was no slouch. She began teaching Italian cooking in New York City and eventually published several books of her beautifully simple, authentic recipes. (She died in 2013.)

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking combines two books Hazan published in the 1970s. The food here is, for the most part, straightforward and homey, and the instructions are detailed and clear. I often turn to this book when I’m not sure what to do with a vegetable or need new ideas for saucing pasta, but there are lots of big meaty dishes as well.

Hazan’s lucid prose and stern instructions always charm me, as does the note of exasperation she sometimes cannot help but show (in a salad, “Garlic can be exciting when you turn to it sporadically, on impulse, but on a regular basis, it is tiresome,” and instant polenta—don’t even ask). Like all good recipe writers, she urges you to watch and taste and smell and listen, to pay close attention to your ingredients and how you use them instead of working through the recipe automatically. Indeed, her instructions for dressing a salad—extra virgin olive oil, salt, and wine vinegar only, please—fill me with anxiety and make me feel wholly inadequate as a cook. But it’s good to have something to aim for, and the food you turn out from this book will be heartily appreciated even before you achieve salad supertaster status.

“There is no more perfect union in all gastronomy than the marriage of Bolgnese ragù with homemade Bolognese tagliatelle,” Hazan writes; I put this statement to the test on a frigid Sunday afternoon and now can verify it without hesitation. Making fresh pasta at home is fun and satisfying; it’s also easy, if you have a little hand-cranked pasta machine like mine. She provides instructions for making sheets of pasta with a rolling pin, too, but I’ve never been brave enough to get into that delicate business. These recipes are adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking; they make twice as much sauce as you will need for this quantity of pasta, so either double the pasta recipe or freeze half of the sauce for another time.

Recipe Details

Classic Cookbooks: Marcella Hazan's Homemade Tagliatelle with Bolognese Meat Sauce Recipe


  • 1 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 3 tablespoons butter plus 1 tablespoon for tossing with the pasta

  • 1/2 cup chopped onion

  • 2/3 cup chopped celery

  • 2/3 cup carrot

  • 3/4 pound ground beef chuck, not too lean (or 1/2 pound ground beef chuck plus ¼ pound ground pork, preferably from the neck or Boston butt)

  • Salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 cup whole milk[I used 2 %]

  • Whole nutmeg for grating

  • 1 cup dry white wine[I used red]

  • 1 1/2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice

  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds pasta

  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano at the table

  • 1 cup unbleached flour (Italians use 00/doppio zero flour, which has less gluten than American all-purpose flour, but Hazan says unbleached all-purpose is fine; she also says that semolina flour is appropriate only for factory-made pasta and will frustrate home cooks)

  • 2 large eggs


  1. Put the oil, butter, and chopped onion in a heavy-bottomed pot and turn the heat to medium. Cook and stir until the onion is translucent. Add the celery and carrot and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring to coat the vegetables with fat.

  2. Add the meat, a large pinch of salt, and some freshly ground pepper. Break the meat up with a fork, stir well, and cook until the meat has lost its raw color.

  3. Add the milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it bubbles away completely. Stir in about 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg.

  4. Add the wine and let it simmer away. When the wine has evaporated, stir in the tomatoes. (Cooking the meat in milk before adding the wine and tomatoes protects it from the acidic bite of the latter.) When they begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours (or more—she says more is better), stirring from time to time. If the sauce begins to dry out, add 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary to keep it from sticking. At the end, there should be no water left, and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste for salt.

