Ragu Vs. Bolognese | Find The Difference

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Italian cuisine is known for its sauces, and it’s hard to miss the rich and flavorful Ragu and Bolognese sauces. Many people take both names in one breath, mistaking them for one sauce. However, that’s not the case.

Ragu Vs. Bolognese

So, what is the difference between Ragu and Bolognese? Bolognese is a type of ragu sauce with different tastes and shapes. While both sauces may have a lot of similarities, the difference lies in how they are prepared and used. Moreover, Ragu and Bolognese have different key ingredients.

This may make you wonder how both the sauces made of meat and tomato base are not similar. The difference lies in the ingredients. For example, Ragu is made using red wine, while Bolognese uses dry white wine.

In the article below, you will find out how different Ragu and Bolognese sauces are. The two are neither synonymous nor interchangeable. 

Ragu Vs. Bolognese |Difference Table

SauceBolognese SauceRagu Sauce
FlavorMeaty, and rich flavor with the tanginess from tomatoes and umami flavorings.Meaty, creamy, rich, and savory flavor with umami undertones.
IngredientsMeat, vegetables, broth, pureed tomatoes, herbs, and spices with white wine.Meat, vegetables, broth, heavy cream, pureed tomatoes, herbs, and spices with red wine.
UsesWider shaped pasta, lasagna Spaghetti or tube- like pasta – Penne, ziti, bucatini, tubini. 
TextureThick and smooth sauce.Slightly thicker than Bolognese and chunkier.
PopularityKnown world-wide.Equally famous but made more popular by the “Ragù” brand.
OriginBologna, Italy.Emilia-Romagna, Italy. 
Method of CookingSlow-cooked and simmered for 4-6 hours.Slow-cooked and simmered for 4-6 hours.
ColorBrownish redLight red

What is Ragu Sauce?

Ragu sauce

Ragu is an Italian meat sauce cooked using minced meat, herbs, spices, wine, and a good amount of tomato. It originated in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, Naples. 

Most of the time, Ragu is considered to be a tomato sauce with meat in it. However, it is the opposite. Ragu is a meat-based sauce prepared with a small amount of tomato sauce added to it.

The lower class created Ragu in Italy to maximize flavor from what little meat they could afford. This sauce is made from minced and chopped beef, but other types of meat can also be used in its preparation, like veal, lamb, pork, fish, or poultry.

A key ingredient in making Ragu is red wine. Ragù refers to a broader category of Italian sauces, and one version of it is Bolognese.

What is Bolognese Sauce?

Bolognese sauce

Bolognese is a prominent sauce used all over the world. Another name for Bolognese is Ragu alla Bolognese. That is because Bolognese is a variety of Ragu sauce. This sauce originated in a place called Bologna in Italy.

Like Ragu, this sauce is also a meat-based sauce made with vegetables, herbs, spices, wine, and broth, but it uses less tomato. Bolognese sauce relies heavily on meat, specifically beef and seasonings.

Unlike Ragu, Bolognese uses white wine for its preparation. 

By now, I’m sure you must have found two key differences between the two sauces. Read on to learn more about how different Ragu and Bolognese are, despite being the same.

Ragu Vs. Bolognese | What’s The Difference?

Ragu Vs. Bolognese

1. Appearance

By looking at the ingredients list of Ragu and Bolognese sauce, you will hardly notice any difference between the two. However, both sauces are made of two different key ingredients that turn their color and appearance.

To simply describe the color difference between the two sauces, Ragu has a lighter appearance and a reddish tone because of the presence of extra tomatoes and milk or cream. 

In comparison, Bolognese has a dark reddish color, which some may also refer to as brown. You will also notice a difference in their consistency which you will find below. 

2. Taste

In terms of taste, both sauces are rich, savory, and meaty and have umami undertones. But the difference lies in the tanginess. Ragu has a tangier taste as compared to Bolognese due to the presence of more tomatoes and red wine. 

3. Texture 

A big difference lies in the texture of the two sauces. In comparison to Bolognese, Ragu has a thick consistency. The meats and vegetables are finely diced to make Bolognese sauce, which makes the texture of a Bolognese much finer than that of a Ragù.

Additionally, the meat for a Bolognese is not browned or caramelized, cooked until the Maillard reaction causes a brown crust. The sauce also forms a creamy texture due to adding milk or creamy.

On the other hand, Ragu is a chunkier and thicker sauce than crushed tomatoes, and coarsely chopped meat and vegetables are used to prepare it.

4. Ingredients

Both Ragu and Bolognese sauces have more or less the same ingredient list. While both sauce use carrots, celery, onions, tomato sauce, or peeled tomatoes for their preparation, the difference lie in the kind of wine, meat, cream, or milk used.

Ragu is a meat-based sauce typically made of beef, but other meats can also be used, like veal, lamb, pork, fish, or poultry. Bolognese, on the other hand, is made using beef. 

As for the wines used in these sauces, Ragu is prepared with red wine, whereas Bolognese is prepared with white wine.

Moreover, milk or cream is used to make Ragu sauce, an optional ingredient for Bolognese.

5. Uses

So far, you have learned how different both the sauces are in their ingredients list, consistency, and flavor. These differences make both sauces suitable for different kinds of pasta.

With its thick, chunky, and creamy consistency, Ragu is preferably used in tube-shaped pasta like penne, ziti, bucatini, tubini, and tortiglioni so that the meaty chunks mix well with them.

