Bison Bolognese Meat Sauce

By Sally Cameron on October 04, 2015

Beef & Pork, Gluten-Free, Pasta, Sauces and Condiments, the daniel plan

Pasta with meat sauce is a time-honored classic that never goes out of style. This famous traditional Italian sauce, or ragu, originates in the Northern Italian city of Bologna. While many recipes make Bolognese with beef, veal, pork, or a combination, I’ve started making mine with ground bison. Pick up some ground bison and try this bison Bolognese meat sauce. It’s not totally traditional, but its healthy, rich tasting and big on flavor.

Bison Bolognese Meat Sauce |

Bison Bolognese Meat Sauce

We eat a lot of chicken and turkey, so it seemed natural that my first test of this recipe was with ground turkey. While it was good, I wanted something different. Something richer. Bison was just the thing.

Lean and healthy, ground bison is now mainstream. With less fat and calories compared to beef, ground bison is a healthy choice for meat eaters. Bison is also an excellent source of heart healthy Omega-3 essential fats, B Vitamins (particularly B6, B12 and Niacin), and the essential minerals iron and zinc. Another benefit, bison are raised on pasture, not in feedlots or on factory farms.

Bison Bolognese Meat Sauce|


Bison Bolognese Meat Sauce|

Bison Bolognese Meat Sauce|

Simmer Sauce Slowly

Start by cooking the vegetables, garlic and herbs until soft in olive oil. Use a heavy pot for even heat distribution, like a Le Creuset 5 1/2 quart Dutch oven or other heavy pot. Next, add the ground bison, breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon. Cook the bison until no longer pink. Next, add tomatoes, choosing either fresh or canned depending on the season.

Peeling fresh tomatoes|

Fresh or Canned Tomatoes?

For this batch of sauce, I used fresh organic heirloom tomatoes while end of summer heirloom tomatoes are plentiful at the market for a good price. To skin tomatoes, cut an “x” in the bottom of the tomato with a sharp paring knife. Plunge tomatoes into boiling water for one minute, the into a bowl filled with ice and water to shock them. The skins will peel right off. Cut the core out of the top. Lastly, pulse tomatoes in a food processor or blender to break them up. You should have 4 cups.

If your are making this in winter when good fresh tomatoes are not available canned are fine. Buy whole tomatoes and seed them, then chop, or use diced or crushed. Look for a brand that reads only tomatoes on the ingredient list without anything else. You will need 4 cups or about 1-28 ounce can plus 1-15 ounce can.

A Splash of “Milk”

Most Bolognese recipes add milk or cream for added richness. If you are dairy sensitive, try full fat coconut milk. It won’t taste like coconut. I was out of milk when I made this batch, so I used canned coconut milk and it came out great.

Simmer to Develop Flavor

To develop rich flavor and thick texture, simmer your sauce at least one hour, and preferably two.  The simmering sauce will fill the house with wonderful fragrance. Everyone will be asking when dinner will be ready. Extra sauce freezes well, so if you you have extra, freeze it. Better yet, make a double batch and freeze it for dinner in a pinch.

Bison Bolognese Meat Sauce|

To Serve – Choose Your Noodles

Serve bison Bolognese meat sauce with brown rice pasta for gluten-free eaters, or with whole wheat or multi-grain pasta if you are not wheat sensitive. My favorite brown rice pasta is Jovial. It’s worth tracking down at a health oriented market or on Amazon. Jovial has great texture and taste, unlike many brands. Use a wide, flat noodle to catch all of the delicious sauce.

Bison Bolognese Meat

Low Carb or Paleo

Another option for low carb and paleo diners is to make zucchini noodles with a spiralizer. For how to make zucchini noodles, check out this post. One more idea – combine half zucchini noodles with half pasta noodles of choice. It’s a nice combination and a way to ease reluctant eaters into trying zucchini noodles.

Bison Bolognese Meat Sauce|

If you want to learn more about bison, check out this link from Bison Central or this link from The Bison Council. 

Nutrition Facts
Bison Bolognese Meat Sauce
Amount Per Serving
Calories 361 Calories from Fat 198
% Daily Value*
Fat 22g34%
Saturated Fat 9g56%
Cholesterol 68mg23%
Sodium 306mg13%
Potassium 1092mg31%
Carbohydrates 19g6%
Fiber 5g21%
Sugar 10g11%
Protein 18g36%
Vitamin A 5998IU120%
Vitamin C 41mg50%
Calcium 112mg11%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Bison Bolognese Meat Sauce

Lean ground bison updates this classic, long-simmered sauce with rich flavor and texture. Serve over your choice of pasta, even zucchini noodles for a low carb dinner. Extra freezes great, so make a big batch.
Course Sauce
Cuisine Italian
Keyword bison, bolognese, meat sauce
Servings 6
Calories 361kcal


  • 3 1/2 pounds tomatoes see note below for canned tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion 1/2 of a large
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery 3 ribs
  • 1 cup finely chopped carrot 2-3
  • 2-3 large cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian herb blend or use basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary
  • 1 pound ground bison 10% fat
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg or more
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup half and half or canned coconut milk


  • If you are using fresh tomatoes, start by peeling them. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Set up an ice bath by filling a large bowl with half ice and cold water. When water is boiling, place a few tomatoes at a time into the water for 1 minute, then plunge immediately into the ice bath. Tomato skins should peel right off.
  • With a sharp paring knife, cut out the core.When all tomatoes are peeled, pulse in a food processor or blender to break them up into a sauce.
  • To a large heavy pot (5 quart) over medium heat, add olive oil. When oil is hot add the onion, celery and carrot. Turn heat down to medium low and cook the onions, celery and carrots slowly until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add the garlic and dried herbs and cook 1 minute longer.
  • Add the ground bison and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Cook until it is no longer pink, about 5-7 minutes. Add the wine and cook until wine is reduced, about 3-4 minutes. Add salt and pepper, then stir in the tomato paste and your tomatoes. Add nutmeg, bay leaf and milk. Turn the heat up and bring sauce almost to a boil, then turn down to low and cover. Simmer sauce 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until thick and rich. Serve over pasta or noodles of choice. Extra sauce freezes well.


