The Difference Between Ragu and Bolognese: a Sausage Ragù

The Difference Between Ragu and Bolognese: a Sausage Ragù

This sausage ragù makes me happy. Although it takes a bit of time to cook (60-90 minutes or so), it is done while alternating stirring the pot and sipping a glass of the wine I opened to make the sauce. But wait, you say, this recipe reads like a bolognese. What’s the difference between ragu and bolognese?

The ragù and bolognese Venn diagram is less controversial than the bonbon and chocolate truffle Venn diagram. Bolognese, or rather ragù alla bolognese, is a specific type of ragù. Typically it includes cooking a vegetable mixture (carrot, celery, onion) in pancetta fat and then sequentially adding ground meat (beef and pork), milk and white wine. Tomatoes may be included but do not play a prominent role in bolognese.

You can definitely see that my sausage ragù is inspired by bolognese. But it’s not bolognese.

I have omitted the pancetta, added garlic, subbed ground sausage and red wine, and given tomatoes a starring role. I hope you love it as much as my family does.

FAQs about this sausage ragù

What wine would you use in the ragù and drink alongside?

I would probably pick a red blend (a red “table” wine) or a Sangiovese.

Can I freeze this ragù?

Yes. The ragù freezes perfectly and can be defrosted on the stove top. This sauce works well in lasagna or a ziti bake.

Is this a good recipe for a beginner?

Yes! I included this in the “learning to cook” tab because there is nothing complicated about this meal. It just takes a bit of time.

linguine with sausage ragu on a plate and twirled around a fork

Sausage ragu

Author uglyducklingbakery


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup onion
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 lb bulk sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 28 oz (1 can) whole tomatoes
  • 1 tsp salt plus more to taste
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • parmesan cheese, grated for serving


  • Finely chop the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. I find it simplest to use a food processor and pulse until you get a fine chop.
  • Add the olive oil to the pan and heat on medium low. Add the vegetables and cook until softened about 5 minutes.
  • Add the meat, breaking up into small pieces, and cook until no longer pink.
  • Add the milk and cook at a low simmer, stirring occasionally, until the milk has been absorbed.
  • Repeat with the wine (add and cook at a low simmer, stirring occasionally until absorbed).
  • Add the can of tomatoes (discard the basil, if your can has basil) and cover. Continue to cook at a low simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up the tomatoes.
  • If you are having this over pasta, boil a large pot of salted water and cook the pasta as directed to al dente.
  • When the pasta has cooked, drain and return it to the pot. Add as much sauce as desired to the cooked pasta and cook for an additional minute so the pasta absorbs some of the sauce.
  • Serve, top with parmesan cheese, and eat immediately.


Mixing sauce and al dente pasta in the pan and heating the combination together makes the pasta absorb some of the sauce and will give your pasta better flavor and texture.

What’s next?

If you make this sausage ragù or just want to talk about the difference between ragu and bolognese, please comment and share a pic!

Check out other uglyducklingbakery pasta recipes like this one-pan eggplant lasagna, a tuna pesto pasta, or my kiddo’s recipe for fig bacon jam pasta.

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a slice of lasagna and broccolini

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