Pressure Cooker Ragù Bolognese Recipe (2024)

Why It Works

  • Powdered gelatin adds body to the sauce.
  • The pressure cooker tenderizes the meat and adds flavor in less than half the time it takes to make a traditional stovetop or oven-cooked Bolognese.

There's something in the air, and I'm not sure what it is. Actually, I know precisely what it is. It's tiny particles of beef and pork. It's aromatic compounds leaping from the pot into the atmosphere and wafting around my house. It's terpenes and esters from simmering red wine, sulfides from onions and garlic, and falcarindiols from carrots wending their way toward my nose. It's the smell ofragù Bolognesecooking in my kitchen, and every year it marks the start of winter for me. A winter filled with an intensely meaty sauce with a velvety texture that coats my pasta and warms my soul.

I haven't actually kept track of what the trigger is that leads me to break out the Dutch oven and start grinding meat year after year—it could be the changing weather, the lack of fresh summer produce, or perhaps the displays of Christmas decorations that go up immediately after Halloween—but ragù Bolognese is the only dish I'll make year after year, like clockwork. Good thing I love the stuff.

Myoriginal recipewas based on a version that I learned from Barbara Lynch, back when I was a cook atNo. 9 Parkin Boston. It's complex, with four different types of meat (lamb, pork, veal, and chicken livers), which are sautéed with onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and sage, then simmered with stock, red wine, milk, and a touch of tomato for several hours, and finally finished with heavy cream, Parmesan cheese, and herbs. Over the years, my recipe has evolved as I've played around with it. The version inmy bookemploys some pancetta for an extra boost of glutamic and inosinic acids, which provide a hit of savory depth.This low-temperature oven version, meanwhile, amplifies the Maillard reaction and the savory, browned flavors that result.

In the midst of some epic pressure cooker testing, I decided to see if I could adapt the recipe to work in a pressure cooker, hopefully cutting down on cooking time while building flavor in the process.

It took a bit of tinkering, but it worked out extremely well in the end, producing a ragù Bolognese with incredible slow-cooked flavor, in about half the time of my other recipes.

Building a Flavor Base

Pressure Cooker Ragù Bolognese Recipe (1)

The early steps of the process are similar to the current iteration of my standard Bolognese. I start by rendering small bits of pancetta. In myoven-based version, I'm careful not to brown the pancetta, as that helps maintain a velvety texture—the sauce builds up browned flavors as it roasts in the oven. In this version, the sauce doesn't get exposed to the same kind of dry heat, so I like to build in browned flavors from the start by letting the pancetta cook until it's quite crisp. The tenderizing effects of the pressure cooker will mitigate any undesirable texture this produces.

Next I add my aromatics: onions, carrots, celery, garlic, minced sage, and minced parsley. (I'll also add some minced fresh parsley and basil right at the end for a boost of bright flavor.) I cook them just until softened in the rendered pancetta fat before adding my finely chopped chicken livers.

I frequently get asked whether the chicken livers are really necessary, mostly by folks who hate liver. I'm not a liver lover myself, but I love what it does for the dish, adding a mineral flavor and really enhancing the meatiness of the beef. The livers aren't 100% necessary, but I encourage you to try them if you aren't afraid—even using half the amount called for will help.

After the livers have lost their dark red color, I add the rest of my meat. The lamb, pork, and veal combo that Barbara Lynch uses is great, particularly because the veal adds plenty of gelatin to keep things nice and velvety. The problem is that veal can be difficult to find, and expensive. I prefer to use a mix of equal parts lamb, beef, and pork, or even two parts beef to one part pork. We'll deal with the lack of gelatin later on.

