Butcher Shop Bolognese

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By Nancy Buchanan



by Nancy Buchanan on January 18, 2012

No, I didn’t clean out the butcher shop and come up with this dish.

But seriously – isn’t that the best  name? That’s what I thought when I came  across this recipe in Barbara Lynch’s book, Stir.

So, of course I had to make it.  As I read through the ingredients I thought it might be a bit of a tough sell around  here.

Not because of the chicken livers (more on that in a bit) but because if you asked my family, the bolognese sauce I make (my mom’s recipe known as “spaghetti sauce” ) is in the top 5 of their all time favorite recipes. Competing with that was going to be nothing short of a challenge and one that I was not completely looking forward to -you purists out there know exactly what I am talking about, right?

But forge ahead I did.

The verdict? “Really, really good. But not the same as Grandma’s.”

Butcher Shop BologneseBC1 Butcher Shop Bolognese

But that is ok. There is room for more than one bolognese in this household – as I bet there is in yours.

Ok, and the chicken livers? That’s the secret to this sauce according to Lynch. And she is spot on. They add a surprising depth of flavor to the sauce and make this a wonderful dish to serve on a weeknight but also for a casual get together with friends. Paired with a good bottle of red wine , some lightly dressed greens and some good crusty bread, you’ve got an easy and fabulous dinner.

And as Barbara says, the chicken livers will be our little secret, ok?

Butcher Shop Bolognese

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 3 hours

3 hours, 45 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Serving Size: Enough for 1 1/2 lbs of pasta

I followed this recipe almost exactly. If you can find all three meats it is worth the effort - if you can't you can make it with any two of them but the flavor won't be quite the same. The only changes I made were to add salt after the sauce cooked down a bit so that I did not over salt the dish and I also added a large pinch of red pepper flakes. Finally, I used good, San Marzano tomatoes and omitted the cream - the sauce was very rich all on its own!


  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 5 oz. chicken livers, trimmed and minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1/2 lb. ground veal
  • 1/2 lb. ground pork
  • 1/2 lb. ground lamb
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock or chicken stock
  • 1 - 141/2 oz. can chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup basil
  • 1/2 cup cream (optional)
  • freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


  1. In a large dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the chicken livers and sage. Season with pepper and cook, stirring until the livers are no longer red, about 3 minutes.
  2. In batches, add the ground meat, letting it brown before adding the next batch. Continue cooking until no pink remains.
  3. Drain off most of the fat and then add the red wine. Bring the mixture up to a boil, stirring to break up the meat and cook until almost all of the wine is gone, about 10 - 15 minutes. Add the stock, tomatoes and basil. Bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer (an occasional bubble). Cook, uncovered until the sauce is thick, dark and rich, for at least 1 hour - preferably longer. Stir in the cream, if using and simmer for another 10 minutes or so to heat it through or longer if you prefer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. You can make the sauce up to 2 days in advance and refrigerate. The sauce also freezes beautifully. If freezing, let the sauce cool (put in a metal bowl set into another bowl filled with ice water) before freezing.
 Butcher Shop Bolognese

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Judy January 19, 2012 at 6:31 am

My family would say there is no room in our house for two bolognese sauces (they are my biggest fans ;)), so I keep my adventurous bent in other areas. The tomatoes, the red pepper flakes, I’m with you on those, however, the cream is not optional for us, it makes a difference. I like the noodles you chose for the dish, very nice.


Nancy January 20, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Hi Judy! I was tempted to add the cream but after tasting the sauce, I just couldn’t bring myself to add it. Will definitely try it with the next batch – I am betting it would be divine!!


aida mollenkamp January 19, 2012 at 9:15 am

Wow, there are so many types of meat in this bolognese. I usually stick to veal or pork but this recipe definitely seems worth a try!


the urban baker January 19, 2012 at 10:24 am

Never would have coined bolognese as a one-pot, “butcher shop” meal, but that it is. Mine has pork, veal, beef, and pancetta. Love that term and I am sure your meal was perfectly delicious!


