Spaghetti Bolognese is a staple for millions of households around the world, and today I’m sharing mine! I like my Bolognese Sauce to be rich, thick, a deep red colour and loaded with flavour.
Whether you call this Spaghetti Bolognaise or Spag Bol, I’d love to know what you think of my Spaghetti Bolognese – and how YOU make YOURS!
Australian’s have a thing about shortening words. Good day is g’day. Pavlova is Pav, afternoon is arvo, mosquitos are mozzies. These are all examples of words I recently had to explain to my American friends when they slipped out during conversations!
So it is thoroughly Aussie to shorten Spaghetti Bolognese to Spag Bol. If I called this recipe Spag Bol, would you guess what it was without seeing the photo? I am not sure that many outside Australia would!!
I am pretty sure that Spaghetti Bolognese is one of the very first recipes I ever made. This recipe is how I have always made it, the way my mother taught me.
The only 2 things that I use in my recipe that you might think are a bit different are Worcestershire sauce and beef bouillon cubes (beef stock cubes). I add these to get extra depth of flavour in the sauce, to compensate for this being an everyday midweek version rather than a full blown slow-cooked Bolognese Ragu made the hard core proper Italian way with pancetta and starting with a soffrito (onion, celery and carrot slowly sautéed).
Worcestershire really adds that extra little something to the sauce flavour, it really does. And I prefer bouillon cubes because it has more intense flavour than beef stock/broth. Plus, broth makes the sauce too watery and it takes ages to reduce.
Oh – and the other thing is sugar. Just a little bit of sugar goes a long way to transform the sauce. Seriously!
This is the way I have been making Spaghetti Bolognese for decades (gosh it’s scary saying that!!), ever since I first started cooking when I was in high school. I really love it, and I think the sauce is rich and loaded with flavour, especially for a 30 minute Bolognese recipe.
I have a big soft spot for this recipe, so I’d really love to know what you think if you try it. And I’d love to know what YOUR Bolognese secrets are!! Do you have a secret ingredient or technique for your famous Spaghetti Bolognese? – Nagi xx
PS As with all my pasta recipes, a key step in this is to toss the pasta IN the sauce with a bit of pasta cooking water. This makes the Bolognese sauce emulsify, so it thickens, becomes glossy and clings to the spaghetti. No more watery sauce at the bottom of your pasta bowl! This is how chefs and Italians make pasta. Try it once, you will be converted!
- 1½ tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 onion, finely chopped (brown, yellow or white)
- 1 lb / 500g ground beef (mince) OR half pork, half beef (Note 1)
- ½ cup (125 ml) dry red wine (or sub with water or beef broth/stock)
- 2 beef bouillon cubes, crumbled (Note 2)
- 28oz / 800g can crushed tomato (or tomato passata)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste / puree (Note 3)
- 2 - 3 tsp sugar (any - I use white) (Note 4)
- 2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme (or ¼ tsp dried thyme or ½ tsp dried oregano)
- Salt and pepper
- 400g / 13 oz spaghetti
- Parmesan cheese
- Parsley, finely chopped
- Heat oil in a large pot or deep skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic, cook for 5 minutes or until light golden and softened.
- Turn heat up to high and add beef. Cook, breaking it up as your go, until browned.
- Add red wine. Bring to simmer and cook for 2 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot, until the alcohol smell is gone.
- Add remaining ingredients except salt and pepper. Stir, bring to a simmer then turn down to medium so it bubbles gently. Cook for 20 - 30 minutes (no lid), adding water if the sauce gets too thick for your taste. Stir occasionally.
- Adjust salt and pepper to taste right at the end.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook per packet directions MINUS 1 minute.
- Scoop out a mug of pasta cooking water and set aside, then drain the pasta.
- Add pasta into the bolognese sauce with about ½ cup (125 ml) of reserved pasta water over medium heat. Toss gently for 1½ - 2 minutes, or until the spaghetti turns red and the sauce thickens.
- Divide between bowls. Garnish with parmesan and parsley if desired.
2. I prefer beef bouillon cubes rather than beef stock/broth because it has a more intense flavour and also broth makes the sauce watery and takes longer to reduce. I use Oxo Beef Cubes (Woolies & Coles).
3. Tomato paste / puree - the concentrated tomato paste that comes in jars or tubes.
4. The amount of sugar required will depend on how sweet / sour the tomatoes and tomato paste is. Typically, the better the quality, the less sour they are so the less sugar you will need. Go by taste!
5. Here are some ideas for ways to take this up a notch, if you are so inclined!
- Add finely chopped bacon (smokey is the ultimate!) or pancetta, cook with the onion
- 1 tbsp soy sauce (my mother did this, I sometimes do! I've seen it in some chef recipes)
- Fresh or dried red chilli
- Finely chop 1 carrot + celery and saute that with the onion to make a softrito
- Mix of pork and beef (per Note 1)
- Bolognese gets better the longer it is cooked, and it's even better the next day. A traditional Italian Bolognese Ragu is cooked for around 2 hours!
6. This method of cooking the cooked spaghetti in the sauce is the proper way to cook pasta - the real restaurant and Italian way. During this step, the sauce emulsifies (fat in Bolognese sauce reacts with starchy pasta water = thickens sauce so it clings to the pasta = no watery sauce at bottom of pasta bowl!). This step makes all the difference, turning a good pasta into a GREAT one!
If you are not using all the Bolognese in one go, divide the sauce first before adding the pasta into the sauce. Pasta is always best made fresh.
7. If you double the recipe (and who wouldn't want to? :) ), then brown the beef in 2 batches. If you try to cook it in one batch, you will end up stewing it rather than browning!
8. SLOW COOKER: This is really fantastic made in a slow cooker! The meat becomes so tender and the sauce has incredible flavour. Transfer it into the slow cooker at step 4 and cook for low for 6 hours.
9. Nutrition per serving, assuming 5 servings.
Spaghetti Bolognese Nutrition per serving, assuming 5 servings.
Life of Dozer: This is the reason why I no longer walk him in the golf course – because he can’t resist the stinky filthy DAMS!
See? Even as a puppy before he could swim, he would gaze longingly out at the dam, drawn by the stench…. 😝