As a family, this is probably our collective favourite dish. It’s what we eat on birthdays and special occasions, as well as being the dish my brother and I request when we return home after any length of time away.
Growing up my Dad was – and still is – famous for his Bolognese, so at its heart this is a version of that recipe – just with a few tweaks here and there.
I know every family has their own take on this recipe and I won’t claim there is anything particularly authentic about this one, but after much trial and error over the years it has become my trusty go-to.
Admittedly, it can be a little labour intensive at the start so I like to make a big batch and freeze at least half of it. However, once everything is in the pot and ready to go it’s one of those dishes you can forget about while you carry on with other bits and bobs around the house.
I should also point out that this recipe should be treated like a bit of a guide – I rarely make it exactly the same way each time. The quantities are pretty flexible: if you only have 2 carrots that’s fine, if you don’t have any rosemary that’s fine, if you don’t have beef stock use chicken stock, if it looks too dry add some liquid – you get the idea.
4 onions, finely diced
4 carrots, finely diced
4 celery sticks, finely diced
6 cloves garlic, crushed
Pinch dried oregano
A couple of sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
500g good quality minced beef
500g good quality minced pork (or 6 pork sausages, skins removed)
2 heaped tablespoons tomato puree
4 glasses red or white wine
4 tins good quality chopped tomatoes
1 litre beef stock
2 bay leaves
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
Makes about 10 portions, or less if any of my family are involved!
Heat a generous drizzle of olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onion, carrot and celery.
Fry gently over a low heat until everything is really soft, but not coloured – this will take about 15-20mins
Remove the onion, carrot and celery from the saucepan and put into a bowl. Set aside for the time being.
Turn the hob up to a high heat and then add the pork and beef mince.
Fry the mince until it’s brown all over and starting to caramelise. Use a wooden spoon or fork to break up any clumps. Add more oil if necessary.
When you are happy the mince is nicely browned, return the onion mix to the pan along with the oregano…
…rosemary and tomato puree.
Mix everything through and cook out the tomato puree for a few minutes.
Add the wine…
…and leave to bubble away for about 5-7 minutes so it’s reduced by about 2/3.
Add the tinned tomatoes and stir through.
Add the stock and stir through (you can pour a little of the stock into the empty tins of tomatoes and swirl around to pick up any of the leftover bits of tomato).
Add the bay leaves, a pinch of sugar, a grating of fresh nutmeg and plenty of salt and pepper.
Stir everything together one last time and bring to the boil.
Once boiling, reduce the heat to low so the sauce is gently simmering.
Cook the sauce like this for at least 3-4 hours. In my opinion, a long slow cook is the secret to a good bolognese so don’t skip this step – I’ve cooked sauces for up to 6 hours before.
If it looks like it’s getting too dry at any point just add more beef stock or water.
After a couple of hours it will end up looking something like this…
Check you are happy with the seasoning and remove the bay leaves.
At this point I will remove most of the bologonese and distribute into (reusable) individual containers. Once cool I pop these in the freezer ready for another day.
I leave enough sauce for the number of people I intend to serve in that sitting, and keep it warm whilst cooking the pasta.
I like to serve this sauce with any kind of flat pasta – pappardelle or tagliatelle are my favourites.
For 4 people, boil 400g pasta in generously salted water. Then, rather than draining the pasta, lift the strands from the saucepan with tongs and add straight to the saucepan containing the sauce. This ensures a bit of the pasta water gets added, making the sauce nice and velvety.
Mix until every strand of pasta is coated. I also like to add a knob of butter at this stage to make it ultra-luxurious!
Pile into bowls and serve with plenty of Parmesan.