Everyone needs a great everyday Spaghetti Bolognese recipe, and this is mine! The Bolognese Sauce is rich, thick and has beautiful depth of flavour. It’s perfect for a quick midweek meal though if you have the time to simmer this Meat Sauce for a couple of hours, you’ll take it from seriously delish to OMG this is amazing!!
We Aussies have a thing about shortening words. Good day is g’day. Pavlova is Pav, afternoon is arvo, mosquitos are mozzies. Sharon is Shazz, Nagisa is Nagi (that’s yours truly).
So it is thoroughly Aussie to shorten Spaghetti Bolognese to Spag Bol!
And here she is – my Spag Bol. Rich, thick, incredible flavour in the sauce even if you only have time for a quick 20 minute simmer!
What goes in Spaghetti Bolognese
I’ve been loyal to this Meat Sauce recipe since I first learned to cook when I was a teenager. There are 3 little things in this recipe that might be a bit different to Bolognese recipes you’ve seen around:
1. Worcestershire sauce: it just adds that little extra something-something. I get antsy if I get caught in a situation where I have to do without;
2. Beef bouillon cubes (beef stock cubes) for extra depth of flavour in the sauce, to compensate for this being an everyday midweek version rather than a traditional slow cooked Bolognese Ragu which starts with a soffrito (onion, celery, carrot slowly sautéed) as well as pancetta.
3. Sugar, if needed: just a little bit goes a long way to transform the sauce if you happen not to be using high quality, sweet Italian canned tomatoes. Supermarket canned tomatoes here in Australia are notoriously sour. Especially the Australian ones – it pains me so much to say that, but it’s true.
How to make Bolognese Sauce
The making part is straightforward and quite quick too:
- Saute garlic and onion – about 3 minutes;
- Brown the beef – about 2 minutes;
- Add everything else, give it a good stir then simmer for 20 minutes minimum (midweek), up to 3 hours (weekend indulgence!). Slow cooking makes the beef incredibly tender and the sauce develops extra flavour.
Difference between Bolognese and Meat Sauce?
Different name for the same thing! You’ll find Bolognese made all sorts of ways all across Italy and all around the world, but essentially ground meat (usually beef, sometimes combined with pork or veal) in a tomato based sauce flavoured with herbs.
The “proper” way to serve paste: toss with the sauce
As with all my pasta recipes, I include a step to toss the pasta IN the sauce, rather than just placing pasta in bowls and spooning over sauce.
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!
But it is an optional step. Sometimes, you just don’t have the energy to clean yet another pan. I hear ya. 🙂
What to serve with Spaghetti Bolognese
For a classic Italian feast, serve this with:
- Garlic Bread – or even more indulgent, with Cheesy Garlic Bread (or go over-the-top with Crack Bread);
- Garden Salad with Italian Dressing (hit of crisp fresh salad essential!)
- Tiramisu to finish with an Espresso Martini on the side
For a super quick side salad option, make this Rocket Parmesan Salad with Balsamic Dressing. Probably my most made side salad because it’s literally a 2 minute effortless-no-chop salad!
This recipe is the way I have been making Spaghetti Bolognese for decades (gosh it’s scary saying that!!). I really love it, and I think the sauce is rich and loaded with flavour, especially for a 30 minute Bolognese recipe.
Though if you have the time, slow cook it for a couple of hours. The flavour develops and the meat becomes so luxuriously tender.
Either way, I hope you love it as much as I do! – Nagi xx
Watch how to make it
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves , minced
- 1 onion , finely chopped (brown, yellow or white)
- 1 lb / 500g beef mince (ground beef) OR half pork, half beef (Note 1)
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) dry red wine (sub water or beef broth/stock)
- 2 beef bouillon cubes , crumbled OR granulated beef bouillon (Note 2)
- 800g / 28 oz can crushed tomato (or tomato passata)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp white sugar , if needed (Note 3)
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme or oregano)
- Salt and pepper
- 400 g / 13 oz spaghetti , dried
- Parmesan cheese and finely chopped parsley (optional)
- Heat oil in a large pot or deep skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic, cook for 3 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 1 minute, 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. (See note 5 for slow cooking option)
- Adjust salt and pepper to taste right at the end. Serve over spaghetti - though if you have the time, I recommend tossing the sauce and pasta per steps below.
Tossing Sauce and Spaghetti (optional, Note 4)
- 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 1/2 cup (125 ml) of reserved pasta water over medium heat. Toss gently for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes, or until the spaghetti turns red and the sauce thickens.
- Divide between bowls. Garnish with parmesan and parsley if desired.
* Scaling recipe up (use auto recipe scaler) - If you double the recipe (or more!), then brown the beef in batches. If you try to cook it in one batch, you will end up stewing it rather than browning!
* Slow cooker: This is really fantastic made in a slow cooker! The meat becomes so tender and the sauce has incredible flavour. At step 3, cook until the wine liquid disappears completely, then transfer it into the slow cooker at step 4 and cook for low for 6 hours.
* Variations: Here are some ideas for ways to take this up a notch, if you are so inclined!
- Finely chop 1 carrot + celery and saute that with the onion to make a softrito. Cook on medium low heat for 10 minutes for extra amazingness!
- 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
- Bolognese gets better the longer it is cooked, and it's even better the next day! 7. Nutrition per serving, assuming 5 servings, including pasta.
Originally published August 2016. Updated with new commentary, new photos and most importantly, recipe video! No change to recipe – I wouldn’t dare! Too many readers love it as it is. 🙂
More family favourites we’ll love forever
- Beef Stroganoff
- Meatloaf – so much more than just a hunk of meat in loaf form!
- Beef Pot Roast
- Beef Stew
- Roast Chicken
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