Whereas, with its smoother consistency, Bolognese sauce goes well with fresh tagliatelle, spaghetti, fettuccine, pappardelle, or lasagne pasta.

Ragu Vs. Bolognese | Which One Is More Versatile?

Ragu and Bolognese are often confused because of the similarity in their ingredients. But even the slightest variation makes a difference, which is true for this case. 

Ragu and Bolognese belong to the same family of sauces. However, Ragu is a more versatile definition of a recipe that has many variations. You can alter the basic ingredients in it or add to them. 

And Bolognese is an example of it. Bolognese is a specific type of ragu sauce originally from the city of Bologna in the region of Emilia Romagna. It is a variation of Ragu that delivers a slightly different taste and has a different texture and appearance.

Ragù leaves more room for creativity. You can add any kind of meat to Ragu, as this sauce can take many forms and directions.

Ragu Vs. Bolognese | Which One Is Healthier?

On the health radar, Ragu and Bolognese are both good for health. Both sauces use beef as the key ingredient, a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Moreover, both sauces use vegetables and tomatoes, which are a great source of vitamin C, potassium, and folate.

Top Recipes With Ragu

Making pasta using Ragu sauce is a common practice. But you should check out how to use Ragu in many more delectable ways. 

1. Beef Ragu with Parmesan Gnocchi

Parmesan gnocchi is a delectable comfort food that tastes great with a large variety of sauces. But have you ever thought about pairing it with Beef Ragu?

Try out this flavorful beef ragu with parmesan gnocchi recipe that uses perfectly cooked beef ragu with delicate gnocchi. This dish is the perfect choice for chilly winter days. 

2. Roasted Red Pepper Harissa Lamb Ragu

Roasted Red Pepper Harissa Lamb Ragu

Enjoy the goddess of Harissa with Ragu by making this roasted red pepper Harrisa lamb Ragu and serving it with your choice of pasta. 

3. Ragu Stuffed Peppers

Ragu Stuffed Peppers

You can make the most of Ragu by stuffing it inside bell peppers. This dish makes for a great side. This dish is also a good way of utilizing the leftover Ragu most uniquely. Check out the Ragu stuffed peppers recipe here.

4. Pizza Bombs

Try having pizza in a new way that will blow your mind away. This dish makes for a great appetizer that utilizes the flavors of Ragu in the best way possible.

All you have to do is get some Crescent dough and fill it with Ragu, cheese, and pepperoni. Line a muffin tray with crescent dough, cut it into small triangles and fill it up with Ragu. 

Top Recipes With Bolognese

1. Polenta Bolognese

If you are looking for comfort food, polenta Bolognese may be your best discovery. This dish makes the best use of Bolognese by serving it over earthy-flavored polenta. Check out the recipe here to indulge in a hearty meal. 

2. Bolognese Pasta

If pasta sets your mood right, try out this amazing recipe of Bolognese Pasta made with ground beef, onion, celery, carrots, white wine, and tomato paste, served over a bed of tagliatelle or dry rigatoni.

3. Bolognese Pie

Bolognese pie

Got some leftover Bolognese? Turn it into a pie using this recipe. All you have to do is line a pie tin with puff pastry and fill it up with flavorful Bolognese. Bake the pie and enjoy the rich and savory flavors of Bolognese.

4. Bolognese Bruschetta

Bolognese Bruschetta

Bruschetta is a versatile appetizer that uses slices of toasted baguette with fresh ripened tomatoes, basil, garlic, mozzarella, and olive oil. But you can turn your regular bruschetta into a meaty delicacy by topping it over with Bolognese.

Check out this Bolognese bruschetta recipe to make a delectable appetizer.

5. Bolognese Pull Apart Sliders

Bolognese Pull Apart Sliders

Another great way to use Bolognese in a different way is to make Bolognese pull-apart sliders. These sliders are the perfect snack to make for any season. 

Bolognese pull-apart sliders are made with homemade bread dough filled with cheese and Bolognese sauce. All you have to do is bake the sliders and enjoy the hot straight out of the oven. 

Can We Substitute Ragu With Bolognese?

Ragu can be substituted with Bolognese as both sauces more or less have similar ingredients. However, you should keep in mind that Ragu has a chunkier and thicker consistency than Bolognese. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Ragu and Bolognese the same sauce?

Bolognese is a type of ragu sauce. Ragu and Bolognese have a lot of similarities, but the difference lies in how they are prepared and used. 

What makes a sauce a ragu?

Ragu is a sauce made from tomatoes and ground or chopped meat. It is cooked with celery, onions and carrots, ground beef and/or pork, veal, poultry, some red wine, and aromatic herbs like basil and bay leaf.

What is Bolognese made of?

Bolognese sauce is made with minced beef, celery, onions, carrots, and white wine.

Can we use Ragu as a substitute for Bolognese?

Yes, Ragu can be used as a substitute for Bolognese. However, the texture of the sauce will be thicker.

What pasta pairs with Ragu?

Ragu is used in tube-shaped pasta like penne, ziti, bucatini, tubini, and tortiglioni so that the meaty chunks mix well with them.

What pasta pairs with Bolognese?

Bolognese sauce goes well with fresh tagliatelle, spaghetti, fettuccine, pappardelle, or lasagne pasta.


Ragu and Bolognese belong to the same family but have different characteristics. Both sauces have their own unique flavors and serve different purposes. While ragu makes the best use of tomato, they take a back seat in Bolognese. Additionally, the meat and kind of wine used in both sauces differ.

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