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Penne Bolognese Recipe

Penne Bolognese is a classic Italian dish that is sure to satisfy your taste buds. This hearty and flavorful dish is made with a rich and robust meat sauce, penne pasta, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. It’s a comforting and fulfilling dish that's perfect for those cozy family dinners or for impressing your guests during a dinner party.

Penne Bolognese Recipe

Photos of Penne Bolognese Recipe

While most ingredients are common pantry staples, pancetta may not always be easily found in all stores. Pancetta is an Italian bacon made of pork belly meat that is salt-cured. It adds a unique flavor to the dish. If not readily available, you could substitute it with regular bacon.

Essential Ingredients for Penne Bolognese

Olive oil: This is used to sauté the pancetta and ground beef, and it adds a hint of flavor to the dish.

Pancetta: An Italian bacon that adds a rich flavor to the dish. Can be substituted with regular bacon if necessary.

Ground beef: The main protein in the sauce. It gives the dish its hearty and robust character.

Onion: Adds a bit of sweetness and depth to the sauce.

Carrot: Gives the sauce a bit of sweetness and color.

Garlic: Adds a strong and aromatic flavor to the dish.

Italian seasoning: A blend of dried Italian-inspired herbs including basil, oregano, and rosemary.

Red wine: Gives the sauce a deep, rich flavor. The alcohol cooks off, leaving only the flavor behind.

Tomato sauce: The base for the Bolognese sauce.

Tomatoes: Adds freshness and acidity to balance out the rich meat and cheese.

Salt and Pepper: Basic seasoning to enhance the flavors of the other ingredients.

Heavy cream: Adds a creamy texture and rich flavor to the sauce.

Spaghetti: The pasta that the sauce is served with. Penne pasta can also be used.

Parmesan cheese: Adds a salty and nutty flavor to the dish. It is traditionally sprinkled over the top before serving.

Basil leaves: Used as a garnish and adds a fresh, herby flavor to the dish.

One reader, Andree Liang says:

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This penne bolognese recipe is a game-changer! The flavors are rich and comforting, and the sauce is perfectly balanced. The addition of pancetta and red wine takes it to the next level. It's a family favorite now, and I can't wait to make it again!

Andree Liang

Key Techniques for Preparing Penne Bolognese

How to brown pancetta: In a large pot over medium heat, cook the pancetta for 4 to 5 minutes until it is browned and crispy.

How to cook ground beef: Add the ground beef to the pot and cook for 5 minutes, breaking it up into small pieces with a spatula.

How to simmer red wine: Add the red wine to the pot and bring it to a simmer. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the wine is reduced by half.

How to thicken the sauce: Simmer the sauce for 25 to 30 minutes or until it has thickened.

How to cook spaghetti: Cook the spaghetti in salted water according to package directions, then reserve ½ cup of pasta cooking water.

How to toss pasta with sauce: Pour the cooked pasta into the pot with the sauce and toss to combine. If the sauce is too thick, add a little pasta cooking water to thin it out.

How To Make Penne Bolognese

Whip up a classic Italian dish with this penne bolognese packed, with ground beef and pancetta, all simmered in a savory tomato sauce for a richer meal!

Preparation: 25 minutes
Cooking: 45 minutes
Total: 1 hour 10 minutes



  • 1tbspolive oil
  • 4ozpancetta,finely diced
  • 1lbground beef,used 90% lean
  • ¾cuponion,finely diced
  • ½cupcarrot,peeled, finely diced
  • 2tspgarlic,minced
  • 1tspdried Italian seasoning
  • ½cupred wine
  • 8oztomato sauce,(1 can)
  • 28oztomatoes,(1 can), crushed, undrained
  • salt and pepper,to taste
  • ¼cupheavy cream
  • 12ozspaghetti
  • ½cupParmesan cheese,grated
  • ¼cupbasil leaves,thinly sliced


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.

