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Bison Bolognese

My spicy Bison Bolognese is one of my favorite kinds of spaghetti sauce and is one of our family favorites. You can use ground beef if you prefer, or almost any type of ground wild game like venison, elk, or even ground moose.

Easy Homemade Bolognese

Bison Bolognese Recipe

When you are craving a hearty bowl of pasta that your whole family will love, look no further than this bison bolognese. This hearty spaghetti with meat sauce is simple to prepare and only has to simmer for about 45 minutes before you have a pot of steaming savory tomato sauce that is packed so full of meat and flavor that you’re going to want to double this already giant batch to freeze for later. Of course, if you want a deeper, richer, more authentic flavor, you’ll settle in for the afternoon and let it simmer for 2-3 hours before serving.

What is bolognese?

Bolognese sauce is an Italian sauce that is heavy on the meat, and traditionally light on the tomato and includes milk or cream. This recipe isn’t an authentic bolognese in that sense because I love the tomato, but this recipe is definitely more bolognese than marinara, so there you have it. 

I suppose an argument could be made for calling this a spaghetti and meat sauce, but that’s not what I ended up landing on here. No matter what you want to call it, you’re going to want to whip this up one of these nights, stat.

You need more PASTA in your life.

Bison Bolognese

Homemade Bolognese shopping list

Wondering if you have to hit the store? Here’s the list of items you’ll need to make this recipe. For specific amounts, please refer to the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post.

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  • Yellow onion
  • Garlic
  • Ground bison
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Oregano
  • Olive oil
  • Crushed tomatoes
  • Diced tomatoes
  • San marzano tomatoes
  • Red wine
  • Basil
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Red bell pepper
  • Orange bell pepper

Try our Creamy Shrimp Alfredo too!

Bison Bolognese

How to make Homemade Bolognese Sauce

Bolognese sauce is easy to make, but it does require some forethought and some time. A great bolognese can take several hours to make properly, so make sure you have some mental energy or a really great reminder/alarm system to keep an eye on it. 

This is just the overview so you can see what you’re actually getting into here. When you are cooking, you’ll want to use the full recipe at the bottom of the page.



The first step is to brown your meat, onions and garlic in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Don’t skimp on the seasoning when you cook your meat. The little things really make a big difference as you build the various layers of your sauce.



Next, add in the red wine. Don’t skip this part either. A good full-bodies red wine with Pinot Noir or Malbec will be perfect here. You don’t need a lot, maybe a cup or a bit more if you are feeling generous with your bottle, but it makes a really big difference in the end result.


Tomato time

Next comes the tomatoes and the olive oil and the rest of the seasonings. Get the best tomatoes you can. I have mine on order from Amazon, and they come monthly. That’s how much I care about sauce. You can find a link to my favorites down in the recipe card. 



This step is the hardest. It is just patience. You need to simmer your sauce, stirring it frequently, for about 2-3 hours ideally. Don’t forget to stir though. Meat sauces really like to let the meat sink and if you aren’t stirring enough or have the heat up too high, it can scorch. If you end up with a scorched pot, read on for how you can *possibly* save your sauce.



Once you’ve gone and spent all of that time and effort on the sauce, don’t go and ruin your perfect pasta dinner by botching the noodles! The key to the perfect noodle is to make sure you are properly salting your water. 

Make sure your pasta water is salty enough by tasting it. It should taste like seawater. Salty enough so you can REALLY tell it is salt water, not so salty you want to immediately spit it out. 

Don’t skip our Garlic Bread Sticks!

Homemade Bolognese with Bison – FAQ

How to save a bolognese with scorched meat on the bottom

If the unthinkable happens and you forget to stir your sauce and wind up with a scorched-bottom pan, don’t worry! Also – DO NOT SCRAPE THE BOTTOM OF THE PAN

That’s always my first instinct so I can check and see “how” burned it is. Ridiculous, I know. So RESIST. The moment you break through that layer into the burned portion, that flavor will wind up through the whole entire pot. 

If you’ve scorched the bottom of your sauce, the first thing you want to do is to kill the heat on your stove. 

Next, carefully spoon all the sauce that isn’t stuck from the burnt pot into a fresh pot, leaving that burnt layer intact. 

If you can manage to do this, you’ll likely save the bulk of your sauce from the garbage can! Leave the burned sauce in the burned pan and soak it in water with a dryer sheet in it overnight. It should come off very easily in the morning. 

What’s the difference between marinara and bolognese?

Marinara is typically made without meat, and is a simple sauce of fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, and olive oil. 

Bolognese, on the other hand, typically contains meat as the main ingredient, with some tomatoes, seasonings, and dairy cooked into the mix as well. It is generally very thick and hearty, and hits a totally different set of notes than marinara. 

Can you use a different type of meat for this recipe?