At this stage, in my oven-based recipe, I simply cook the meats until they lose their raw color, but not until they start browning—again in the interest of keeping them tender as they cook. I tried using this method in the pressure cooker, and I ended up with far too much liquid (Bolognese soup, anyone?). Instead, for this pressure cooker version, I cook the meat until all of its liquid has evaporated and it starts to sizzle in its own fat. This takes about 20 to 30 minutes, but it's mostly unattended time, aside from the occasional stir. You'll know the meat is ready when the sound switches from the bubble of a simmer (think: witch's cauldron) to the sizzle of a fry (think: witch being lowered into a vat of hot oil).

Another reason you need to reduce that meat juice: You're going to be adding quite a bit more liquid. First I add two cups of dry red or white wine, then let it reduce completely before adding 14 ounces of crushed tomatoes (you can use a good brand of crushed tomatoes like Cento, Muir Glen, or Bianco DiNapoli, or you can start with whole peeled tomatoes and crush them by hand), a cup of chicken stock into which I've dissolved an ounce of powdered gelatin (that's four 0.25-ounce packets), and a cup of heavy cream. Though my other recipes start with milk and call for adding cream only at the end, with this pressure cooker version and the limitations it imposes on reducing—pressure cookers don't allow excess moisture to escape in the form of steam—starting with a more concentrated source of milk proteins and fat was the right call.

Pressure Cooker Ragù Bolognese Recipe (2)

Next I snap on the lid, bring it to high pressure (between 12 and 15 psi is what you're looking for), and let it cook for half an hour. When you release the pressure and pop the lid open, you should first be met with an incredible aroma. You'll find that the sauce is quite thick near the bottom of the pot, with liquid bubbling away at the top; as you stir, it should all loosen up and start to come together. Once the lid is off, it'll take another 30 to 45 minutes to reduce, during which time you may see a slick of red fat starting to form on the surface. Don't worry—it'll all get emulsified into the sauce as you continue to reduce and stir. (Nobody ever said ragù Bolognese was health food.)

Pressure Cooker Ragù Bolognese Recipe (3)

As it starts to achieve its final form, now is the time for last-minute additions. I throw in a big, healthy shaving of finely grated Parmesan cheese, which not only adds flavor but also aids in emulsifying the sauce. A handful of finely minced fresh parsley and basil also hit the pot, along with a final glug of fresh heavy cream and a dash of fish sauce, to boost the savoriness of the dish.

This stuff is so damn good, sometimes I get distracted from cooking the pasta as I hover over the pot with a spoon, tasting sample after sample. To get the seasoning right, of course.

How to Properly Sauce Pasta

No matter how carefully you construct a sauce, it's all for naught if you a) don't use the right pasta, b) don't cook the pasta correctly, and, most importantly, c) don't combine the two together the right way.

Selecting the right pasta is the easy part. For a hearty sauce like Bolognese, you want either wide, long, flat pasta (such as tagliatelle or pappardelle), or short tubular pasta with plenty of ridges to catch sauce (such as rigatoni, rotini, or penne rigate). If you plan on using long, flat pasta, this is one occasion when it's worth it to spring for the fancy stuff.

Fresh pasta has a rougher surface that makes it better for sauce to cling to. Similarly, high-end brands of imported or domestic dried pasta will be shaped with brass extruders, as opposed to the modern Teflon-coated extruders used by inexpensive pasta brands. Brass extruders are slower and more difficult to work with, but they produce pasta with a rougher surface, again, better for grabbing that sauce. Look for dried pasta with a cloudy, crackly-looking surface as opposed to smooth.

Fresh pasta should also be cooked like your Italian grandmother told you to: with plenty of water, so it has room to move about. It'll need just a minute or two in boiling water before it's ready to toss with the sauce. For dried pasta, you don't need as much water—just enough to cover it by an inch or so is plentyand will give you superior saucing results. I cook my dried pasta until it'salmosttender all the way through, with a slight chalky core remaining—it'll finish cooking through in the sauce.

In either case, ignore the advice to make the pasta water taste "as salty as the sea."As Daniel has demonstrated, seawater is far too salty for pasta.About one tablespoon of Diamond Crystal kosher salt (or one and a half teaspoons of table salt) per liter is what you should aim for.