  2. Add the pancetta and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until browned and crispy.

  3. Add the ground beef to the pan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 5 minutes, breaking up the beef into small pieces with a spatula.

  4. Add the onion and carrot to the pan. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add the garlic and Italian seasoning, then cook for 30 seconds. Drain off any excess grease.

  5. Add the red wine to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the wine is reduced by half.

  6. Stir in the tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

  7. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until sauce has thickened.

  8. Stir in the heavy cream and cook for another 5 minutes.

  9. Cook the spaghetti in salted water according to package directions. Reserve ½ cup of pasta cooking water.

  10. Pour the pasta in with the sauce and toss to combine. If the sauce is too thick, add a little pasta cooking water to thin it out.

  11. Top the pasta with basil and Parmesan cheese, then serve and enjoy!


  • Calories: 650.66kcal
  • Fat: 33.08g
  • Saturated Fat: 13.12g
  • Trans Fat: 0.92g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 13.79g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 2.57g
  • Carbohydrates: 54.97g
  • Fiber: 4.99g
  • Sugar: 8.38g
  • Protein: 29.57g
  • Cholesterol: 88.16mg
  • Sodium: 927.66mg
  • Calcium: 219.83mg
  • Potassium: 923.26mg
  • Iron: 3.65mg
  • Vitamin A: 223.56µg
  • Vitamin C: 23.46mg

Pro Tip for Perfecting Your Penne Bolognese

When preparing your penne bolognese, it's important to properly brown the ground beef. This process, known as the Maillard reaction, is what gives the meat a deep, savory flavor. To achieve this, make sure your pan is hot before adding the beef, and avoid overcrowding the pan. If the beef is too close together, it will steam instead of browning. Also, resist the urge to stir the meat too often. Let it sear undisturbed for a few minutes before breaking it up into smaller pieces. This will ensure a flavorful base for your sauce.

Time-Saving Tips for Making Penne Bolognese

Prep ahead: Chop and measure all ingredients in advance to streamline the cooking process.

One-pot wonders: Opt for recipes that allow you to cook everything in a single pot or pan to minimize cleanup.

Batch cooking: Make a larger portion of the sauce and freeze the extra for future use to save time on busy days.

Kitchen organization: Keep your kitchen well-organized to easily locate ingredients and utensils while cooking.

Time-saving tools: Utilize kitchen gadgets like food processors and slow cookers to expedite meal preparation.

Efficient multitasking: Plan and execute tasks in parallel to maximize efficiency and reduce overall cooking time.

Substitute Ingredients For Penne Bolognese Recipe

  • olive oil - Substitute with avocado oil: Avocado oil has a similar mild flavor and high smoke point, making it a suitable replacement for olive oil in this recipe.

  • pancetta - Substitute with bacon: Bacon can be used as a substitute for pancetta, as it provides a similar smoky and salty flavor to the dish.

  • ground beef - Substitute with ground turkey: Ground turkey is a leaner alternative to ground beef and can be used as a healthier substitute in the bolognese recipe.

  • onion - Substitute with shallots: Shallots have a milder and sweeter flavor compared to onions, adding a subtle sweetness to the bolognese sauce.

  • carrot - Substitute with celery: Celery can be used as a substitute for carrots to add a similar depth of flavor and texture to the bolognese sauce.

  • garlic - Substitute with garlic powder: If fresh garlic is not available, garlic powder can be used as a substitute, although the flavor may be slightly different.

  • dried Italian seasoning - Substitute with dried oregano and basil: A combination of dried oregano and basil can be used to replace Italian seasoning, providing a similar herbaceous flavor.

  • red wine - Substitute with beef broth: Beef broth can be used as a non-alcoholic substitute for red wine, adding depth and richness to the bolognese sauce.

  • tomato sauce - Substitute with crushed tomatoes: Crushed tomatoes can be used as a substitute for tomato sauce, providing a chunkier texture to the bolognese sauce.

