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How to make the best bolognaise

Did someone say Italian?

Bolognaise (or bolognese) is the starting point for many Italian pasta recipes, it is a sauce that’s easily made, but a few hints and tips can make it even better.

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A note on ingredients before we start

Use coarsely ground mince rather than very finely ground mince for the best textured sauce. Use a mixture of one-third veal to two-thirds beef mince for a subtler flavoured meat sauce. For the same reason use a finely chopped onion in the sauce and not garlic if you desire a subtle flavour.

Take a tip from the Italians when they make a ragu – they add about ½ cup milk (or cream) and a pinch of nutmeg to the sauce in the final 15 minutes of cooking. The milk will lessen any sharpness or acidity from the tomato and make the bolognaise smooth in flavour.

Step One

  • It’s best to cook the mince in small batches, about 250g each batch.
  • Add a little oil to the mince rather than adding it to the pan
  • Heat a pan until moderately hot and add a batch of mince, being careful not to crowd the pan. Crumble the mince over the base of the pan rather than adding it in one clump.
  • Let this first side of the mince colour a little before using a fork to break up the larger pieces.
  • As it cooks, tilt the pan slightly and spoon away the liquid or blot the liquid up with paper towel. Using a moderately high heat will also help any liquid evaporate.
  • Once the liquid has been removed, the mince will cook quickly, so keep it moving to ensure it browns evenly, but doesn’t dry out.
  • Repeat with remaining batches of meat.

Step two

  • Once the mince is brown, transfer it to a bowl. Repeat this step with any remaining batches of mince.
  • Reduce the heat and then add onions and garlic to the pan, let them cook until just tender. Then return all of the mince to the pan with the sauce ingredients.

Step three

  • Bring mince sauce to the boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally.
  • If you have the time, don’t hurry the process. Reducing the sauce gives it more flavour.
  • The mixture should simmer gently, uncovered for about 45 minutes to ensure depth of flavour. It is best not to rush it, but if you are pressed for time 25 or 30 minutes will be near as good.
  • If you speed up the process, and the sauce reduces too much, and becomes dry, add 1/2 to 1 cup of water.

The best bolognaise

Is rich in flavour. The completed sauce should have enough body so that the liquid does not separate when it’s added to the pasta. It should not be too thick either – the bolognaise sauce should coat the pasta, rather than sit as a thickish lump on top.

Quick and easy bolognaise sauce for four

  • Take 500g of mince and cook it in two batches in a large, heavy based pan until browned.
  • Add a small chopped onion and garlic, and cook until onion is soft. Add a 700ml bottle of tomato pasta sauce, a pinch each of sugar, salt and pepper and some chopped fresh basil or parsley.
  • Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. Add a little water to sauce if needed as it cooks.

Add some extra veggie goodness to the family’s bolognaise sauce… the kids will never even know it!

Mums are often looking for ways to include extra vegetables in their children’s meals. The following idea works a treat:

  • Grate a small zucchini and a carrot, and finely chop a handful of fresh mushrooms (you can also use a food processor to finely chop the ingredients).
  • After you’ve cooked the onion for your bolognaise sauce add the veggies, cook stirring for about 3 minutes or until they are quite soft.
  • Then add the browned mince and sauce. Simmer as usual.