This simple bolognese is creamy and comforting with a surprising kick of heat thanks to Italian oil-packed Calabrian Chilis! If you’re someone that likes to sprinkle crushed red pepper flakes onto your pasta, then you’re definitely going to want to give this recipe a try!
I am so into Calabrian chilis lately! They come packed in oil, which is a bonus because you can save the oil and drizzle it over so many things! Calabrian chilis add a unique smokey, sweet, slightly spicy flavor to this creamy bolognese. If you’re weary of spice, start with only two peppers; you can always add more later on.
The other ingredient that makes this bolognese extra special is… heavy cream! Traditionally, bolognese sauces are enriched with milk but I found that with this version, a few generous glugs of cream folded into the sauce makes it so luxurious and comforting and also helps to balance out the heat.
Serve creamy Calabrian chili bolognese with a simple side salad for the perfect dinner!
Ingredients You’ll Need:
One of the best parts about this recipe is you probably have most of the ingredients on hand already: ground beef, canned crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, garlic, pasta, olive oil, dried oregano, heavy cream, parmesan cheese and Calabrian chilis.
A Few Notes About Calabrian Chilis:
Calabrian chili peppers originate from the Calabrian region of Italy. They are harvested and sold packed in oil, made into a paste, or dried.
-Where to buy: I’m starting to see Calabrian chilis more frequently at regular grocery stores. Whole foods for sure carries them. You can also check any Italian specialty markets in your area or order online from amazon.
-Calabrian Chili Paste: Calabrian chilis are also sold in “paste” form, typically in a tube, like tomato paste. That will totally work for this recipe, start with 1 tbsp and add more depending on how spicy you like your sauce.
-Substitutions: If you can’t find Calabrian chilis, but you still want to make this pasta, you can substitute, crushed red pepper, or even harissa if you happen to have it.
Check out more recipes using Calabrian Chilis:
Broccolini with Calabrian Chilis and Garlic
Five-Ingredient Spicy Sausage Cast Iron Pizza
Step 1. Brown the Beef
In a large pot brown the ground beef with a little olive oil then add in the minced onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent then add in the tomato paste. Cook the tomato paste for 3-5 minutes then pour in the canned tomatoes, oregano and chilis.
Step 2. Cover and Simmer
Cover the sauce and simmer on low for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes pour in the cream and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. During this time cook the pasta.
Step 3. Serve!
Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, toss until evenly coated. Divide between bowls and serve with grated parmesan cheese and extra Calabrian chilis on the side.
FAQs, Tips and Tricks:
You really don’t need much. I like to serve this hearty pasta with a salad like: The Everyday Dinner Salad or The Perfect Kale Caesar Salad.
You sure can! To freeze bolognese sauce; cool it completely then portion into freezer bags or an air-tight food storage container. Seal tightly then transfer to the freezer for up to three months. To serve, defrost overnight in the refrigerator then heat in a saucepan on the stove top and toss with freshly cooked pasta.
Check out more hearty pasta recipes:
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Creamy Calabrian Chili Bolognese
- 1 lb ground beef
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced or grated
- ¼ c tomato paste
- 1 28oz can crushed San marzano tomatoes
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 4 oil-packed Calabrian chilis or 2 tbsp chopped Calabrian chilis/chili paste
- ¾ c heavy cream
- 1 lb dried pasta any shape
- parmesan cheese for serving
- Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add in the ground beef and a generous pinch of salt. Sauté, stirring frequently and breaking up any large lumps, cook until the beef is no longer pink about 10 minutes. Next, add the onion, garlic and a generous pinch of salt, continue cooking until the onion become very soft about 5 minutes.
- Next, add in the tomato paste, cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently then add in the crushed tomatoes, dried oregano, and chopped chilis. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Last, stir the heavy cream into the bolognese, taste and season with more salt as necessary. Continue cooking for 10 more minutes. While the sauce is simmering cook the pasta in a pot of boiling salted water. Drain and set aside.
- To serve, add in the cooked pasta and toss to coat. Divide between bowls, top with parmesan cheese, serve immediately! If you like extra heat, drizzle with a bit of the Calabrian chili oil.
- Ground Beef: You could really use any ground meat in this sauce: beef, pork, chicken, or turkey.
- Calabrian Chilis: Calabrian chili peppers originate from the Calabrian region of Italy. They are harvested and sold packed in oil, made into a paste, or dried. I’m starting to see Calabrian chilis more frequently at regular grocery stores. Whole foods for sure carries them. You can also check any Italian specialty markets in your area or order online from amazon.
- Dried Oregano: substitute fresh oregano or dried/fresh basil.
- Pasta: Any pasta shape will work for this recipe– go with your favorite. I often switch between rigatoni, tagliatelle or bucatini.
- Leftover pasta bolognese can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days. Reheat on the stovetop over medium/low heat or in the microwave with a splash of water.
- To freeze bolognese sauce; cool it completely then portion into freezer bags or an air-tight food storage container. Seal tightly then transfer to the freezer for up to three months. To serve, defrost overnight in the refrigerator then heat in a saucepan on the stove top and toss with freshly cooked pasta.
- All you need alongside this recipe is a simple salad like: The Everyday Dinner Salad or The Perfect Kale Caesar.
Haven’t gotten my hands on Calabrian chilis yet, but this recipe is phenomenal without it.. it has become one of my comfort meals. Absolutely love it! Hopefully I’ll be able to try it out with chilis soon (-:
We are dairy free….could I use coconut milk or
Absolutely, unsweetened coconut milk would be just fine!
I have been loving Calabrian chilis of late and wanted to do a pasta .. I happened upon this recipe and WOWZA!! So absolutely perfect just as written! My kids families and my husband and I have been doing meal preps and we froze the sauce for about 2 weeks and it was wonderful ! Going to make it for my parents next week on vacation! Thanks for sharing 🙂
A hit! We had vegetarians with us so I cooked Italian sausage separately. The sauce was great meatless too
My husband and I made this last night. It was AMAZING! Probably the best bolognese I’ve ever eaten. Thank you for sharing!
I substituted ground wild boar for ground beef but made as written aside from that. Delicious! Thanks for the recipe, love Calabrian chilies
I’m so glad you loved it!
About how much crushed chilis should be substituted for the 4 wholes chilis?
Start with 2tbsp! You can always add more.
Absolutely delicious. No changes.
Leigh Hyatt Anderson
Thank you Lori! I’m so glad you liked this one.
The flavor in this dish was EXCELLENT. We loved it but I overdid it with the peppers. I had Calabrian pepper paste (pre-copped peppers in olive oil). With no idea how much to use – I’m a novice cook – I used 1/3 cup (an amount I’d seen that in another recipe). It was probably the hottest dish I’ve ever eaten in my life but wow was it good! Thank you for a great recipe!!