  • tomatoes - Substitute with canned diced tomatoes: Canned diced tomatoes can be used as a substitute for fresh tomatoes, offering convenience and a similar flavor profile.

  • heavy cream - Substitute with whole milk and butter: A combination of whole milk and butter can be used as a substitute for heavy cream, providing richness and creaminess to the sauce.

  • spaghetti - Substitute with penne pasta: Penne pasta can be used as an alternative to spaghetti, offering a different shape and texture to the dish.

  • parmesan cheese - Substitute with pecorino Romano cheese: Pecorino Romano cheese can be used as a substitute for Parmesan, providing a similar salty and nutty flavor to the dish.

  • basil leaves - Substitute with parsley: Parsley can be used as a substitute for basil, adding a fresh and herbaceous flavor to the bolognese recipe.

Plating Ideas for Penne Bolognese

  1. Elevate the plating: When presenting the penne bolognese, focus on creating an elegant and visually appealing presentation. Use a large, flat plate to showcase the dish, and carefully twirl the pasta into a neat mound in the center of the plate.

  2. Garnish with fresh basil: Add a pop of color and freshness to the dish by sprinkling a few whole basil leaves over the top of the penne bolognese. This not only adds a beautiful touch but also enhances the aroma of the dish.

  3. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan: Before serving, generously sprinkle freshly grated parmesan cheese over the pasta. The rich, savory flavor of the cheese will complement the hearty bolognese sauce and add a touch of sophistication to the presentation.

  4. Use a pasta fork: Consider using a specialized pasta fork to twirl and lift the penne onto the plate. This attention to detail demonstrates precision and expertise in the culinary arts.

  5. Incorporate negative space: Embrace the concept of negative space on the plate to allow the penne bolognese to stand out. Avoid overcrowding the plate with excessive elements, allowing the dish to take center stage.

  6. Consider the plate shape and color: Choose a plate that complements the colors of the penne bolognese. A simple, white plate can provide an elegant backdrop, allowing the rich colors of the dish to shine.

  7. Add a touch of microgreens: For a subtle yet impactful touch, delicately place a small cluster of microgreens alongside the penne bolognese. This adds a hint of freshness and a visually appealing element to the presentation.

  8. Emphasize the sauce drizzle: Use a small spoon to carefully drizzle a touch of the bolognese sauce around the edge of the plate. This technique adds a professional touch and showcases attention to detail in the presentation.

Essential Kitchen Tools for Making Penne Bolognese

  • Large pot: A large, heavy-bottomed pot is essential for cooking the bolognese sauce and boiling the pasta.
  • Spatula: A spatula is useful for breaking up the ground beef and stirring the sauce.
  • Colander: You'll need a colander to drain the cooked pasta.
  • Pasta pot: A large pot specifically for boiling the pasta is necessary.
  • Grater: A grater is needed to grate the parmesan cheese for topping the pasta.
  • Chef's knife: A sharp chef's knife is essential for chopping the onion, carrot, and garlic.
  • Cutting board: A sturdy cutting board is necessary for prepping the vegetables and pancetta.
  • Large mixing bowl: A large mixing bowl is useful for tossing the cooked pasta with the bolognese sauce.
  • Skillet: A skillet is used for cooking the pancetta and ground beef.
  • Wooden spoon: A wooden spoon is helpful for stirring the bolognese sauce as it simmers.

Storing and Freezing Penne Bolognese for Later

  • Let the penne bolognese cool completely before storing it in an airtight container. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • If you want to freeze the bolognese sauce, let it cool completely first. Transfer the sauce to a freezer-safe container or a resealable plastic bag. Label the container with the date and contents, then place it in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • To thaw frozen bolognese sauce, transfer the container from the freezer to the refrigerator and let it thaw overnight. Alternatively, you can place the sealed container in a bowl of cold water and let it thaw, changing the water every 30 minutes until the sauce is fully thawed.
  • Reheat the thawed bolognese sauce in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it's heated through. If the sauce seems too thick, you can add a splash of water or broth to thin it out.
  • Cooked pasta doesn't freeze well, as it can become mushy when thawed. It's best to cook the pasta fresh when you're ready to serve the bolognese sauce.
  • If you have leftover penne bolognese, store the pasta and sauce separately in the refrigerator. When you're ready to reheat, combine the desired amount of pasta and sauce in a saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until warmed through.

