Meat Sauce and Spaghetti

Total Time:
5 hr 45 min
45 min
5 hr

6 to 8 servings

  • Meat sauce:
  • 6 ounces thick sliced bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 whole star anise pod
  • 3 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, 3 minced and 2 sliced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 8 ounces coarsely ground beef chuck
  • 8 ounces coarsely ground pork butt
  • 1 1/4 cups white wine, divided
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 -ounce dried porcini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • Pasta:
  • 1 gallon water
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 pound dry spaghetti
For the meat sauce:

Place an 8-quart Dutch oven over low heat and add the bacon. Cook slowly until the bacon is crispy and has rendered its fat, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan for another use. Add the onion, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Place the clove and star anise into a small spice bag, add to the Dutch oven and stir to combine. Cook, uncovered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions caramelize, 45 to 60 minutes. Add the celery and the 3 cloves of minced garlic to the pan and continue to cook over low heat until the celery is semi-translucent, approximately 30 minutes. Remove the spice bag from the pot.

Meanwhile, place a wide 4-quart saute pan, over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and once it shimmers, add the beef chuck and the pork butt and cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is well browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the meat to a colander to drain. Return the pan to high heat, add 1/2 cup of the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Transfer these bits and any remaining wine to the Dutch oven along with the meat.

Add another 1/2 cup of the wine, evaporated milk, beef broth, and mushrooms to the Dutch oven and stir to combine. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 3 hours.

Once the sauce has been cooking for 1 1/2 hours, place the 4-quart saute pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once it shimmers, add the 2 cloves of sliced garlic and cook for 30 to 45 seconds or until fragrant. Do not allow the garlic to brown. Add the tomatoes, oregano, basil, and marjoram and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, approximately 30 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 cup wine, tomato paste, ketchup, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high; add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes.

Transfer the tomato mixture to the meat mixture and stir to combine. Simmer the sauce, uncovered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, while preparing the pasta.

For the pasta:

Bring the water and salt to a boil over high heat. Carefully add the pasta, stirring quickly to separate. Cover and return to a boil, being careful that the water does not boil over. Once boiling again, uncover and continue to cook until slightly less than al dente, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain in a colander.

Add the pasta to the meat sauce and cook, over low heat, for another 2 to 3 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. Add the Parmesan cheese and toss to combine. Transfer pasta and sauce to a serving bowl or individual bowls and serve.