  5. Toss with cooked, drained pasta and the remaining tablespoon of butter. Serve freshly grated cheese at the table.

  6. Fresh Pasta At Home

  7. -makes about 3/4 pound—3 standard servings or 4 appetizer servings-

  8. Hazan advises you to mix the dough on a flat work surface by building a mountain of flour, making a crater in its peak, dumping the eggs into the crater, and mixing them gradually with the flour. Since this method has, in my kitchen, led to unstoppable egg rivulets and much frustration more than once, now I mix pasta dough in a big bowl. Mound the flour in a big bowl and scoop out a deep well in its center. Crack the eggs into the well (I add a little pinch of salt to the eggs; Hazan says it is unnecessary, but I am a compulsive salter). Beat the eggs lightly with a fork for about 1 minute. Then gradually begin to draw flour into the eggs, mixing it in as you continue to beat. Keep going, little by little, until the eggs are no longer runny. Now comes one of those situations where you are supposed to use as little flour as possible, the kind of thing you can judge only with time and experience (I’m not there yet, but my pasta is still quite edible): “Draw the sides of the mound together with your hands, but push some of the flour to one side, keeping it out of the way until you find you absolutely need it. Work the eggs and flour together, using your fingers and the palms of your hands, until you have a smoothly integrated mixture. If it is still moist, work in more flour.” When you think the dough is right (i.e. does not need any more flour), wash your hands, dry them completely, and plunge your thumb into the dough. If it comes out clean, with no sticky matter on it, no more flour is needed.

  9. If your dough still doesn’t seem quite right, it probably will after you knead it. Knead for 8 minutes, pushing the heel of your palm into the dough, folding it in half, giving it a half turn, and repeating. After 8 minutes, the dough should be “as smooth as baby skin.”

  10. Now it’s time to roll out the pasta. Cut the dough into 6 equal parts (if you started with 2 eggs; 12 equal parts if you started with 4, and so on) and spread out clean, dry dish towels for the pasta to rest on. Begin by putting each lump of dough through the widest setting on the pasta machine. Fold it into thirds like an envelope and feed the narrow end through the widest setting again. Repeat 2 or 3 times, then lay the strip of dough on a dish towel and move on to the next lump. Once each bit of dough has been through the widest setting, decrease the roller width a notch and put them all through again. Continue to decrease the rollers’ thickness until the dough is quite thin—I go to the arbitrarily-named setting “7,” which is the third-thinnest setting on my machine. The gradual progression from thicker to thinner is, Hazan says, one of the things that makes homemade pasta so good, so don’t try to speed things up by skipping some of the intermediate thicknesses.

  11. Let the sheets of pasta dry for at least 10 minutes, turning them over from time to time. The pasta is ready to cut when it no longer sticks to itself but is not yet so dry that it cracks. For Bolognese sauce, you should hand-cut tagliatelle. Fold the properly-dried sheets of pasta loosely along their length so that you end up with a flat roll about 3 inches wide at its sides. With a cleaver or similar knife (I used my pastry scraper), slice the roll into 1⁄4 inch wide ribbons. Cut parallel to the original length of the pasta strip so that when you unroll the noodles they are the full length of the strip. But don’t stress out about this—the pasta will be delicious no matter what shape it is.

  12. Cook the pasta in lots of boiling salted water for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes, until it is al dente. Drain and toss immediately with the hot sauce and butter.

Classic Cookbooks: Marcella Hazan's Homemade Tagliatelle with Bolognese Meat Sauce Recipe (2024)


Can you freeze Marcella Hazan's Bolognese sauce? ›

Once done, you can refrigerate the sauce in a tightly sealed container for 3 days, or you can freeze it. Before tossing with pasta, reheat it, letting it simmer for 15 minutes and stirring it once or twice.

What pasta is best for Bolognese sauce? ›

Tagliatelle: Tagliatelle is a long, ribbon-like pasta that is wider than fettuccine but narrower than pappardelle. Its wide surface area and slightly curled edges make it perfect for holding the rich Bolognese sauce.

Do you put milk in bolognese? ›

According to our Food Director Amira, not only does milk add a rich flavour to the bolognese, but it also “helps cut through the acidity of the tomatoes and red wine”. She adds: “It also makes the mince meat nice and tender, creating that melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness.”

