How to make spaghetti Bolognese

Want the secret to making the perfect spaghetti Bolognese? We’ve remastered this family favourite with 10 easy wins to make it really special.

 spaghetti Bolognese in a bowl with yellow box title

Often one of the first recipes anyone learns to cook, spaghetti Bolognese first charmed the nation in the 1960s and has become one of our most loved comfort food dishes. With every individual adding their own secret touch, the ‘spag Bol’ of our childhoods has evolved into a dish that is often far removed from a northern Italian meat ragu.

We’ve taken the best bits from both the nostalgic and authentic schools of Bolognese. The sauce is cooked low and slow for maximum depth and tender meat and we’ve added a few unorthodox methods and ingredients to boost the flavour.

Start making our next level spaghetti Bolognese recipe...

10 steps to the perfect spaghetti Bolognese:

1. Choose the right meat  
2. Brown the mince
3. Add dried porcini
4. Balance sweet with sour
5. Add fish sauce
6. A splash of milk
7. Parmesan rinds
8. Slow-cook it
9. Serve with the right pasta
10. Work the sauce through the pasta
 

1. Choose the meat

Five Italian sausages on baking parchment

We’ve stuck with mince over the traditional method of braising and shredding a large piece of beef. We’ve chosen beef mince and crumbled sausage meat, which is basically seasoned minced pork and helps to boost the flavour. If you can get Italian or Italian ‘style’ sausages all the better. If not, use the best quality simple pork sausages you can find.
 

2. Brown the mince

Mince in a pan

Don’t hurry past this step – be patient as it takes time. Mince, like any meat, gets flavour from being well browned. By cooking it down until ‘toasted’ you also intensify its flavour by reducing and concentering all the juices it releases.

Read our guide for more advice on how to cook mince.
 

3. Add dried porcini

Dried porcini mushrooms

Dried mushrooms are filled with umami (savoury flavour). By crumbling them into the sauce, they act as a seasoning and by rehydrating them in the sauce, they have maximum impact.
 

4. Balance sweet with sour

Two piles of sugar and vinegar

Tomato-based sauces are brought to life with a sweet and sour seasoning base (also known as a gastrique). Here it’s in the form of sugar and vinegar.
 

5. Add fish sauce

Fish sauce in a bowl

A touch of anchovy is often added to meat sauces for saltiness and Thai fish sauce is like adding liquid anchovy essence.
 

6.  Splash of milk

Bowl of milk

Dairy adds a richness and body to the finished sauce. We tested with lots of different dairy (double cream, mascarpone) and found the authentic addition of milk made the finished sauce silky without it tasting like overly rich lasagne filling.
 

7. Parmesan rinds

Parmesan cheese chunk

If you’ve got them, use them and they’ll give the sauce a background parmesan flavour from the start. They also add to the dairy richness.
 

8. Slow-cook it

Bolognese sauce in a cooking pot

Like all meat, mince needs to braise slowly to become tender and stop it being bouncy. We’ve employed the oven rather than a slow simmer on top of the stove purely for ease.

Discover more sumptuous slow-cooked recipes.
 

9.  The perfect pasta

Dried spaghetti

To trigger those childhood memories, we’ve stuck with spaghetti, but a flatter pasta like fettuccine or pappardelle cooked and finished in the same way is more authentic and ‘carries’ the sauce better.

Find out more about how to match pasta shapes to sauces.
 

10. Work the sauce through the pasta

Spaghetti Bolognese in a pot and dish with Basil

The secret to restaurant quality pasta is finishing the cooking of the pasta over a low heat in the sauce. The technique is known as ‘spadellare’ and the action is similar to stir-frying in a wok. What happens is the pasta becomes coated in the sauce, the starch from the pasta helps the sauce thicken and the two elements come together to create one dish. This is a massive eureka moment to serving pasta.
 

Tips to make spaghetti Bolognese go further:

  • Batch cook

A sauce like this improves after a day or two in the fridge and is perfect for freezing, so you could make more than you need and defrost on a busy day for a quick dinner.

  • Use in a pasta bake

This sauce is ideal as a base for lasagne or, once chilled, for piping into cannelloni tubes. 

See the full recipe for this next level spaghetti Bolognese recipe.
 

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