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    117 Reviews
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    Amazing recipe if you take the time to follow it correctly. Don't skimp on ingredients either, well worth the time and money. And if only cooking for two, you can freeze and save for lasagna. My wife made the best lasagna I have ever had with this sauce.
    I will give it 5 stars. It is a very complex taste. You have to make sure you use a wine you like the taste of and use good dry herbs. I get mine from online. Grocery store spices are weak and add no flavor to a dish like this. Also i used powdered milk instead of evaporated and dried oyster mushrooms since that is what I had on hand.
    I was looking for an "all-day sauce" for a cold rainy day, and I enjoyed the slow process of this recipe. But I didn't feel like the final product was worth the time. I pretty much followed it to the letter, just leaving out the star anise because I didn't have it. It was an expensive, time-consuming process that didn't live up to all that effort or money, imo.
    I made this verbatim, but I cut about a cup of the beef broth out, adding a little more as needed along the way. 
    It's an involved recipelsomething to do every 30 mins or so. My batch cooked for just shy of 6 hours. 
    The flavor was great, but mild. I like a little kick, some hot Italian sausage would be a nice addition. The meat was just so tender, you don't really even need teeth! There is a nice overall mouth feel from the fat in the pork and the olive keeps the pasta nice and separated. 
    Definitely a keeper, and could be a great base for other sauces and variations. I see a lot of potential variations in my future. 
    I do wonder if the length of the first few steps (bacon/onions could be cut a bit. I keep bacon fat in the freezer, next time I'll just use this & try to cut the hour+ on the onions/spice bag down a bit (leaving the spice bag in a little longer in the later steps. 
    AB Strikes again!
    This recipe is fantastic, and as an AB fan, I know he often gives leeway to be innovative with his recipes. I stuck to his recipe; however, I left out the cloves and mushrooms because I didn't have them, and I substituted red wine and white wine vinegar for the white wine and sherry vinegar for the same reasons. The recipe still was probably the best meat sauce I have ever eaten, and is totally worth the 5-6 hours. My apartment smells fantastic still a day later and I will be eating this for the next several days. Love ya AB!
    I'm with Jonesattack, I changed a few things, mostly ingredients I left things out or didn't have on hand and gave it 5 stars. Great basic meat sauce recipe and it would stand well on its own, as is. I left out the bacon only because I've cut back on that meat. I didn't have the anise or mushrooms on hand so they were left behind. I used a courgette that was going south and those worked great. I only used ground beef; I didn't have ground pork. You could try lamb with the ground beef as lamb stands up well cooked for long periods of time. I like the taste and I will continue to use this recipe. I wouldn't use milk as it tends to curdle and this is why the chef chose evaporated milk. 2% or skim "Blue John" is totally not suited for much except to drink and I question even that!
    I am rating this five stars only because I don't want to be one of those people that gives a recipe a bad rating and then goes on to say they changed 50 things..that would be lame. I tried to make a healthier version of this, using olive oil instead of bacon fat and ground turkey instead of the beef and pork. I really should have known better..the turkey doesn't benefit from cooking this long at all, really, plus this method of cooking the tomatoes make them very sweet and ketchupy..with the big flavors of pork and beef it might work, but with turkey it overwhelms. If you are looking for some lean meat sauce I would try something else, or make this recipe as written. Also..I can't believe how many people complain about the milk curdling when it clearly says to use evaporated milk. Don't you think there was a reason for that?
    This recipe is pretty good but requires some tweeking. 3 cups of beef broth is way too much, it dilutes the flavor and makes the sauce watery, use 1 to 1 1/2 cups instead. Same with the wine, take it easy, 3/4 cups is about right. I tried adding the evaporated milk, it soured the flavor. These are my taste preferences but I've been working with this recipe for about a year and have tried many different versions based on this recipe. Half beef broth and half chicken broth makes for a little more depth of flavor. 
    Made it for the first time yesterday. So good. It's a great recipe that takes a lot of tending to. If you have a Sunday where you just want to fiddle about the kitchen and read the paper or that book you been meaning to read this is the recipe for that type of day. No complicated techniques just a lot of steps and ingredients. It is well worth it. Very thick and flavorful. I did not add the pasta into the sauce as I wanted to save the sauce separately if there were leftovers. There weren't. This will work well with double the pasta suggested as well if you serve the sauce over the top as I did. 
    I had no trouble with the evaporated milk curdling as others had experienced. I slowly drizzled the milk into the sauce meat mixture as I stirred it well. No problems. 
    It's an "all afternoon" endeavor but well worth the time spent. I made the recipe exactly as written. Definitely putting this into rotation.
    Mr B has missed a bet on this one. Not the recipe, that was great, my guys raved. I couldn't find star anise, will have to order for next go around, and we used campanelle for the pasta. On the show he mentions a chunkier pasta than spaghetti, and this worked very well. 
    No Mr B. misses the second night.He has forgotten to mention that it also reheats like gangbusters! There are only three of us in this home, so the recipe makes plenty for a couple nights! Good eats, twice!
    This was well worth the time spent making it! I am not a fan of "American spaghetti", but this tasted fantastic. My girlfriend spent 4 months in Italy and said that it tasted just like the pasta dishes she had there. Recipe is simple to follow and in the end you will enjoy a hearty meal.
    Alton has become my "go to" for recipes. Any time another chef cooks something I want to try making I look to see if Alton has a similar recipe first. I have not run across a recipe of his that has been less than great. He usually has more ingredients and steps so it takes more time, but that also equals more love into a good home cooked meal our family can sit down to. I try to make at least one of his recipes a month as a special night for the is relaxing for me so I call it my monthly therapy as well ; Thank You Alton!
