One Pot Pasta Bolognese is the quick version of Spaghetti Bolognese using two nifty shortcuts: cooking spaghetti IN the meat sauce, plus an instant thick, rich sauce using tomato passata / puree instead of the usual crushed tomatoes.
For those of you who are doubtful about this one-pot pasta method of cooking, see below for why this one works!
Before I start on the recipe, I have a message for the purists out there who are doubtful (and some even offended!) by this one-pot method of cooking pasta:
A Message for the One-Pot-Pasta Cynics!
I don’t blame you for being unsure about this recipe. I’ve tried my share of total one-pot-pasta duds, with the two biggest offenders being an unpleasantly sticky sauce from all the starch from the pasta, and unevenly cooked pasta.
But here’s why this one works and tastes damn good:
- Passata – thicker than the usual crushed tomato used in classic Spaghetti Bolognese so it can take the extra starch without tasting “sticky”; and
- It’s saucier than traditional Bolognese, and that extra liquid is because we need to start off with a watery meat sauce in order to allow the spaghetti to cook through evenly, plus there’s more sauce through which the starch is dispersed (again, for a less starchy sauce). Note: I said SAUCIER. Not watery!
No, this is not the traditional way to make Bolognese, and while some people would declare that their Nona’s would roll over in their grave if they saw this recipe, there are in fact pasta dishes in Italy that are cooked in one pot (Orzo/risoni is common).
Is it as good as classic Bolognese, simmered for hours to let the flavours meld, the tomato to breakdown into a smooth sauce, and the meat to become meltingly tender, then tossed in spaghetti that’s cooked to exact al dente in a pot of salted water?
Of course not.
But for the sheer convenience and speed, the marginal loss in quality is a very small price to pay. And it’s still delicious.
So purists – get off your high horse, and give this a go! I would never publish a recipe I wouldn’t stand behind proudly and publicly! – Nagi x
One Pot Pasta Bolognese
The idea with this one pot pasta recipe is that the liquid to pasta ratio is just-right so that by the time the spaghetti is cooked, it’s absorbed the excess liquid and you’re left with a saucy pot of spaghetti and meat sauce!
It’s truly everything you know and love about classic Spaghetti Bolognese – with a couple of nifty shortcuts to deliver just as tasty a result in less time, less effort and just one pot to wash:
- Tomato passata (aka tomato puree) – to make a thick, rich bolognese sauce without 20 minutes of simmering to break down the usual crushed tomato; and
- Pasta cooked IN the sauce – by starting with an extra liquidy sauce so we can cook the pasta like we usually do in a big pot of boiling water!
Here’s a little preview of what it looks like. Rich! Thick! Saucy! Delicious!
Ingredients in One Pot Pasta Bolognese
It’s essentially made with the same ingredients as traditional Bolognese, with a few key differences:
- tomato passata instead of crushed tomato – for an instant thick, rich tomato sauce. New to tomato passata? Read about it here; and
- beef stock/broth instead of stock cubes – to add extra flavour into the sauce and make it watery at the start so we can “boil” the pasta. In classic Bolognese, we use stock cubes and add no water (unless doing a slow cook).
Few quick notes on the other ingredients:
- Beef mince / ground beef – I typically use lean, but any fat % is fine here. Recipe will also work as written with lamb, pork, chicken and turkey;
- Tomato paste – to give the sauce a slight tomato boost and thickening;
- Worcestershire sauce – the savoury flavour. Best sub – soy sauce (yes, really, it won’t make it taste Asiany, I promise!);
- Dried Italian herb mix – I use a store bought pre mix for convenience, but there’s plenty of options here (dried and fresh rosemary, thyme) or you can even leave them out. Covered in the recipe notes;
- Chilli flakes (red pepper flakes) – I love a touch of warmth in this but it’s 100% optional!
- Garlic and onion – essential flavour base!
Different pasta types?
Absolutely! This can be made with any long OR short pasta. Pastas that require a longer cook time just need to stay on the stove for longer, with a splash of boiling water added as needed to keep it saucy. And short pastas (like macaroni, spirals) don’t need as much liquid.
How to make One Pot Pasta Bolognese
It starts off just like your everyday Bolognese – until you get to the part when you add the beef stock when the meat sauce appears to become alarmingly watery. But that’s exactly what you want – so we can cook the spaghetti like you do in a pot of boiling water!
- Cook the garlic, onion and beef, just like you ordinarily do;
- Add the tomato passata, beef stock and all the flavours;
- Give it a good mix – the meat sauce WILL look watery, and that’s exactly what you want!
- Bring the sauce to a boil, then add the pasta just like you would in a pot of boiling water;
- Leave it for 30 seconds so it can start to soften, then you can push it down under the liquid;
- Cook it for 12 minutes, tossing well toward the end, until you end up with a big pot of perfectly cooked spaghetti in saucy bolognese sauce!
Want a meat free One Pot Pasta?
Use this One Pot Vegetable Pasta recipe instead. Veggies can’t hold up to the rapid boiling required in this recipe so it’s better to use short pasta which can be cooked at a more gently simmer.
I really love how saucy this One Pot Pasta is, and how the Bolognese is so rich and thick, and clings to the pasta rather than ending up as a watery pool at the bottom of the bowl.
Experienced cooks will recognise that this cooking method emulsifies the pasta sauce and spaghetti, an essential step in pasta recipes which is usually done at the end by adding cooked pasta into a pan with the pasta sauce. I do this for all my pasta recipes that aren’t quick ‘n easy one pot recipes like this one (and so do Italians and respectable restaurants!).
