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Easy Homemade Bison Bolognese

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Sweet, tender bison meat is simmered in a rich and veggie-filled homemade tomato sauce. This bison bolognese is easy to make and will make your home smell amazing! This sauce is rich in nutrients and high in protein, making it the perfect recipe for your family’s pasta night.

A large bowl of pasta with bison bolognese on top.

Bolognese meat sauce is my favorite Italian pasta sauce. It’s rich, it’s meaty, and it’s incredibly delicious.

While there are many bolognese recipes out there, my version of bolognese uses ground bison for lean, healthy protein. Also known as bison ragu, the bison meat gets so tender as it simmers in the homemade sauce, and this is going to be a meal your family goes crazy for.

Traditional bolognese sauce is typically made with soffritto, the “holy trinity” of the aromatic vegetables of carrots, onions, and celery in Italian cuisines. My version uses green pepper instead of celery, however you could certainly use celery instead if you wish.

I swapped the celery out for green pepper because I absolutely love the peppers & onion combo. They smell amazing as they cook down, and green peppers add a lot of flavor and complement everything about this sauce.

This is a large serving platter of bison bolognese with wooden spoon and basil leaves to the side.

Ingredients & Equipment:

To make this delicious bison bolognese, you will need the following simple ingredients:

  • Ground Bison – Tender lean bison meat is perfect in this bolognese sauce.
  • Aromatic Vegetables – We are using onion, carrot, green pepper, and garlic. If you wish, you can use celery instead of green pepper.
  • Dry White Wine – I prefer Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. For a deeper, richer flavor, use a dry red wine instead.
  • Canned Tomato Products ​- I use one large 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes plus a 14.5 oz can of petite diced tomatoes.
  • Balsamic Vinegar & Olive Oil ​for flavor.
  • Herbs & Spices – Basil, oregano, kosher salt, and pepper. Red pepper flakes can also be added for a spicy kick.

You will also need a large pot or saute pan for this hearty meat sauce, along with a sharp chopping knife. I recommend grating the carrot with a box grater, but a food processor can also be used to prep your veggies.

These are the ingredients for bison bolognese on a marble backdrop.

Instructions

​Follow the steps below to make perfect bison ragu:

This is a stainless steel saute pan cooking the ground bison with a meat chopper crumbling the meat.

1. Cook Bison

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. Turn the pan to coat.

Add ground bison and break it apart into crumbles as it cooks. Cook until golden brown, about 7-8 minutes. Remove the meat from the pan into a dish and set aside.

This is a saute pan cooking the carrot, bell pepper, onion, and garlic.

2. Cook Aromatics

Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and turn to coat. Add the diced onion, green pepper, minced garlic, and grated carrot.

Cook until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.

This is a person pouring white wine into the sauce pan to de-glaze it.

3. De-glaze Pan

Pour the white wine into the vegetable mixture to deglaze the pan. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape the brown bits off of the bottom of the pan into the sauce. Cook for 1-2 minutes.

This is a stainless steel saute pan simmering the bolognese.

4. Add Tomato Products & Reduce

Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and oregano. Scoop the cooked meat back into the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until reduced by about 25-30%. 

This is a saute pan with simmering bolognese sauce and basil ribbons.

5. Salt & Simmer

When the sauce is slightly reduced, add the salt and taste. If you want it saltier, add another pinch of salt if needed.

Thinly slice the basil leaves into ribbons and add to the sauce. If you’d like a kick, add a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Then turn the heat down to low, place a lid on your skillet, and allow the sauce to cook on a low simmer for about 1 hour.

Make sure you stir your sauce now and then to make sure the heat is not too high and that it’s not burning.

This is a plate of bison bolognese

6. Serve

Serve this delicious meat sauce with a bowl of your favorite pasta noodles and topped with some freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Bolognese Quick Tip

If you’re feeding young kids or picky eaters, make sure you chop the veggies really small. I use my veggie chopper for this. When the veggies are small enough, they will cook down more quickly and easily, be softer in texture, and much more hidden in the tomato sauce!

Substitutions

If you prefer not to cook with wine, you can use chicken broth or beef broth in its place.

While bison is my favorite red meat, if you don’t have bison available, use a grass-fed ground beef with a lean percentage greater than 90%. That will most closely mimic what we get from bison. You can also use ground turkey for an even leaner choice if desired.