    I usually follow Alton's recipe to the T unlike everything else where i just use the recipe as a base Lets just say the sauce was great up until the tomatoes came into the picture. Completely and utterly "muddified" the flavors.The only thing in you mouth was acidity, sweetness and tomatoe. Before the tomatoes there was complexity and depth (well i did use homemade beef stock Very dissapointed that i spent 5 hours on this...veryyy upset with alton. I will never be making this again..If you want a god base for bolognese just do the whole bottle of cab 2 lb of equal parts lamb pork and beef, basic mirepouix but light on the carrots, a can of tomatoes, a cup of paste...s&p oregano basil marjoram (if you have some black summer truffles around throw some ontop the sauce for garnishserve with a nice priorat like Elios (25, light earthy tones with hints of dark fruit...goes great with the sauce.
    This was AMAZING!!! I have been looking for a good meat sauce, and now I have found it! - But I made a lot of changes from the recipe. I made it in 1/2 the time, used 1lb ground chicken and 1/2 pkg. Hillshire farms turkey sausage, no mushrooms, and I used red wine. But it turned out fantastic! I will be making this again soon!
    I've made this recipe a few times and it gets better every time. One big key is to know that your home stove is likely not as powerful as what the recipe is written for. The low burner does not have the onions caramelized after 60 minutes and after playing with a higher heat I will move to a slightly larger burner and slightly higher heat next time. The other thing is the tomato steps. I find you need to add about 1/2 a "step" extra on the heat. I.e. med-high for the first part, med-low for the next to get the almost paste consistency shown in the episode. If you take the time to make sure every cooking step looks like the show......even if you have to lengthen cooking'll be rewarded. I've seen a few reviews about muddy flavor. Double check your salt or add a splash of vinegar at the end. It needs a few extra pinches of salt to finish. If you're having problems with mealy meat consistency, make SURE you are getting coarse grind. It?s a big difference.
    was really good, but regardless of me trying to separate the condensed milk from the wine as much as possible, it still curdled. and it is super good, but man, it's a TON of work. something good to make once every 6 months or so... but not a weekly dish for sure.
    It's not supposed to be condensed milk. You are supposed to use evaporated milk. There is a massive difference. He even says, explicitly in the video, "Do not - I repeat - DO NOT use sweetened, condensed will curdle." I've made this 100 times, and it never curdles because I use evaporated milk.
    If there are any of you out there that think this is not an amazing sauce then you did something wrong making it. This sauce was unbelievable.
    I've made this several times, it always tastes great. However, the milk curdled everytime. I just told my guests that it was the grated parmesan cheese, and nobody complained. I suppose what you don't know still tastes good. I've also made a vegetarian variant. Substitute olive oil for the bacon, vegetable broth for the beef broth, and 1 lb. of roughly chopped mushrooms, white or cremini work best, for the meat. I considered using soy milk in lieu of the evaporated milk, but I drew the line there. I'll go vegetarian, but not vegan!
    This is by far the best spaghetti my hubby & I have ever eaten! The only problem I had was with the tomato paste - my can of it had sprung a leak and my tube was used up last week with some other yummy concoction. I substituted anchovy paste as I had just the right amount of it left in the tube, and it actually turned out fabulously! I will try again with tomato paste to compare, but we both loved it just as it was. No problems with curdled milk or grainy texture - our meat browned into lovely little crunchy bite-sized morsels that were perfection in suspension : For us it was worth the long wait - most of the time was spent doing exactly that anyway. And yes, there are lots of ingredients and 2 pans to deal with, but it was not difficult at all to contend with those issues. All in all, it was great and we cannot wait to serve it to guests.
    The recipe was easy, nothing complicated and the finished product was tasty but I was disappointed that, in spite of following the recipe exactly and carefully monitoring my heat, the milk did leave my sauce with tiny curdles throughout. Again it tasted great but I would NEVER serve it to guests. Next time I will omit the evaporated milk and hope for a much better outcome in terms of appearance.
    Sorry to say, but you did do something wrong then. I've never had it curdle, and I've made it a bunch of times.
    I used powdered dry milk instead of evaporated can milk. They add a lot of weird stuff to evaporated milk these days. Try powdered instead.
    tastes great! but maybe not six hours great.
    It's good, but it's not worth the time. While the flavor was okay, I didn't like the texture of the sauce - mealy, not chunky. There are many other recipes that are much easier and give a better sauce. Sorry, Alton!
    Terrific recipe. This dish is quite an undertaking, but it's well worth all of the time and long ingredient list. I give it just four stars because of the misleading difficulty level on the website. I have a lot of cooking experience, but I still would not call this recipe "easy". There are a lot of steps to juggle, and different pans to keep track of at once. As long as you understand what you're getting into (and have set aside an entire afternoon for it, you should be very successful.
    Was a great recipe, everyone loved it. I was very thick at the end, and I found myself adding a can of crushed tomatoes about 45 min before the end to thin it just a little. Went well mixed with spaghetti, or mixed in with macaroni for lunches. Still have some in the freezer to try in lasagna later.
    Just cooked this dish, hoping for great things after five hours of work and relatively exotic and expensive ingredients. I was disappointed. All the cooking takes away even a hint of brightness to any of the flavors and everything except the meat seems to dissolve into a morass of nothing. Why in the world you need to cook this five hours is beyond me. The word I'd use to describe this dish is "dour". Our standby Jimmy Dean sausage in bottled Prego sauce is a lot better.
    Then you clearly know nothing of bolognese. It's supposed to be creamy, almost paste-like. If you properly season and build the layers, it's an incredibly condensed mass of flavor.
    Like another reviewer said, it was time consuming, but oh so delicious. Perfect for a Sunday dinner.
    It was alot of work, very time consuming, but worth it. My husband and I loved it. Followed the recipe exactly, evap milk went fine, never curdled. Love watching the show. Thanks.
    dear courtney, you did not follow the recipe to a t, if you added the bacon as you mentioned you did... that was supposed to be saved for another use...what else did you miss?....maybe that is why you had a negative experience here. :/
    Very good. Yet despite Alton's assurances, the evaporated milk did curdle quite a bit when added. Next time I will be sure to add the milk last, after the meat, wine, and broth.
    Use this to make the red meat sauce in conjunction with Giada's lasagna rolls. Pinch of sugar and this recipe is a solid for anytime you need a tomato based sauce.
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