Bolognese Sauce

16 Oct

(makes 11 cups of sauce)
Bolognese Sauce, as you well know, is the popular ragu style meat sauce that goes into lasagna and atop every type of pasta. The thing that makes this particular version stand out is its higher proportion of vegetables, which makes the sauce less heavy and more tangy. That’s the way my sister taught me years ago and the way I still make it nowadays. I’m willing to bet that that your favourite bottled pasta sauce won’t be as appealing to you after you have made and tasted a batch of this.


  1. Minced Beef (500g)
  2. Carrots (2 medium)
  3. Onion (2)
  4. Celery (¾ head)
  5. Mushrooms (2 cups)
  6. Garlic (8 cloves)
  7. Stewed Tomatoes (2×14.5oz cans)
  8. Tomato Paste (1×6 oz can)
  9. Oxo Cubes (2)
  10. Worcestershire Sauce
  11. Anchovies in Oil
  12. Sherry
  13. Bay Leaves
  14. Oregano
  15. Basil


  1. Start by cutting up your vegetables into quarter inch cubes. Since vegetables come in difference sizes to clarify, you should end up with the same amount of diced carrots, onions, celery and mushrooms, i.e. 2 cups each as pictured. Also peel your garlic and put it through a press to mince it.
  2. In a big pot over a low fire (all the way in this recipe), brown the minced garlic in 3T of olive oil. When the pot is hot enough to sear, add your minced beef. Continue stirring the beef as it cooks, breaking it up with a wooden spatula (square shaped is the best).
  3. When the beef is thoroughly cooked, pour in the stewed tomatoes and tomato paste (potent stuff so take note this recipe calls for a small 6 oz can as pictured).
  4. In one cup of hot water, dissolve 2 Oxo cubes and 1T of mashed salted anchovies to create your stock, and then add this to the pot as well. Follow with 2t salt, 1T pepper, 1T paprika, 4T sugar and 1T worcestershire sauce. Add also 8 bay leaves, 1T oregano and 1T basil.
  5. When your tomato-beef mixture is boiling, add your diced vegetables and simmer on low heat for 2 hours with the cover over most of pot. If the heat is right, there should be no sticking at the bottom of the pot for the first hour but you should still stir occasionally. Thereafter more frequent stirring is required. Use a flat headed spatula that can scrape the bottom. There should be no need to add any more water as the vegetables will release water as they disintegrate.
  6. Just before you are done add 2T of Sherry. For a richer sauce and depending on the actual dish using the sauce, I sometimes mix in a dollop of mascarpone or a knob of butter as a finishing.
  7. After you turn off the heat, allow the sauce to thicken with the cover on. It is best if the sauce is left overnight, but in any case a few hours. After the thickening, taste to see if any additional seasoning is required. Remove the bay leaves.


  • Why is it sometimes called Bolognaise Sauce?
    That’s the French name for the same thing, you know like parmesan instead of parmigiano.
  • Why don’t we use fresh tomatoes?
    Cause then we’d have to blanch, peel and de-seed them, and then we’d end up with stewed tomatoes anyway.
  • You can stick the entire pot in the oven at 140oC (290oF) with the cover on for 1 hour 45 minutes and then simmer uncovered on the stove top for the last 15 minutes to boil off some of the liquid. This way you won’t have to monitor or stir the pot until the very end.
  • This recipe (intentionally) makes a lot of sauce and you should probably be prepared to store some away in the freezer for later use. When reheating frozen sauce it is best to add a dash of sherry when the sauce boils.
  • Only recently have I discovered how close this recipe is to the traditional way ragù alla bolognese is to be made, as decided by the good peoples of Bologna, Italy. What the difference? Not too much. This recipe use anchovies instead of pancetta (a type of bacon), doesn’t use red wine but includes mushrooms.

Posted by on October 16, 2009 in Italian, Main Courses, Pasta, Recipe


Tags: , , , ,

3 responses to “Bolognese Sauce

  1. YeeLing

    November 21, 2009 at 9:07 am

    THANKS. This recipe is awesome. I halved the sugar (probably because the organic vegetables and tomatoes were extra sweet!).

    It’s also a fabulous “hide-the-vege” sauce for kids’ pasta. I blitz-ed the sauce and put it in ice-cube trays to freeze. I use just three cubes each time (per toddler serving). Lasts up to 6 months in a good freezer. Perfect for an over-scheduled-no-time-to-prepare-dinner day.

  2. kobayash1

    November 23, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    The sauce tastes a slightly sweet when you sample the sauce on its own so I know where you are coming from about the sugar. Once you add a healthy dose of cheese, which is salty, then the sweetness makes sense.

    But if its for toddlers (and no cheese I assume), I’d go with halving the sugar. I’ve tasted bottled baby food and it is sooo..bland.

  3. YeeLing

    November 24, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Good point. I’ll be keeping the sugar in my next batch and serving it with cheese. Thanks.


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