White Bolognese Rigatoni
This white bolognese meat sauce combines beef and spicy Italian sausage in a silky, rich sauce that’s perfect for pasta. I love a good bowl of bolognese sauce over my favorite pasta for a cozy dinner. White bolognese is a less acidic sauce that really lets all the flavors shine–it’ll be your new favorite!
White Bolognese vs Red Bolognese Sauce
Bolognese sauce is an Italian slow-cooked meat sauce from the city of Bologna. The backbone of the sauce is soffrito (or mirepoix in French cooking!): onions, celery, and carrot with finely minced beef or pork. These ingredients simmer with some white wine, milk, and tomato paste to achieve a rich and hearty sauce served with tagliatelle. Bolognese is also known as ‘ragu’. In Naples, bolognese sauce contains more tomatoes and resembles red meat sauces in the US.
White bolognese sauce ditches the tomatoes for a combination of white wine, cream, and chicken stock. The flavor is more subtle but truly lets all the ingredients shine in a way that traditional bolognese sauce can’t. I love white bolognese year-round but it really embodies the perfect fall and winter dish!
How to Make White Bolognese Sauce
Making white bolognese sauce requires a bit of prep, but it’s really a set and forget kind of dinner! You can also make it days in advance as the flavor only gets better the longer it sits.
White Bolognese Sauce Ingredients
- Meats. This recipe calls for ground veal and hot Italian sausage, as well as pancetta for flavor. Swap in 90/10 ground sirloin if you can’t find veal.
- Veggies. Normally a soffrito is onion, celery, and carrot but I’m mixing things up with leeks, shallot, celery, carrot, and fennel. Don’t forget the garlic!
- Herbs. Frying sage leaves gives the sauce such a great flavor and the crispy sage is perfect for garnish. A couple of bay leaves add lots of flavor to the sauce.
- Wine. Opt for a dry white wine here or dry vermouth. Always use a quality wine that you’d want to drink.
- Cream. Heavy cream adds body to the sauce and helps tenderize and break down the meats.
- Chicken stock. Homemade is always best here!
- Parmesan. Ditch the pre-grated stuff and get a small wedge of parmesan cheese. Add the rind to the sauce for extra flavor and freshly grate the rest on top when serving.
Ground veal and Italian sausage give this sauce so much flavor, but you could also swap in 90/10 ground sirloin and either regular (not hot) Italian sausage or ground pork. Know that the flavor will be different! If you have trouble finding pancetta, you can swap in finely diced thick-cut bacon.
I do not recommend swapping anything in for the cream. I’ve tested the recipe with both whole milk and half-and-half and the results just aren’t as good.
Making white bolognese gluten-free
White bolognese sauce is naturally gluten-free so just add your favorite gluten-free pasta in place of regular pasta and you’re good to go!
How to serve white bolognese rigatoni
This recipe makes a ton of sauce! I found that I can feed 4 comfortably with about half the amount of sauce and freeze the rest. I also like to make this recipe at least a day in advance as the flavors get even better.
To serve the pasta add about half or 2/3 of the sauce to a large skillet with 1 1/2 cups starchy pasta water and bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes. Then, add another 1/3 cup heavy cream and the al dente rigatoni. Simmer that for about 2-3 minutes until the sauce is glossy and coats the pasta. Then, stir in 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and stir until the sauce is perfectly creamy. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl and top with the crispy sage and more freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Other Pasta Recipes to Try
This post contains affiliate links from which I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links allow me to keep providing great recipes for free and I never recommend products that I don’t love and personally own.
White Bolognese Rigatoni
White Bolognese Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8-10 large sage leaves
- 4 oz pancetta finely diced
- 1 lb ground veal
- 1 lb ground hot Italian sausage removed from casings
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 leek light green and white parts only, finely diced
- 1 large shallot finely diced
- 3 ribs celery finely diced
- 1 fennel bulb cored and finely diced
- 2 carrots peeled and finely diced
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 12 oz 1 1/2 cups cups homemade chicken stock
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg optional
- 4 oz parmesan cheese rind reserved
- Kosher salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 16 oz rigatoni pasta
- 1 1/2 cups reserved pasta water
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- Grated parmesan cheese
- In a large braiser or dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter is foamy, add the sage leaves and fry for 3-4 minutes, flipping once, until crispy. Transfer the sage leaves to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Add the pancetta to the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a bowl. Add the ground veal and Italian sausage to the pan and use a spoon to break up the meat, cooking until browned and most of the liquid has evaporated. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to the same bowl with the pancetta.
- Add the diced leek, shallot, carrot, and celery to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are softened and slightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Return the ground meat and pancetta to the pan and add the white wine. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, using a spoon to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.
- Add the chicken stock, cream, nutmeg, bay leaves, and the rind of the parmesan cheese and bring to a simmer. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Cover loosely with a lid to allow for some evaporation and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- To serve: Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook to al dente. Reserve 1 1/2 cups starchy pasta water and then drain. In a large skillet, add half of the sauce with the pasta water and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until some of the liquid has evaporated. Add the heavy cream and the al dente pasta to the pot. Cook for another 4-5 minutes until the sauce is glossy and coats the pasta. Stir in 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the crispy sage and more freshly grated parmesan cheese.