To substitute canned tomatoes for fresh, purchase 1 28-ounce and 1 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes to get approximately 4 cups of total diced tomatoes.


Calories: 361kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 68mg | Sodium: 306mg | Potassium: 1092mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 5998IU | Vitamin C: 41mg | Calcium: 112mg | Iron: 3mg
  1. ronnie - October 5th, 2015

    Great recipe and good tip to use zucchini as noodles. I always use spaghetti squash but I hear now that its quite high in carbs. I’m sharing this recipe with my peepers

  2. Sally Cameron - October 5th, 2015

    Thanks Ronnie. While zucchini is lower in carbs (about 6 grams in 1 medium zucchini), spaghetti squash is a little higher but certainly not like eating real pasta. 100 grams, about 1 cup cubed, has 7 carbs. Pasta is more like 40 grams in 2 ounces (57 grams). Google the nutrition on the squashes and see for yourself. Hope you will make the recipe and report back.

  3. Susie Perry - October 19th, 2015

    You did not say how much garlic to use

  4. Sally Cameron - October 19th, 2015

    Ha, forgot to list. All fixed. Thanks Susie. about 3 cloves is good!

  5. Susie Perry - October 22nd, 2015

    Thanks – can’ t wait to try it!

  6. Hi - November 6th, 2016

    When do you add the blended tomatoes and how much nutmeg?

  7. Sally Cameron - November 6th, 2016

    Add the tomatoes after the tomato sauce, and I use about 1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg, maybe a little more. I use the whole nutmeg and a microplane zester for the best freshness.

  8. Hi - November 6th, 2016

    I made it for my boyfriend tonight and he enjoyed it, and he’s a picky eater ???????????? Thanks so much!

  9. Sally Cameron - January 24th, 2017

    Love to hear that!

  10. Traci - January 24th, 2017

    Hi, does it need to simmer for 2 hours? :/ Can I cook it for less time?

  11. Sally Cameron - January 24th, 2017

    Hi Traci. The flavors will be richer and more developed the longer it goes, but yes you can simmer it for less time. Taste it and see for yourself while it is in progress.

  12. Andrea M. Franklin - February 4th, 2018

    Ever since I’ve met my soldier fiance, I’ve had to train his palate to enjoy real food–not the MREs he got in the Army. Before he met me, he thought salt and pepper were the only seasonings. He recently came home with frozen ground bison and loaded the freezer with pounds of this stuff. I found your Bison Bolognese Meat Sauce Recipe and decided to give it a try. (In all honesty, I did have a jar of conventional Ragu just in case). I followed your recipe. When he got home, he and one of his soldiers were exhausted and starving–as expected. He looked down at the dutch oven full of bison and made himself a small plate–he doesn’t waste food and he doesn’t want to offend, so he politely portioned a small bit for himself and for his friend. Within minutes, he was up for seconds. As he walked into the kitchen, he said, “Wow, baby, this is delicious.” Midway through the second plate, he looked up and said, “I know what it’s missing! Red pepper flakes!!” I laughed, but truthfully, he was so spot on right about that. I thought I’d share the anecdote and let you know that we think red pepper flakes make this meat sauce absolutely phenomenal. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this amazing recipe!!

  13. Sally Cameron - February 5th, 2018

    Oh Andrea, thanks for your story! Makes my day and makes me smile. I’ll always think of you two when I make this! He must really appreciate your fantastic home cooking after enduring army food. Please thank him for his service to our country. And yes on red pepper flakes! God bless you two on your upcoming marriage.

  14. Angela Piaskoski - November 7th, 2018

    Can I use red wine instead of white?

  15. Sally Cameron - November 8th, 2018

    Absolutely if you’d prefer! And if you want to try white wine, but are not a white wine drinker, you can use the mini airline sized bottles for cooking. Hope you enjoy Angela. Thanks for the question.

  16. Stephanie - January 29th, 2019

    Instead of bison I had some ground elk from a hunting neighbor and used that and it was excellent! Went to start chopping vegetables and, oops—no carrots. So I threw in some diced sweet peppers instead for the carrots and it worked okay. Since it’s winter I used three pints jars of my own fresh canned tomatoes. Excellent bologese that would go well with just about any meat or game.

  17. Sally Cameron - January 30th, 2019

    Sounds amazing Stephanie! Good swap.

  18. Sam - March 5th, 2019

    Made it this evening. Wonderful. Exactly what I was looking for. Thanks.

  19. Sally Cameron - April 3rd, 2019

    Love to hear that Sam, thanks for commenting.

  20. Donna - March 13th, 2019

    Hi- do you simmer with the cover on or off?

  21. Sally Cameron - April 3rd, 2019

    Hi Donna, I usually simmer with the cover off so that it thickens. If it splatter, you could try leaving the cover partially ajar and monitor it. Hope that helps. Please let me know.

  22. Jen - August 5th, 2020

    Hello, I’m excited to try this recipe! One quick question. Is 2tsp of the dried herbs listed combined? Or, 2 of each? Thanks!!

  23. Sally Cameron - August 5th, 2020

    Hi Jen. 2 teaspoons of a blend or if you don’t have the blend use a total of 2 teaspoons of the other herbs listed. I usually use a little more too. Hope you enjoy! Thanks for the question.

  24. Matt - March 7th, 2021

    Trying the recipe tonight. Very excited

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