What is the difference between Bolognese sauce and meat sauce? ›

Bolognese sauce is made with ground meat, while meat ragù (Neapolitan) sauce is made with pieces of whole meat. To cook a meat sauce (ragù), a mixture of cuts of beef and pork is generally used, opting for fatty meat that can withstand the long cooking times required for the preparation of this tasty sauce.

Do you cook Bolognese covered or uncovered? ›

Simmer uncovered over low heat for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally until reduced and thickened to desired consistency. Stir more often towards the end of cooking so Bolognese doesn't burn. Stir in heavy cream and fresh basil and cook an additional 3 minutes.

Is spaghetti with meat sauce the same as spaghetti bolognese? ›

The key difference here is that bolognese sauce contains meat of some sort – beef, veal or pork are the most popular options. It just so happens that beef is the most popular choice in Italy (and your favourite Italian restaurant Sydney).

What do Italians eat Bolognese sauce with? ›

Take bolognese; you might be used to eating it with spaghetti, but no self-respecting Italian would ever serve a meaty ragú like this with such a thin pasta shape. Substantial sauces call for substantial pasta shapes, so a wider, flatter shape like tagliatelle or pappardelle is more appropriate.

What makes bolognese different than spaghetti sauce? ›

It all comes down to the meat and tomatoes. While both are pasta sauces, Bolognese places more emphasis on the meat.

Is bolognese better with pasta or spaghetti? ›

The Italians traditionally eat the Bolognese with tagliatelle, a flat strand egg pasta similar to fettuccine. You can use other flat ribbon pasta like papardelle or tripoline. I personally use this sauce with any and all pastas though. And I love mixing it with tube pastas like rigatoni or penne.

What cheese goes with bolognese? ›

Parmesan is a hard cheese, and it's perfect for grating and melting. Tomato-based pasta dishes such as spaghetti bolognese become much more authentic when topped with parmesan, while this type of cheese is called for in a traditional alfredo recipe, as well as carbonara, lasagna, and a four-cheese sauce recipe.

Is ragù the same as bolognese? ›

Even though both are considered meat sauces and are thusly chunky, ragù is more like a thick tomato sauce with recognizable bits of ground beef within it. Bolognese, though, is creamier and thicker because it is made with milk. It is not considered to be a tomato sauce.

Should I put butter in my bolognese? ›

The start of any good pasta sauce is often olive oil. And butter is a fat just like olive oil. You could also finish off your sauce with a bit of butter mixed in at the end to add some richness and mellow out some of the acidity from the tomatoes (or even the spice if you were heavy-handed with the red pepper flakes).

Why do you put sugar in Bolognese Sauce? ›

The reason for sprinkling a pinch of sugar into a simmering saucepan of tomatoes is simple: sugar cuts the acidity of the tomatoes and creates an overall more balanced sauce. The exact acid levels in tomatoes can vary quite a bit depending on whether they're fresh or canned, the tomato variety, and the time of year.

Can you freeze shop bought Bolognese sauce? ›

It expands as it freezes and the jar will crack/explode in you freezer if there isn't enough room. Def yes. I freeze pasta sauce all the time and it turns out just fine even with veggies in it. thank you.

How do you freeze leftover Bolognese sauce? ›

freeze it. Don't leave it sitting in the fridge for days. I put the sauce into a freezer bag, zip it up (making sure the air is out), lay the bag flat on a cookie sheet and put that in the freezer. Once frozen, I remove the cookie sheet and stack it with other flat frozen stuff.

How long can you keep cooked Bolognese sauce in the freezer? ›

Safe storage tips for leftover bolognese

Cooked bolognese sauce can last for up to 4 days in the fridge in an airtight container, or for up to 3 months in the freezer.

How do you freeze spaghetti bolognese sauce? ›

Spaghetti Bolognese

Simply freeze your sauce in ziplock bags (which can be flattened into neat, stackable 'pillow' shapes), according to how many portions you normally use at a time. Either defrost overnight in the fridge or cook from frozen, making sure it's piping hot before you serve.


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