Absolutely. Any type of ground meat could work in this delicious sauce. Try adding some ground venison, elk, caribou, or even moose in this versatile sauce. Or you can always stick to ground beef as well, which is a great standby if wild game meat isn’t available.

What should you serve with bolognese?

I’m a traditionalist when it comes to my spaghetti and sides, so on my table, you’re likely to see a giant Caesar Salad along with a loaf of French bread spread with Smoked Garlic Butter and lightly toasted in the oven.

If I’m making this ragu for company and I’m feeling particularly ambitious, you might find this Grilled Garlic Twisty Bread on the table as well. 

Have you heard of a Spaghetti Fork??

This little utensil is the greatest thing you’ve never heard of. You can twirl to your heart’s content and the pasta will NEVER SLIDE OFF. It is amazing. Is it a little ridiculous? Sure. But if you are as serious about your spaghetti as I am, it is ridiculously necessary.

Easy Homemade Bolognese
Yield: 12 servings

Bison Bolognese

Bison Bolognese

This hearty meat sauce is full of ground bison, tomatoes, red and orange bell peppers, and gets a kick from the crushed red peppers.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 15 minutes


  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 pounds ground bison
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 28-ounce can whole roma or san marzano tomatoes
  • 1 cup red wine, like Malbec or pinot noir
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried red peppers
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • additional salt to taste*


  1. Place the onion, garlic, and ground bison in a large stock pot over medium-high heat along with the salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and dry oregano. Stir frequently and break up the meat as you brown it.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot and let cook for 2-3 hours.
  3. Serve over hot pasta


  • This makes a lot of sauce! You'll definitely have leftovers. We do - and I feed 9 here! That is by design. I like having lunches for a few days, or leftovers for another night later in the week, or another meal to freeze.
  • The amount of salt you will need in your end result will vary GREATLY depending on what brand/type of tomatoes that you use. There's no absolute amount here, so taste and stir and check, and when in doubt stop salting before you need to because you can't go the other direction.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 486Total Fat: 27gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 94mgSodium: 759mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 6gSugar: 14gProtein: 32g

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Nicole Johnson

Nicole Johnson, a self-taught expert in grilling and outdoor cooking, launched Or Whatever You Do in 2010. Her blog, renowned for its comprehensive and creative outdoor cooking recipes, has garnered a vast audience of millions. Nicole's hands-on experience and passion for grilling shine through her work. Her husband, Jeremiah Johnson, also plays a pivotal role in recipe development, adding his culinary flair to the mix. Together, they form a dynamic duo, offering a rich and varied outdoor cooking experience to their followers.


Wednesday 29th of June 2022

When you're referring to fond (the "scorched meat on the bottom") do you mean fond in general or do you mean actually burnt fond? Either way you should be stirring regularly enough to avoid it, but just in case:

Fond: perfectly fine, caramel in color. A small amount of dry wine (red or white, just needs to be dry) and a wooden spoon will scrape it all up and add a lot of flavor to your dish. Then you'd just want to stir a bit more frequently.

Burnt fond: not fine, black in color. You're exactly right in saying do not scrape it up, but simply transferring it into another pot is more than fine. Saying that it can "possibly" be saved is rather dramatic. Unless you don't stir at all for the entire 2-3 hours and let the fond burn at the very beginning, the sauce will still be fine.

I'm very sorry if that sounded rude or condescending, I really do not mean any of this in that way, but I think it's an important distinction to make because at any given time brand new cooks may find this and not know the difference. And in a world where we already waste too much food, I'd hate for someone to see perfectly good fond at the bottom of their pot and throw out 12 full servings of perfectly good sauce.

Nicole Johnson

Wednesday 29th of June 2022

I do know what fond is, and this is not what I was referring to. I was referring to literally "scorched meat on the bottom". Thanks for the insights, Brett! Hopefully, before anyone tosses out a whole pot of sauce they'll use a spoon and actually taste it. If they don't, I think a bit of wasted food is the least of our worries.


Friday 6th of May 2022


Nicole Johnson

Friday 6th of May 2022


TJ Porzelius

Thursday 30th of December 2021

Hi Nicole,

You stated that a Bolognese "has some sort of dairy in it", yet I see none in the ingredient list. Was this missed or is it you just prefer it without the dairy?

Nicole Johnson

Thursday 30th of December 2021

Traditional bolognese does, but mine is not really traditional. ;) I always eat my red sauce with parmesan, but that probably doesn't count.


Friday 30th of April 2021

Hi Nicole - I see your recipe calls for bell peppers. Can you tell me which step they should be adding into the sauce at?

Nicole Johnson

Friday 30th of April 2021

Hey Claudia! You can add that in with the rest of the sauce ingredients after you brown the meat. Or you can add it in during the last 30 minutes or so of cooking if you like them to have a little more life left in them and be distinguishable in the final product. Totally up to you!

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