How To Reheat Leftover Penne Bolognese

  • Stovetop method: place the leftover penne bolognese in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add a splash of beef broth or water to loosen up the sauce and prevent it from drying out. Stir occasionally until heated through, about 5-7 minutes. If the sauce seems too thick, add more liquid as needed. This method allows you to control the moisture content and ensures even heating.

  • Microwave method: transfer the leftover penne bolognese to a microwave-safe dish. Add a splash of beef broth or water to the pasta and stir well. Cover the dish with a microwave-safe lid or plastic wrap, leaving a small vent for steam to escape. Microwave on high power in 30-second intervals, stirring between each interval, until the pasta is heated through. This method is quick and convenient, but be careful not to overheat the pasta, as it can become mushy.

  • Oven method: preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Transfer the leftover penne bolognese to an oven-safe dish and add a splash of beef broth or water to loosen up the sauce. Cover the dish with foil and place it in the preheated oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the pasta is heated through. Remove the foil for the last 5 minutes of baking to allow the top to brown slightly. This method is ideal for larger portions and results in a casserole-like dish with a crispy top layer.

  • Slow cooker method: if you have a small slow cooker or crockpot, you can use it to reheat your leftover penne bolognese. Place the pasta in the slow cooker and add a splash of beef broth or water. Set the slow cooker to low heat and let it warm for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally. This method is perfect for those who want to reheat their pasta without much hands-on attention, as the slow cooker will keep the pasta warm and moist.

Interesting Trivia About Penne Bolognese

Bolognese sauce originates from Bologna, Italy, and is traditionally served with flat pasta such as tagliatelle, rather than penne.

Is Making Penne Bolognese at Home Cost-Effective?

The cost-effectiveness of this penne bolognese recipe largely depends on the quality of ingredients used. Ground beef and pancetta can be pricey, but the dish serves four and can be stretched with pasta. The red wine and parmesan cheese may add to the cost, but they elevate the flavor. Overall, this recipe rates a 7 for taste and versatility. The approximate cost for a household of four people is around $25-$30, factoring in the quality of ingredients.

Is Penne Bolognese Healthy or Unhealthy?

The penne bolognese recipe, while delicious, is not particularly healthy due to several factors:

  • High in saturated fat: The recipe includes pancetta, ground beef, and heavy cream, all of which are high in saturated fat. Consuming too much saturated fat can increase the risk of heart disease and other health issues.
  • Refined carbohydrates: The recipe calls for regular spaghetti, which is a refined carbohydrate. Refined carbohydrates have been stripped of their fiber and nutrients, leading to rapid spikes in blood sugar and potential health problems when consumed in excess.
  • High calorie content: With the combination of meat, pasta, and heavy cream, this dish is likely to be high in calories, which can contribute to weight gain if consumed regularly.
  • Limited vegetables: While the recipe includes some onion and carrot, the overall vegetable content is relatively low compared to the other ingredients.

To make this recipe healthier, consider the following suggestions:

  • Swap the pancetta for a leaner protein source, such as turkey bacon or omit it altogether
  • Use lean ground beef (90% or higher) or substitute a portion of the beef with ground turkey or plant-based alternatives like lentils or mushrooms
  • Replace the heavy cream with a lower-fat alternative, such as half-and-half or Greek yogurt
  • Opt for whole wheat spaghetti or zucchini noodles to increase fiber content and reduce refined carbohydrates
  • Increase the amount of vegetables in the sauce, such as adding diced bell peppers, zucchini, or spinach
  • Use a moderate amount of olive oil and cheese to keep the overall fat content in check
  • Serve the bolognese sauce over a bed of leafy greens or alongside a colorful side salad to boost the nutrient content of the meal

