When I title this recipe my best-ever Bolognese Sauce, I mean it!
Taking only slightly more effort than usual, this slow-cooked staple makes a comforting winter dinner that is delicious over pasta. Just don’t forget the Parmesan.
A note on protein – I realise this isn’t the first ragu-ish recipe to grace my blog but I think that in terms of cooking time and general effort, it comes out tops in simplicity. By combining lean beef and pork mince you ensure a great balance of fat content and thus flavour without the effort devoted to making a ragu from scratch. While elements of the Bolognese are homemade (the beef stock and the passata), everything can be swapped out for store-bought or prepared ahead and frozen. The addition of homemade roasted tomato passata really adds in a welcome depth to the Bolognese but if I’m feeling particularly hands-off then I recommend using a tablespoon or two of NOMU liquid beef stock. In terms of tomatoes, Jamie Oliver is of the opinion that one should only utilise whole Italian tomatoes in tomato juice as only the best fruit are selected to keep whole. Who am I to argue? There is something so intensely comforting and nostalgic about a generous plate of spaghetti Bolognese, liberally dusted in Parmesan and scattered with fresh basil. An anointing of starchy pasta water over the top to bind strand to sauce.
Speaking of starch, I’ve recently discovered bucatini (a sort of spaghetti/macaroni hybrid) and I’m quite a fan – despite not having a fondness for macaroni in the slightest. Linguine, tagliatelle, pappardelle or good old spaghetti all work with Bolognese – as does lasagne if you’re wanting to head in that direction.
Best-ever Bolognese Sauce
Prep time: 30 mins /Cook time: 1.5 hours /Serves: 6-10
You will need:
- 1kg lean beef mince
- 1kg pork mince
- Olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 400g small portobello mushrooms, finely diced
- 200g shiitake mushrooms, finely diced
- 6-8 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped from the woody stalks
- 750ml dry red wine
- 250ml beef stock
- 2 tins whole tomatoes in tomato juice (800g) or homemade passata (see below)
- 20ml tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 4-6 sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves roughly chopped
- 6-8 sprigs of fresh basil, roughly torn
If making your own passata, omit one tin of tomatoes:
- 500g-1kg ripe tomatoes, quartered
- 1 onion, quartered
- 4-8 baby fennel (optional)
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 150ml balsamic vinegar
- 50ml olive oil
Arrange the chopped tomato, onion and fennel in a roasting tray. Tuck the herbs amongst the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Pour over the balsamic vinegar and olive oil and use a spoon to toss the veggies until thoroughly coated. Roast in a preheated 200°C oven for 25-30 minutes or until soft and a little charred at the edges. Leave to cool slightly before removing the herb stalks and spooning the veggies into a blender and puréeing until smooth. Use in place of the second tin of tomatoes.
Preheat the oven to 140°C. Heat 20ml of olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed casserole. Over medium heat, fry the onion until soft and golden. Increase the heat, add the beef and pork mince and brown. Add the thyme leaves and chopped mushrooms and stir to combine. Deglaze the base of the casserole with red wine and beef stock and leave to simmer for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and season with salt and pepper. Pour in the tinned tomatoes and/or the passata, the tomato paste, the dried oregano and crushed garlic and stir to combine.
Close the lid of the casserole and cook the ragu in the oven for 2 hours, adding a little more wine or water if necessary. Remove the casserole from the oven and stir through the oregano and basil. Season again if required and serve over spaghetti, linguine or bucatini with lots of grated Parmesan.