Bolognese is one of those ‘easy to learn, hard to master’ kind of things. A lot of bolognese recipes seem to lack something. Whether it’s too dry and doesn’t cover your pasta or it’s too acidic or too salty, a lot of the time it just isn’t quite balanced. This recipe aims for balance in all things. Well really only in flavours, but still.
This bolognese is rich, it has a subtle sweetness, a slight kick of acidity from the red wine and it’s lovely and wet to coat that pasta!
Something that always feels nice is having all of your meals planned out for the week. Making a big old batch of bolognese allows you to make those plans more easily and on a budget. I tend to make this at the start of the week and then freeze it in a big Tupperware for things like lasagne, spaghetti bolognese and cannelloni. There’s nothing like pulling out something you made earlier and still having it be a delicious dinner!
While this recipe is a fairly simple one, it does involve a decent amount of chopping — apologies to your wrist in advance. However, the chopping does represent the bulk of the actual work for the bolognese, as the rest is mostly letting it bubble on the stove for a couple of hours, so it’s really not so bad. Also training your knife skills is always useful!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1.5-2 hours
- 2 medium onions
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 medium carrots
- 2-3 large stalks celery
- Leaves of 5-6 sprigs fresh thyme (1 tbsp dried)
- Half small bunch curly parsley
- Small bunch fresh oregano (2 tbsp dried)
- 250ml (1 cup) red wine
- 5 tbsp tomato paste
- 4 tbsp sugar
- 500g beef mince
- 2 large cans (800g) crushed or diced tomatoes
- 500ml vegetable stock
- 1 litre water
- Large pot
- Chopping Board
- Small bowl
- Dice the carrot and celery into cubes about 2mm in size (this is called a brunoise) and cut the onion into a slightly larger dice (about 4mm). The garlic can be diced, crushed or left in slices if you want larger chunks of it in the bolognese.
- Remove the leaves from the thyme and finely chop it along with the oregano. Chop the parsley finely and put it in a small bowl in the fridge for later.
- Heat up a large pot along with the olive oil. Add your mirepoix (carrots, celery, onion), the garlic and the oregano and thyme. Fry up the vegetables until they start to go transparent.
- Add the tomato paste and fry for a further 30 seconds or so, moving continuously.
- Now, put the mince into the pot and break it up with a wooden spoon. Move the meat around the surface area of the pot until it has browned completely. Season lightly (you want to do most of your seasoning at the end, as the saltiness will intensify with reduction).
- Deglaze with the red wine and stir to ensure that the liquid gets everything up off the base of the pot.
- Pour in the cans of tomatoes, then fill one of the cans with water and pour that in. Add the vegetable stock in along with the sugar and stir.
- Bring the bolognese to the boil and stir again, then turn it down to a simmer and leave for 1.5-2 hours. You will need to check on the pot every 20 minutes or so to stir it and to make sure it hasn’t over-reduced. If the bolognese looks like it has lost too much water (the meat and vegetables should be covered), just add some extra water or vegetable stock.
- Finally, add the parsley you chopped earlier. Taste the bolognese before serving and season it to your liking, then Serve with Parmesan cheese and a touch of basil.
I’m sure every Italian household has its own specific way of cooking bolognese. I’ve heard that garlic is a big no-no for some people and others can’t stand red wine in it. The celery and carrot are things that many will omit, opting instead for simply onions and garlic. As with any recipe, toying around to find the right balance for you is important.
Balance is a key word for sauces and soups. The sugar in this dish balances out the acidity of the tomatoes and wine and you need to season a little extra so that it doesn’t end up too sweet. The red wine helps to break down the mince so it becomes part of the sauce more easily — if you hate red wine you can use about 80ml of white vinegar instead.
I personally like my bolognese wet, so I tend to leave a decent amount of liquid in mine, so it coats pasta thoroughly, if you like a dryer bolognese, then by all means let it reduce a bit longer. If you want to make this bolognese more meaty, you can add an extra 500g of meat and another 500ml of liquid (250ml stock and 250ml water) and prepare the same amount of the other ingredients.