Editor's Opinion on This Penne Bolognese Recipe

This penne bolognese recipe is a classic Italian dish that is rich, flavorful, and comforting. The combination of pancetta, ground beef, and aromatic vegetables creates a hearty and satisfying sauce. The addition of red wine and heavy cream adds depth and richness to the dish, while the finishing touch of parmesan and basil brings a burst of freshness. The recipe is well-structured and the cooking instructions are clear, making it accessible for home cooks. Overall, this penne bolognese recipe is a delicious and timeless choice for a comforting meal.

Enhance Your Penne Bolognese Recipe with These Unique Side Dishes:

Garlic Bread: Savory garlic breadsticks with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and herbs, served warm and crispy.
Caprese Salad: Fresh mozzarella, juicy tomatoes, and fragrant basil drizzled with balsamic glaze for a refreshing side salad.
Roasted Vegetables: Colorful medley of seasonal vegetables roasted to perfection with a hint of olive oil and herbs, bursting with natural flavors.

Similar Recipes to Try If You Like Penne Bolognese

Grilled Vegetable Skewers: Marinate the vegetables in a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and herbs before threading them onto skewers and grilling until tender and slightly charred.
Beef Stir-Fry with Broccoli: Stir-fry thinly sliced beef with broccoli, bell peppers, and onions in a savory sauce made with soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. Serve over steamed rice for a satisfying meal.
Mango Sorbet: Blend ripe mangoes with sugar and lime juice, then freeze the mixture until it's firm and scoopable. This refreshing sorbet is the perfect way to end a meal on a sweet note.

Appetizer and Dessert Pairings for Penne Bolognese

Stuffed Mushrooms: Create a savory and indulgent appetizer by stuffing mushrooms with a rich and flavorful filling. These bite-sized treats are perfect for impressing guests at any gathering.
Bruschetta: Elevate your appetizer game with bruschetta, a classic Italian dish featuring toasted bread topped with a delicious mixture of tomatoes, basil, and garlic. This light and refreshing starter is sure to be a hit at any event.
Chocolate Mousse: Indulge in a rich and velvety chocolate mousse, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa powder. The smooth and creamy texture of the mousse will melt in your mouth, leaving you craving for more.
Apple Pie: Savor the warm and comforting flavors of a classic apple pie, with a flaky golden crust and a sweet cinnamon-spiced apple filling. Pair it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for the perfect balance of sweetness and creaminess.

Why trust this Penne Bolognese Recipe:

This authentic penne bolognese recipe is a testament to traditional Italian cooking. The combination of pancetta and ground beef creates a rich and savory base, while the addition of red wine infuses depth of flavor. The slow simmering of tomato sauce and tomatoes allows the ingredients to meld together, resulting in a luscious and hearty sauce. The finishing touch of heavy cream adds a touch of indulgence. Tossed with al dente spaghetti and garnished with parmesan cheese and fresh basil leaves, this dish promises to delight your taste buds with its robust and comforting flavors.

Share your thoughts and experiences with making Recipe Sharing Penne Bolognese in the forum.
How long does it take to make penne bolognese?
The penne bolognese recipe takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes to prepare, including cooking time.
Can I substitute the ground beef with another type of meat?
Yes, you can substitute the ground beef with ground turkey, chicken, or pork for a different flavor.
Can I omit the wine from the recipe?
Yes, you can omit the wine from the recipe. You can replace it with beef or chicken broth for a similar depth of flavor.
Can I make the sauce ahead of time?
Yes, you can make the bolognese sauce ahead of time. It actually tastes even better the next day as the flavors have more time to meld together.
Can I freeze the leftover bolognese sauce?
Absolutely! The bolognese sauce freezes very well. Just let it cool completely, then transfer it to an airtight container or freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months.

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