Pressure Cooker Ragù Bolognese Recipe (4)

Once your pasta is cooked comes the critical moment: adjusting consistency. I find it easiest to sauce my pasta in a wide skillet or in a slope-sidedsauteuserather than in a large Dutch oven or stockpot. Ladle in as much sauce as you'll need for the pasta you're cooking (usually a little less than you think you need), and make sure it's piping hot as your pasta finishes. Drain the pasta, reserving some of its starchy cooking water, and immediately transfer it to the pan with the sauce and start tossing and stirring.

Now look closely at the texture of your sauce and the way it's adhering to the pasta. Do you see any droplets of oil in the pan? Is the sauce sticking to the pasta, or is it sliding off? The sauce in the photo above has been over-reduced—see how the pasta is almost completely bare, and how stray bits of meat are sitting on the metal of the pan with practically no liquid pooled around them? That's where that pasta water you reserved comes in.

By adding some of that starchy liquid to the pan and vigorously boiling/stirring it, you help the sauce emulsify and turn creamy, so it clings to the pasta better.

Pressure Cooker Ragù Bolognese Recipe (5)

That'sthe texture you're going for—creamy and saucy. (It is, after all, called a "sauce" and not a "stray bits of meat that are moist, but not quite pasta-coating in texture" for a reason.)

The final key to perfectly textured pasta at the table?Don't wait to eat it!

Pressure Cooker Ragù Bolognese Recipe (6)

From the moment the pasta hits the hot water, you've pushed the plunger on a countdown timer, and you and your guests had better be ready to eat when the pasta is ready to be eaten. See, as hot pasta sits in hot sauce, there are a couple of things going on. First, you're losing moisture content, both from water being absorbed into the pasta and from water evaporating into the atmosphere (steam looks great coming off of food, but it's not doing that food any favors). Second, the sauce is cooling down, and the cooler the sauce gets, the thicker it'll get. Let that pasta and sauce sit too long, and you'll be able to pick it up in one giant clump.

Two things can help here. First, you can warm up your plates by sticking them in a low-temperature oven for a few minutes. The hot plates will keep the pasta and sauce hot. Second, instruct your guests to be rude. Tell them not to sit there watching the food get cold because they don't want to be the first ones to help themselves, or because they're waiting for everyone to pour their wine. Eat the darn pasta—you spent long enough perfecting that sauce!

Well, truth be told, you didn't actually spendthatlong on the sauce, thanks to Mr. Pressure over there, but your guests don't need to know that, do they?

Pressure Cooker Ragù Bolognese Recipe (7)

This should be the only thing going through their heads right now (or should I say mouths?).

November 2015

Recipe Details

Pressure Cooker Ragù Bolognese Recipe

Serves8to 10 servings


  • 1 cup (225ml)homemadeor store-boughtlow-sodium chicken stock

  • 4 packets powdered gelatin (1 ounce; 30g)

  • 2 tablespoons (30ml)extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 pound (225g) finely diced pancetta

  • 1 large onion, finely minced (about 1 1/2 cups; 300g)

  • 2 large carrots, finely chopped (about 1 cup; 200g)

  • 2 large stalks celery, finely chopped (about 1 cup; 200g)

  • 4 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 4 teaspoons; 15g)

  • 1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, minced (about 1/4 ounce; 8g)

  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced (about 1/2 ounce; 15g), divided

  • 1/2 pound (225g) finely minced chicken livers

  • 2 pounds (900g) ground beef chuck (about 20% fat)

  • 1 pound (450g) ground pork shoulder (about 20% fat)

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 cups (450ml) dry red wine

  • 1 (14-ounce; 400g) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano

  • 1 1/2 cups (350ml) heavy cream, divided

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 3 ounces (80g) finely grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons (15 to 30ml) Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce

  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, minced (about 1/4 ounce; 8g)

To Serve:

  • 1 1/2 pounds (700g) pappardelle or tagliatelle, or 1 pound (450g) dried penne

  • Finely grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Place stock in a 1-cup liquid measure and sprinkle with gelatin. Set aside.

