This flavorful, quick cooking penne bolognese is a classic recipe that’s fast enough for a weeknight meal, but it’s special enough for a Sunday dinner. The bolognese sauce can even be made in advance and frozen for when you’re in a pinch. Makes 6 servings.

penne topped with bolognese sauce and fresh parsley in a white bowl

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Why I love this bolognese sauce recipe

This is a recipe I’ve been making forever. It’s always a hit, and I will probably never get sick of it. I love that it has all the flavor of a slow cooked bolognese sauce recipe, but it comes together is such a short amount of time. I’ve also adapted it to be dairy free.

Does bolognese sauce have dairy? Traditionally, bolognese sauce calls for milk. I have never included it in my recipe (even before we went dairy free), so I can’t really call this an authentic bolognese sauce. But, I think it’s delicious all the same.

If you want to add a splash of dairy free cream at the end, you totally can. If you do, I recommend this almond cooking milk.

More penne pasta recipes: tomato artichoke penne / creamy sweet potato and rosemary penne / penne arrabbiata / whole wheat penne with sausage tomato sauce

chopped carrots, celery and onion in separate bowls, garlic cloves on the side on a gray background

Here’s what you’ll need to make beef bolognese

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aerial view of bolognese sauce in a large nonstick skillet

How to make pasta bolognese

Sauté the veggies. Heat olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven. Add the veggies and sauté them until their soft and translucent. Make sure you’re stirring as needed to prevent burning.

Brown the beef. Once the veggies are soft, add the beef, breaking it up as it browns. I like to use a meat chopper tool like this one, but you can also use a wooden spoon or spatula.

Add the rest of the ingredients. Add a bit of white wine, the crushed tomatoes and basil. Stir until everything is evenly combined and lower the heat to a simmer.

Cook the pasta. You can have the pasta cooking while you’re making the sauce, but I try to time it so I put my pasta in when I lower the heat to a simmer. If I had to chose, I’d rather have the sauce waiting for the pasta, instead of having cooked pasta waiting for the sauce.

close up of penne topped with bolognese sauce and fresh parsley in a white bowl

FAQs and Tips for making bolognese sauce

What’s the difference between bolognese sauce and spaghetti sauce? The main difference between spaghetti meat sauce and bolognese is the mirepoix and the wine/milk (this recipe doesn’t contain milk). Traditional meat sauce doesn’t have celery or carrots added, and doesn’t have to have wine/milk.

Is bolognese sauce supposed to be thick? Yes. Bolognese should be relatively thick, but if you prefer it to be thinner, you can easily add an extra cup or so of crushed tomatoes. Just be sure to add enough extra salt (an extra pinch should do the trick).

What is the best pasta for bolognese sauce? My favorite pasta to serve bolognese with is penne, but I also like to serve it with spaghetti or bucatini.

Can I freeze this sauce? You definitely can! In fact, when I have enough ingredients, I like to make a double batch and freeze half for a quick weeknight dinner (although, this recipe is really quick enough to make during the week, too).


aerial view of penne topped with bolognese sauce and fresh parsley in a white bowl

This bolognese recipe would go great with:

More dairy free pasta recipes:


Penne Bolognese

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Mains
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • 1 16-ounce package penne pasta
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small sweet onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (such as Chardonnay)
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil


  1. In a large pot of salted, boiling water, prepare pasta according to package directions for al denta.
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil to medium-high. Add the carrot, celery, onion and garlic and sauté for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are translucent and tender, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the ground beef, salt and pepper and sauté for about 10 minutes, breaking the meat up as it cooks.
  4. Add wine, tomatoes and basil. Stir to combine. Simmer the sauce for 20 – 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.


  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 497
  • Sugar: 0 g
  • Sodium: 0 mg
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0 g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 0 g
  • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 0 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg

Keywords: dairy free, easy, quick

Recipe adapted from Everyday Italian: 125 Simple and Delicious Recipes.

Last Updated on December 29, 2020 by Melissa Belanger

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Recipe rating


  1. I absolutely love this recipe! I’ve made it a number of times and cannot count how many times I’ve actually eaten this dish. Highly recommended for all!