White Bean Bolognese


This is the pasta dish you will make when you are craving bolognese, but either a) don’t eat meat or b) do not have the patience to wait three hours while your ragu simmers. This ragu spends only 40 minutes simmering on the stovetop with tremendous results. The inclusion of pancetta in this recipe is never a bad idea, but you can absoloooootely omit it for a fully vegetarian pasta dish.

Active Time: 50 Mins

Total Time: 1 hr 40 mins

White Bean Bolognese


  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 head fennel (12 ounces)
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf (dried or fresh)
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 cup parsley leaves


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 2 15 ounce cans white beans (such as cannellini, navy)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 12 ounces pappardelle or other long pasta


  • 1 ¼ cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Meat (optional)

  • 4 ounces pancetta

1. Do some prep:

  • Finely chop 1 yellow onion, 1 carrot, 1 head of fennel and 2 celery stalks.
  • Peel and thinly slice 8 garlic cloves.
  • Crack open rinse and drain two 14 ounce cans of white beans.
  • Dice 4 ounces of pancetta (if using).

2. Build the ragu:

  • In a large Dutch oven set over medium heat, combine the pancetta and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook, stirring until pancetta is crisp, 4-5 minutes. If not using pancetta, just heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and proceed to the next step,
  • Add the onions, carrots, celery, fennel, garlic, 1 bay leaf, ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes and a few big pinches of salt. Cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon until very cooked down and translucent, 8-10 minutes.
  • Add ¼ cup tomato paste, stir to incorporate, and continue to cook until the tomato paste begins to stick to the bottom of the pot, 8-10 minutes longer.
  • Stir in the drained beans and 1 cup dry white wine, and cook until the pot is fairly dry and most of the wine has evaporated, 4-5 minutes.
  • Stir in 1 ¼ cups whole milk, reduce the heat to very low (we’re looking to maintain a bare simmer). Taste and add more salt if you think it needs it. Cover the pot, leaving the lid just slightly ajar and simmer gently for 40-50 minutes until thick and creamy and flavors have melded, checking periodically and adding a splash of water if you think it needs it. (Get your pasta water going during this period.) Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

3. Boil the pasta:

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Drop 12 ounces pappardelle into the pasta and give it a big stir to separate the strands. Cook according to package directions for al dente.
  • Before draining, scoop out and reserve 1 ½ cups pasta water

4. Finish:

  • Add the cooked pasta to the ragu, along with half of the reserved pasta water and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter. Return the ragu to medium heat, and cook, stirring and tossing constantly with tongs to coat the pasta in sauce.
  • Working a few spoonfuls at a time, sprinkle in ½ cup parmesan cheese, adding more pasta water as needed to thin out the ragu as you toss. Remove from the heat.
  • Squeeze the juice of 2 lemons and stir to combine. Taste and adjust salt and parmesan as you see fit—this pasta will need a lot of salt to season up all that starchiness.
  • Chop 1 cup parsley leaves. Stir the parsley into the pasta.
  • Divide among bowls and top with more parm and black pepper.

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