You can also replace the crushed tomatoes and petite diced tomatoes with a large jar of pasta sauce. If you use jarred pasta sauce, there is no need to reduce the sauce in step 4.

Serving Suggestions & Storage Tips

Bolognese sauce is typically served with fettuccine or tagliatelle pasta. However, you can certainly serve it with spaghetti noodles or use this sauce in a baked pasta dish like lasagna or my high-protein pasta bake!

Serve with a green salad and some garlic knots. This is the perfect comfort meal that everyone in the family will get excited to eat.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. You can also freeze the sauce for up to four months.

This is easiest to reheat in a small pot on the stove over medium heat, but you can also use the microwave. Be sure to cover the bowl with a paper towel if you use the microwave to avoid a mess!

This is a plate of bison bolognese

Does Bison Taste Gamey?

We have been buying bison (aka as buffalo meat–however, bison are not actually buffalo!) for years–first from the regular grocery store, and eventually purchasing from small local farmers.

80% of the bison we have eaten has NOT tasted gamey at all. That said, occasionally we have encountered a “gamey batch.”

Most of the time, bison tastes so close to beef that it is almost indistinguishable. We brought some bison ribeye steaks to grill at our family lake property last summer, didn’t tell anyone it was bison, and no one had any idea they weren’t eating beef.

That said, occasionally a gamey taste comes through on some animals. This happens with beef, too.

Sometimes it’s blamed on being grass-fed, however, I’ve had many grass-fed animals, beef & bison alike, that do not taste gamey.

According to Orchard House Creamery, there are SO many more factors that go into the taste of meat than most of us realize. It’s not usually one single factor, but a combination of factors. This includes:

  • Inappropriate diet missing key nutrients
  • Animal stress
  • Improper processing
  • Hang time

Our favorite bison farmer happens to be only a short distance from our house (if you’re local to Minnesota, check out Grazing Acres farm! Steve is a great guy–super friendly, easy to work with, organized, and he loves his animals which is the most important thing!) and he works with a nutritionist on his farm to make sure his animals are fed properly. This is important! 

The meat we get from him is always perfect. We also love the butcher he works with as it’s clear they follow best practices.

Other Bison Recipes

Check out these other delicious bison recipes. You can also visit my Bison Recipes page!

You’re Going to Love this Bison Bolognese!

If you give this delicious dish a try, please leave a rating and review! Feel free to ask any questions in the comments, too! I reply to each one. 🙂

A large bowl of pasta with bison bolognese on top.
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Bison Bolognese

Sweet, tender bison meat is simmered in a rich and veggie-filled homemade tomato sauce to make this delicious bison bolognese! Also known as bison ragu, it is easy to make and will make your home smell amazing.
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 25 minutes
Total Time1 hour 45 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keyword: bison bolognese, bison recipes, healthy bolognese recipe
Servings: 6
Calories: 304kcal
Author: Holly Lee
Cost: $15

Equipment

  • saute pan
  • wooden spoon

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground bison
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 1 green pepper diced
  • 1 carrot grated
  • 4 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 14.5 oz diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 leaves fresh basil

Instructions

  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. Turn pan to coat. Add ground bison and break it apart into crumbles as it cooks. Cook until no longer pink, about 7-8 minutes. Remove the meat from the pan into a dish and set aside.
  • Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and turn to coat. Add the diced onion, green pepper, minced garlic, and grated carrot. Cook until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
  • Pour the white wine into the pan to deglaze. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape the brown bits off of the pan into the sauce.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and oregano. Scoop the cooked meat back into the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until reduced by about 25-30%.
  • When the sauce is slightly reduced, add the salt and taste. Add more if needed for your personal taste. Thinly slice the basil leaves into ribbons and add to the sauce. Then turn the heat down to low, place a lid on your skillet, and allow the sauce to cook on a low simmer for about 1 hour. Make sure you stir your sauce now and then to make sure the heat is not too high and that it's not burning.

Video

Notes

Serve with your favorite pasta! Traditionally it is served with fettuccine or tagliatelle.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. This is easiest to reheat in a small pot on the stove over medium heat, but you can also use the microwave. Be sure to cover the bowl with a paper towel if you use the microwave to avoid a mess!

Nutrition

Calories: 304kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 53mg | Sodium: 630mg | Potassium: 878mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 2169IU | Vitamin C: 37mg | Calcium: 97mg | Iron: 5mg

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