  2. Heat olive oil in a pressure cooker over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until pancetta is browned and crisp, about 12 minutes. Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, sage, and half of parsley and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 8 minutes.

    Pressure Cooker Ragù Bolognese Recipe (8)

  3. Increase heat to high, add chicken livers, and cook, stirring, until livers are no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add beef and pork, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring and breaking up meat with a wooden spoon or a potato masher, until meat is no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until excess liquid has evaporated and the meat starts to sizzle, about 25 minutes.

    Pressure Cooker Ragù Bolognese Recipe (9)

  4. Add stock and gelatin mixture, wine, tomatoes, 1 cup heavy cream, and bay leaves. Seal and cook at high pressure (12 to 15 psi) for 30 minutes. Release pressure and remove lid. Simmer over moderate heat until thick and emulsified, 30 to 45 minutes longer.

    Pressure Cooker Ragù Bolognese Recipe (10)

  5. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup heavy cream, Parmesan, fish sauce, basil, and remaining parsley. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly to emulsify. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bolognese can be cooled and stored in sealed containers in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

    Pressure Cooker Ragù Bolognese Recipe (11)

  6. To Serve: Heat Bolognese in a large pot until just simmering. Set aside. Cook pasta in a large pot of well-salted water until just barely al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking liquid. Transfer to a large skillet or sauteuse and add 3/4 of sauce, along with cooking water. Cook over high heat, tossing and stirring gently, until sauce is thick and pasta is coated, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with remaining sauce. Serve immediately, passing extra Parmesan at the table.

Special Equipment

Electric or stovetop pressure cooker


You can use equal parts beef and lamb (1 pound or 450 grams each) in place of the beef.

Read More

  • Sunday Dinner: No-Holds-Barred Lasagna Bolognese
  • The Best Slow-Cooked Bolognese Sauce
  • Ragú Napoletano (Neapolitan-Style Italian Meat Sauce with Pork, Beef, and Sausage)
  • Pasta alla Genovese (Pasta With Neapolitan Beef and Onion Ragù)
  • Roast Pork Shoulder Ragù in Bianco With Pasta
  • Italian
  • Pressure Cooker
  • Beef Chuck
  • Pastas
  • Pork
Pressure Cooker Ragù Bolognese Recipe (2024)


What is the difference between a Bolognese and a ragù? ›

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 ragù Bolognese be lid on or off? ›

It takes one to two hours to hydrolyse connective tissue, so if you cook the sauce for an hour or two with the lid on you should still find it thickens up. How much it thickens depends on the meat used.

How do you make Bolognese taste richer? ›

6 Things That'll Make Your Spaghetti Bolognese Taste SO Much...
  1. Milk. Adding milk to Bolognese is actually a part of the traditional method. ...
  2. Sundried Tomatoes. I can't get enough of sundried toms, and I have been known to sneak a few straight from the jar (boujee snack alert). ...
  3. Anchovies. ...
  4. Wine. ...
  5. Porcini mushrooms. ...
  6. Sugar.
Nov 20, 2019

Is Bolognese better the longer you cook it? ›

Like most recipes the longer you leave it to slowly cook the better the flavour will be but this can also be knocked up with in an hour.

What is the best cut of meat for a ragù? ›

If you want to cut the meat yourself, get cuts like chuck or flank steak, as per the Bolognese tradition, or even a skirt steak (the diaphragm, practically impossible to find at the butchers). The same goes for pork: choose pieces like the thigh which are fatty and tasty.

Do Italians put milk in Bolognese? ›

It sounds unconventional to use milk in a meaty red sauce, but upon further investigation, it makes total sense why Italians swear by it. 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”.

