This autumn beef bolognese with butternut squash is *almost* traditional, but completely delicious. It’s one of my favorites for chilly days, and is a comforting classic. This recipe uses ground beef, as well as butternut squash to create the most luscious and rich ragú that’s perfect for enjoying on chilly nights. It’s a little bit of a labor of love, but trust me when I say it’s absolutely worth the time and effort. You’ll want to make it again and again.
A comforting classic
When I think comfort food, I think bolognese. A rich and hearty meat sauce slow cooked for hours, it’s the epitome of a cozy and filling meal. My all time favorite bolognese recipe is from Marcella Hazan, in her absolutely indispensable book “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking”. This autumn beef bolognese recipe is an adaptation of her beloved bolognese recipe. It plays on the traditional framework to bring you a sauce that’s very familiar, a bit more seasonal, and just as delicious.
The butternut squash adds another layer of texture and flavor to the sauce, that’s extra seasonal, and extra comforting. The long cooking process gives it the silkiest texture that’s hard to resist!
How to make this autumn beef bolognese
While this recipe does require a bit of time to make, most of it is hands off, and the techniques involved are very simple. You don’t need much special equipment. However, I do recommend you use a large, heavy bottomed pot, such as a dutch oven. Since the sauce needs to cook for so long, you want something that is nice and thick to retain the heat.
In Italian cooking, the base of finely diced carrots, celery, and onion is called a soffritto. First, start by sautéing the soffritto until the onion turns translucent in the heavy bottomed pot.
After the soffritto has begun to soften, we next add the beef. Add the milk…
YES! The milk is an absolute must in this recipe. Not only does it give a much more complex depth of flavor when paired with the tomatoes, but it also makes the meat so much more tender. However, if you cannot have dairy, you can replace with a plant based milk alternative of your choice.
After the milk has bubbled off, we next add the spices. I’ve added a bit of cinnamon to this recipe, as it helps to give some extra warmth and a beautiful savory layer to the sauce.
Next, add the white wine, and continue to cook until it has evaporated. Add the tomatoes and their juices. Next, add the diced butternut squash. Stir well to make sure to incorporate all the ingredients. Cook at medium heat until the tomatoes begin to bubble, and then reduce the heat to a very slow and gentle simmer.
Continue to cook the bolognese uncovered on low heat for 3 hours, until all of the liquid is gone and you’re left with a thick, meaty, and utterly luscious ragú sauce.
I love to use papardelle with this autumn beef bolognese. You can make it fresh, or use store bought. If you’d like to try a different kind of pasta, any large, ridged noodle would be great, such as rigatoni. Remember, this is a thick ragú, not a very wet sauce. So you want to pick a pasta that has enough surface area for a good sauce-to-pasta ratio.
What to serve with this autumn beef bolognese
This ragú serves up a very hearty meal on its own, topped simply with a bit of parmesan. A side salad, like my Castelfranco Radicchio Salad with Fennel, Orange, and Sumac Dressing would be a wonderful addition to help cut the richness.
How to store this ragú
This autumn beef bolognese can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for several months. It’s fantastic for meal prepping, and can be batched and stored in the freezer until you’re ready to enjoy it.
I hope you give this Autumn Beef Bolognese a try! Be sure to tag me on instagram so I can see your culinary creations, and leave me a comment below! Your feedback helps other bakers and home cooks who are giving this recipe a try, and I love hearing about your creations!