Sunday Night Bolognese

This meat sauce tastes like you spent a long time making it, but it is very easy and even fast enough for a weeknight meal. In fact, I got this recipe from the Barefoot Contessa cookbook and she calls it “weeknight bolognese.” However, in my house I love to cook pasta for family or friends on Sunday nights. It’s the perfect time to relax and enjoy each other’s company before the busy work week begins. Top the pasta with fresh parm and serve with red Italian table wine like Chianti. You can find orecchiette pasta at most grocery stores-it means small ear in Italian and that is what the shape resembles!


2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 pound lean ground sirloin
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 cups dry red wine
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
2 tablespoons tomato paste
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound orecchiette pasta
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving


1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground sirloin and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat has lost it’s pink color and has started to brown. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. Pour wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and then drop in the pasta. Cook until al dente according to the box. Don’t over cook!
3. While the pasta cooks, finish the sauce. Add the nutmeg, basil, and cream and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. When the pasta is cooked transfer the pasta to the sauce with a colander spoon. If a little of the pasta water comes with it, that’s ok.  Stir together and add 1/2 cup Parmesan and toss well.  Pour into a big serving bowl. Serve hot with Parmesan on the side. Serves about 6.

Simmer meat sauce while the pasta cooks in boiling water. Garlic bread in the oven. It’s amazing how fast this dinner comes together.

Bolognese sauce with orecchiette pasta in my Grandma Gloria’s big pasta bowl. Family style Italian at it’s finest.

adapted from barefoot contessa weeknight bolognese

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  47. Meg Zaino Reply

    Another Italian hit. Zaino devoured it; I engulfed it. I love how its not a heavy sauce and there is so much flavor! I divided the sauce in half and froze one half so now we can have another easy dinner soon.

    • katie Reply

      Oh that’s great. Happy you tried out the sunday night sauce on a cold and dreary Sunday night. I am posting K’s cookies tonight!