How long should you simmer bolognese? ›

Let this sauce gently simmer and lightly bubble for at least two (2) hours, uncovered, stirring occasionally, tasting as you go because it already smells so good, you can't believe you have to wait that long, so may as well taste as you go.

How do you know when Ragu is done? ›

You will know it's ready by taste. I constantly taste my ragu it's cooking, and you will notice when the meat just gets really soft and falls apart. It's almost impossible to overcook the ragu unless you are using very lean meat.

Why do you put milk in bolognese? ›

Milk is a magical ingredient when it comes to bolognese. First, the lactic acid and calcium in milk help to tenderize the meat. More than that, though, milk balances the wine and tomato, creates a creamier texture and adds richness (similar to how butter or yogurt add more richness and flavor to dishes).

What thickens a bolognese? ›

As the sauce simmers, the water in it will evaporate and the sauce will get thicker. You can also add a little bit of cornstarch to the sauce to thicken it without changing the flavor. If you don't mind altering the sauce's flavor, try adding grated cheese, tomato paste, or even mashed potatoes to thicken it.

How does Gordon Ramsay make the best spaghetti bolognese? ›

Recipe For Gordon Ramsay's Spaghetti Bolognese
  1. Meat. • 1/2 lb Ground beef.
  2. Produce. • 1 Carrot. • 2 cloves Garlic. • 1 Onion. ...
  3. Canned Goods. • 2 tbsp Tomato puree.
  4. Baking & Spices. • 1 tsp Black pepper. • 1 tsp Salt.
  5. Oils & Vinegars. • 2 tbsp Oil.
  6. Dairy. • 1/2 cup Whole milk.
  7. Beer, Wine & Liquor. • 2 tbsp Red wine.

Why is my bolognese tasteless? ›

Your spaghetti sauce may taste bland due to insufficient seasoning. Try adding more salt, herbs (like basil, oregano, or thyme), and other flavor enhancers like garlic, onion, or red pepper flakes. Also, a dash of sugar can balance flavors and bring out the natural sweetness of tomatoes.

What makes bolognese taste better? ›

Next, add the staples that no good Bolognese is without

"Finely chopped carrots, celery and onions. I know it doesn't sound like it, but these are the things that give proper depth of flavour." "Crisp up some bacon or pancetta first. If you want a bit of a spiciness then chorizo also works well.

Does bolognese have garlic? ›

Veggies: This sauce is traditionally made with the Italian soffritto mix of onion, carrot and celery, which I recommend very finely dicing unless you prefer bigger chunks in your sauce. Garlic: It's not traditionally used in this sauce, but I can never resist adding in at least a few cloves, either pressed or minced.

Can I simmer bolognese all day? ›

The not-so-secret Bolognese is an unbelievably deep and complex sauce. It is an all-day braise event that leaves the house with the most amazing aromas of tomatoes, onions, garlic, and wine. Bolognese is for people looking to spend a whole Sunday cooking.

What do Italians call ragù? ›

[raˈɡu ] invariable masculine noun. (Cookery) meat sauce. spaghetti al ragù spaghetti with meat sauce.

Why is bolognese called ragù? ›

The origins of the Bolognese ragù are related to those of the French ragout, a stew of ingredients reduced to small pieces, which became popular in the 18th century.

What does ragù mean in Italian? ›

In Italian cuisine, ragù (Italian: [raˈɡu], from French ragoût) is a meat sauce that is commonly served with pasta. An Italian gastronomic society, Accademia Italiana della Cucina, documented several ragù recipes. The recipes' common characteristics are the presence of meat and the fact that all are sauces for pasta.

Is lasagne ragù the same as bolognese? ›

Bolognese sauce is primarily made using meat and has very little tomato sauce in it. Ragu is any Italian meat sauce cooked using meat, herbs, spices, wine, and of course, a bit of tomato. One difference is that, generally, Ragu sauces are made with red wine. Bolognese is made with white wine.

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