Spaghetti bolognese

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This authentic Italian meat and tomato sauce is even better when it’s cooked the day before. All you have to do to feed the family is cook the spaghetti and reheat the sauce.

Serves 4


1 tbsp olive oil
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1/2 small carrot, finely chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, sliced finely
The leaves from half a sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped
6 sage leaves, finely shredded
1 tbsp tomato purée
450g minced beef (or half and half beef and pork mince)
1 x 400g tin of tomatoes
100ml white wine or water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g spaghetti
120g fresh Parmesan, grated


1. Add the oil to a large heavy saucepan. Fry the celery, carrot and onion over gentle heat until soft and coloured. This should take 15-20 minutes. Stir every so often so the vegetables don’t burn. Add the garlic, rosemary and sage and cook for another 3-5 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add the tomato purée and fry for 1 minute.

2. Add the meat, turn the heat up to medium and fry, stirring and breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon. When the meat is coloured add the tomatoes and their juice along with the white wine or water. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Put the lid on the saucepan – if it isn’t absolutely tight, line it with tin foil to keep the moisture in. Cook the bolognese sauce on the lowest heat for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring every 20 minutes, adding a little more water if it needs it. When it is reduced and the oil rising to the surface is brown, it is ready. Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.

4. Cook the spaghetti in lots of boiling salted water. When it is al dente, drain the spaghetti, add it to the bolognese sauce along with a few tables of the pasta cooking water.

Recipe notes

– Italians don’t eat drown their pasta in meat sauce: they add just enough sauce to the pasta to coat it lightly.

– Italians say to add the pasta to the sauce. This makes sense if you are certain of the amount of sauce you have made, that it is the perfect amount to coat the pasta. If you are unsure (or if you have made more pasta sauce than you need), add the sauce to the cooked pasta so you can control the final dish. Otherwise, you will end up with pasta drowned in sauce.

– To save time, serve the pasta with a wedge of Parmesan and let everyone grate their own.

– Use decent pasta: it is no economy to serve pasta that costs under a €1 a packet. Buy a decent pasta from De Cecco or another good quality pasta brand like Garafalo – you use so little meat in the sauce that it makes sense to spend money on nutritious pasta made the old-fashioned way. We’ve found that the pasta in Marks and Spencers is excellent – stock up when they do the 3 for 2 offer!

– Offer an extra virgin olive oil to drizzle on the pasta – use the same one in the cooking as it makes part of the sauce.

Spaghetti Bolognese is not an authentic Italian dish: instead Italians eat a ragu sauce which is made from small pieces of meat rather than mince, and serve it with a wider pasta such as pappardelle or tagliatelle so the sauce clings to it.

More Italian recipes

Penne with Roast Vegetables

Spaghetti con le Vongole

Spaghetti with Radicchio and Ricotta

Fiorentina Steak with Olive Oil, Rosemary and Pepper Sauce

Pancetta, tomato and chilli pasta

Orzo with Chicken, Peas, Parmesan and Mint

Spaghetti with Prawns and Garlic


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