For those of you who are wondering – if this one pot pasta is so good, why aren’t all pastas cooked this way?
The answer is because this method of pasta cooking relies on a certain level of exactness for the ratio of liquid to pasta, a minimum batch size, and certain types of pasta sauces that can hold up to the required cook time as well as the vigorous tossing required.
Also, this method of cooking means ALL the starch from the pasta end up in the pasta sauce which isn’t ideal for many types of pasta sauces because they end up too sticky.
Here are some examples of pastas that cannot be made using this one pot method:
- Mushroom pasta – won’t work because there’s not enough sauce to cook the pasta;
- Creamy Chicken Pasta and Creamy Tomato Sausage Orecchiette – sauce will become too sticky;
- Creamy Garlic Prawn Pasta – too delicate for this method of cooking;
- Sausage meatball pasta – not enough sauce. Would need adjustment for one pot method; and
- Shredded Beef Ragu Pasta – calls for slow cooked beef that is then shredded. Doesn’t fit with one pot cooking – also, there’s far too much volume.
The lesson to learn here is that one pot pasta recipes can yield terrific results, but it needs to be used selectively for the right recipes. 🙂 I’ve shared a few over the years – here are some reader favourites:
Reader Favourites One Pot Pastas
Enjoy! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
One Pot Pasta Bolognese
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves , minced
- 1 onion , finely chopped
- 500g / 1 lb beef mince (ground beef) , I use lean
- 700g / 24.5 oz tomato passata (tomato puree) (Note 1)
- 3 cups beef broth (or stock cubes + water, Note 2)
- 2 tsp Italian mixed herbs (options, see Note 3)
- 1/4 - 1/2 tsp chilli flakes (red pepper flakes) , adjust to taste
- 2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 3/4 tsp each salt and pepper
- 350g / 12 oz spaghetti , uncooked (other pasta - Note 4)
- Saute onion & garlic: Heat oil in a large pot over high heat. Cook garlic and onion for 2 minutes until translucent.
- Cook beef: Add beef and cook, breaking it up as you go.
- Add tomato: Once beef has all changed from red to brown, add tomato passata.
- Rinse out bottle: Pour some beef stock into the empty bottle, shake, then pour into the pot.
- Add everything else: Add remaining beef stock and all remaining ingredients except spaghetti. Give it a good stir, then let it come up to the boil.
- Add spaghetti: Add pasta, fanning it out around the pot. Leave for 30 seconds to start softening, then start pushing it in under the liquid.
- Cook pasta: Once fully submerged, cook for 12 minutes, stirring every minute or so, and more towards the end. At about the 8 minute mark, lower the heat to medium otherwise the base might catch (but ensure it is still bubbling gently - you don't want pasta just bloating in warm water).
- Remove from stove, toss well: Take it off the stove once the pasta is JUST cooked, the tiniest bit firmer than you want, and when still saucy. Toss it for about 30 seconds or so - the sauce will reduce further, the pasta will finish cooking.
- Serve immediately, garnished with parmesan.
- If you scale recipe down, use a large saucepan and break long pasta in half
1. Tomato passata - pureed, strained pure tomatoes, sometimes labelled Tomato Puree in the US. Readily available in Australian supermarkets nowadays, alongside pasta sauces. More info about passata here. Key ingredient in this recipe for a rich, smooth sauce in this speedy Bolognese recipe. Usually, we use crushed tomato and let it simmer for a while (or hours!) so it breaks down. 2. Beef stock - alternative is to use 3 crumbled beef stock cubes or 3 tsp powder plus water. 3. Italian herb mix - this is a handy shortcut, using a premix. Anything labelled "Italian herbs" or "herb mix" is fine here. Or make your own with equal portions of dried parsley, oregano, rosemary and thyme (if you have at least 3 of these). More options for similar flavour combos:
- Dried Thyme only - 1 tsp
- Dried thyme 1 tsp + rosemary 1/4 tsp
- Dried thyme 1 tsp + 1/2 tsp oregano
- Fresh - sprig of rosemary + 3 sprigs thyme, plonk in and fish out before serving.
- Just fresh thyme (not just rosemary - too strong)
- thicker pasta will take longer to cook.
- follow recipe as written but then adjust at end by adding BOILING water 1/2 cup at a time and continuing to cook/stir until pasta is cooked through. Short - ziti, penne, macaroni, spirals, rigatoni
- requires less tossing to cook pasta through evenly and ensure they don't stick together, so use less liquid
- reduce to 2 1/2 cups of beef stock and add an extra pinch of salt Tiny - orzo/risoni, ditalini, kiddie novelty pasta like alphabet
- Use this One Pot Bolognese Risoni recipe 5. Storage / make ahead: Keeps well because it's nice and saucy, so it doesn't go dried out and stodgy the next day. Refrigerate up to 4 days, then reheat in microwave. Will freeze ok but if you're looking for a pre assembled Bolognese type thing to freeze, I highly recommend Baked Spaghetti Bolognese (it's made for freezing). 6. Nutrition per serving, assuming 5 generous servings, including pasta.
Life of Dozer
Back at the beach with his mates! The shock of the cold water on his bare skin makes him pause when he first goes in the water – it’s so funny, he jolts for a second then plunges right in. 😂
(For those playing catch up, we had a bit of a scare last week with acute vomiting and visible pain which ended up with an overnight stay at at the Emergency Vet and a battery of tests – hence the shave – that revealed it was just a bad case of gastro… thankfully! There were indications of potentially something more serious so I’m very grateful.❤️)