Our favourite bolognaise sauce

    1 hour 45 min

    This has evolved after years of experimentation with an old family staple. If I'm not very specific with the ingredient quantities, it's because every time I make it it's very slightly different. Ingredient quality and flavour varies a lot as well, so the tasting and seasoning at the end is one of the most important parts of the process. It's a kind of intuitive tweaking, which allows you to really make it your own. Everything bubbles together slowly, allowing all the flavours to really develop. It's a lovely, traditional, easy recipe to make, and always goes down well with all the family.


    Yorkshire, England, UK
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    Serves: 4 

    • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
    • 1 medium onion, finely diced
    • 1 large carrot, finely diced
    • 4 rashers unsmoked streaky bacon, finely diced
    • 3 to 4 large, white-capped mushrooms
    • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
    • 500g lean minced beef
    • 2 tablespoons Marsala or white wine, to taste
    • 250ml beef stock
    • 1 (400g) tin tomatoes
    • 2 tablespoons tomato puree, to taste
    • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, to taste
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme, to taste
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, to taste
    • 1 whole star anise
    • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil or pesto, to taste
    • ground nutmeg, to taste (optional)
    • black pepper, to taste (optional)

    Prep:15min  ›  Cook:1hr30min  ›  Ready in:1hr45min 

    1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, and fry the onion over a low heat. Stir regularly. Don't allow it to brown.
    2. Whilst it is cooking, add the diced carrot, then the bacon, mushrooms and garlic. Cook slowly for about 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent, the carrots are soft, the bacon fat has rendered down and the mushrooms have released their juices
    3. Add the minced beef. Cook over a moderate heat, breaking it up until it's lightly browned. Turn up the heat and cook for 1 to 2 minutes without stirring very much at all, letting it colour a darker, golden brown in places. This adds to the flavour immensely. Be very careful not to let it burn though.
    4. Turn down the heat to very low. Add the Marsala or wine, then allow it to bubble away until you're left with a slightly syrupy consistency.
    5. Add the beef stock, tinned tomatoes, tomato purée, Worcestershire sauce, dried herbs and star anise. Keep the heat right down at the gentlest of simmers, just allowing a bubble or two to break the surface occasionally. Simmer for 1 hour until the sauce has thickened to the consistency you like. It's crucial to check the flavour from the star anise whilst it's cooking though, as it can be overpowering. You may want to take it out after 10 or 20 minutes. I love the flavour though, it really enhances the dish. Add more water whilst it's simmering, if you feel it needs it.
    6. Taste, and adjust flavouring as required. I always add pesto at this stage, but you may like to add more tomato purée, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, salt or a light grating of nutmeg. All will take the flavours in different directions, and you can adjust them as you prefer.


    I hope you'll appreciate the flexibility of this recipe, rather than finding it annoying that I'm not completely specific! I normally find that I tweak most recipes anyway, so what I've tried to do here is give a framework for a really tasty basic recipe, along with the ingredients you can vary to make it your own.

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