HeatherChristo January 19, 2012 at 11:51 am

bolognese is one of the most delicious sauces on earth. My husband take it BEYOND seriously, and is the “red sauce” maker in this house. This is a unique style that looks like a must try!


marla {family fresh cooking} January 19, 2012 at 11:59 am

Oh how I wish we had this for dinner tonight ~ such a hearty pasta perfect for pares ski!


Lucy Lean January 19, 2012 at 12:36 pm

I love Barbara Lynch and this recipe looks every bit as goods what I’d expect from her – thanks for sharing.


Lana @ Never Enough Thyme January 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Very interesting adding chicken livers to the sauce. Hmmm…don’t think I’ve ever had a bolognese with chicken livers. I would think they’d make for a very rich sauce. So going to try this!


Nancy January 20, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Hi Lana,

I was really surprised at the depth of flavor they added to the sauce – definitely worth trying, even if you don’t like liver!


Lori January 19, 2012 at 5:32 pm

I’m going to have to step out of my comfort zone on this one and move toward the chicken livers instead of away. It will be hard, but you’ve made it look so delicious, how could I not try?

Happy New Year Nancy! I hope it’s off to a good start for you :).


Nancy January 20, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Hi Lori! Happy New Year to you too! Believe me I know what you mean – I was afraid my family would run from this sauce – but they totally embraced it and scarfed down the rest of the sauce the next day as a post workout snack!


Chef Debbi January 19, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Looks lovely, can’t wait to try!
Thanks Nancy!


Allison [Girl's Guide to Social Media] January 19, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Delish! This would be a perfect meal the evening before one of my half marathons.


Priscilla - She's Cookin' January 19, 2012 at 10:54 pm

Well then you must share grandma’s sauce recipe! Funny that you should mention chicken livers, I remember them fondly (yes, fondly) from my early restaurant days – they play front and center in a recipe I’ll be posting soon and I can imagine the depth of flavor they added to your sauce!


Nancy January 20, 2012 at 5:18 pm

I definitely plan to share my mom’s recipe! Can’t wait to see what you post featuring chicken livers – I was truly surprised at the depth of flavor they imparted!


Carolyn January 20, 2012 at 4:13 am

Love it! I guess it’s called that because of all the different types of meat in it. It looks wonderful!


Kitchen Runway January 20, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Nancy – it’s lovely!! Bolognese is one of my favorites! By the way I’m coming over for grandma’s “spaghetti” soon! xoxo!


Linda January 21, 2012 at 8:17 am

I really love it if you’d share your family’s “Top 5″ recipes! I’m sure they’d be a hit with all your readers. Oh, and by the way, those pesky chicken livers are the keystone ingredient to a true, authentic Bolognese sauce; they are required in Bologna, that’s for sure. So, readers who are waffling on adding them, just go ahead! You won’t really be aware they’re in there, but the sauce is definitely NOT the same without them! :)


Maris (In Good Taste) January 22, 2012 at 4:43 am

Looks like yummy comfort food to me!


Lora @cakeduchess January 23, 2012 at 5:46 am

I never heard of chicken livers in a Bolognese either but it sounds and looks like a hit! We love to make a nice Bolognese on Sunday for lunch. :)


Magic of Spice January 30, 2012 at 7:04 pm

The chicken livers would add a unique depth of flavor here…really nice recipe for sure. And you photos are gorgeous, as always :)


Amy Scattaglia April 27, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Absolutely no flavor whatsoever!!! I followed the recipe exactly and was very disappointed:(


Nancy April 30, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Hello Amy,

I am so sorry that you didn’t enjoy the Bolognese sauce. It is very different from the typical “spaghetti sauce” which is much more assertive in flavor. Bolognese, in contrast is much, much subtler in flavor and is really about the meat – with a marinara it is definitely about the tomatoes and the acidity.


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