How to make the perfect spaghetti bolognese and the common mistakes to avoid

The most comforting dinner there is. If you make a bolognese at the weekend, you can feed your family in minutes during the week
How to make the perfect spaghetti bolognese and the common mistakes to avoid

Tips and tricks to the perfect bolognese. 

Don't be hasty

Mama didn't make the perfect bolognese in ten minutes. This is the ideal day to take out your slow cooker because the most important ingredient in the perfect bolognese is time. 

Add a smidgen of pork

Traditional bolognese is made up of veal, beef and pork mince. An easy way of bumping up the flavour in your bolognese is by adding three finely chopped streaky bacon rashers to the beef as it is browning. 

Cook in the right order

A bolognese is a symphony! Do not throw the meat in with the vegetables and leave it to stew. Brown the meat, until it is caramelised and slightly crispy and then sweat the vegetables in the meaty juices. This will add layers of flavour to the meat sauce. 

Don't have a bottle of wine?

If you don't want to open a bottle of wine for the sauce, add two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to the meat and reduce for a minute. This will add the same depth of flavour as your wine. 

Milk is an essential ingredient

It's only a small bit, but it is important. It must be added a little at a time, at the end and it will result in a velvety sauce without any acidic kickback from your tomatoes. 

Make it your own

Once you've mastered the basic recipe, it's time to make it your own. If you like garlic, add extra cloves. If you want more herbs, go for it! 

Use a big pan

You need to give the ingredients space to brown and caramelise, so a large pan is essential. A casserole dish is ideal for this kind of cooking. 

Don't forget tomorrow

Classic ragùs taste better the day after. Remember that your sauce can be repurposed into 

lasagne

baked potato topping with melted cheese

stuffed cannelloni

Darina Allen's perfect bolognese

Serves 6 

Ingredients

  • 45g butter 
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped onion 
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped celery 
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped carrot 
  • 340g minced lean beef, preferably chuck or neck 
  • Salt 
  • 300ml dry white wine 
  • 120ml milk 
  • Pinch freshly ground nutmeg 
  • 1 tin Italian tomatoes, roughly chopped with their own juice

Method

Small casserole In Italy they sometimes use an earthenware pot for making ragu, but I find that a heavy enamelled cast-iron casserole with high sides works very well. Heat the butter with the oil and saute the onion briefly over medium heat until just translucent. Add the celery and carrot and cook gently for 2 minutes. Next add the minced beef, crumbling it in the pot with a fork.

Add salt to taste, stir, and cook only until the meat has lost its raw red colour (Marcella says that if it browns it will lose its delicacy).

Add the wine, turn the heat up to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the wine has evaporated. Turn the heat down to medium, add in the milk and the freshly grated nutmeg, and cook until the milk has evaporated, stirring every now and then. Next, add the chopped tomatoes and stir well. When the tomatoes have started to bubble, turn the heat down to the very lowest so that the sauce cooks at the gentlest simmer - just an occasional bubble. I use a heat diffuser mat for this.

Cook uncovered for a minimum of 1½ hours (better still 2 or even 3), depending on how concentrated you like it, stirring occasionally. If it reduces too much add a little water and continue to cook. When it is finally cooked, taste and correct seasoning. Because of the length of time involved in cooking this, I feel it would be worthwhile to make at least twice the recipe.

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