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My family’s favorite Pesto Pasta Bolognese. Slow cooked Italian Bolognese sauce with a mix of meat, vegetables, tomatoes, and a splash of vodka to create the most delicious and rich Bolognese. A little pesto adds a pop of fresh flavor. Serve this sauce over rigatoni pasta and top with plenty of freshly grated parmesan cheese. All it needs is a side of crusty bread for mopping up all that sauce. You simply can’t go wrong with this warming Bolognese.

My Family’s Favorite Pesto Pasta Bolognese |

December recipes are a little different for me. Each one I share really needs to feel special. I don’t just want a dish to serve on Monday night, but one you can serve at your next dinner party too.

With so much entertaining happening during the busy holiday season, we need dinners that are simple, but special, you know?

This Bolognese has become my family’s favorite. My brothers especially love this. It’s perfect to serve while everyone is home for Christmas break!

I first made this for my older brother. My siblings have been asking me to make them a good, classic Bolognese dinner for years. I knew when I finally decided to make this recipe that I had to get the sauce just right. It took a few rounds of testing – but no one seemed to mind.

Each version was slightly different, but the recipe I landed on is truly perfect.

It has a few elements that really make it extra special.

My Family’s Favorite Pesto Pasta Bolognese |

The details

What’s awesome about this sauce is that it’s mostly hands-off and simply simmers on the stove all day long. In fact, it’s even better if you can make the sauce the day before to really allow the amazing flavors to develop.

Start by cooking some pancetta. The pancetta is pretty traditional in an Italian style Bolognese and adds a really deep flavor to the sauce. Next add in the veggies, then all the meats. I love to use a combination of ground beef, bison, and pork.

When the meat is browned, stir in the tomatoes and cook until they really coat all of the meat. Then add some vodka, just like you’d make an alla vodka sauce. The vodka balances the tomatoes and creates the most flavorful sauce.

Stir in water and simmer the sauce with thyme and a parmesan rind.

My Family’s Favorite Pesto Pasta Bolognese |

Finish it up

The longer you can cook the sauce over low heat, the better. The more time it has to cook, the more flavor it will develop. And as I said, this is great for making the day before too.

When you’re ready to serve, just boil off some pasta and then toss the sauce with the pasta. I usually add a handful of parmesan cheese too. Then just serve and enjoy! Oh, and be sure to serve with chunks of crusty bread for mopping up all that sauce…delicious.

This recipe feeds a lot, probably way more than you need, so chances are you’ll have leftovers. And those leftovers…they are amazing.

You can serve throughout the week with pasta or make cheesy stuffed peppers (our favorite). You can also freeze the leftover sauce too. The options are endless!

My Family’s Favorite Pesto Pasta Bolognese |

Looking for other family dinner recipes? Here are a few ideas: 

Creamy White Chicken Chili

Cider Braised Short Ribs with Caramelized Onions

30 Minute Coq au Vin Chicken Meatballs

Lastly, if you make my family’s favorite Pesto Pasta Bolognese be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!

My Family’s Favorite Pesto Pasta Bolognese

Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 25 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories Per Serving: 783 kcal

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.



  • 1. In a large dutch oven, cook the pancetta over medium heat, until crispy, 5 minutes. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and red pepper, and cook until the veggies are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 minute.
    2. Add the beef, bison, and pork. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up the meat as it cooks, until browned all over, 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook 5 minutes, then pour in the vodka. Add the crushed tomatoes, 3 cups water, and fish sauce. Stir in the thyme, bay leaf, and parmesan rind. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 2-3 hours or up to all day. If the sauce seems dry at any point, add up to 1 cup water.
    3. Discard the thyme, bay leaf, and parmesan rind. Stir in the milk and pesto, cook until warmed through, 10-15 minutes.
    4. Meanwhile, boil the pasta until al dente. Drain and add back to the pot. Ladle the sauce over the pasta and toss to combine. Divide the pasta among bowls and ladle the bolognese over top. Serve topped with parmesan, and fresh herbs. Enjoy!
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My Family’s Favorite Pesto Pasta Bolognese |

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  1. 5 stars
    Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe! Made this last night for a group of 12ppl and still have some sauce left over. Followed the recipe exactly and it was fantastic!

    1. Hey there! Thank you so so much for trying out the recipe! I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment as well! 🙂 xT

  2. 5 stars
    I make an 8 hr bolognese usually, but today I didn’t have that kind of time. Your recipes are always delicious so we tried this version today. Kid you not- incredible for only 2-3 hrs. It’s delicious- I will be making this one again!