Easy Spaghetti Bolognese

2 comments All Recipes, Beef Recipes, Mains & Sides, Pork Recipes
A delicious spaghetti bolognese that’s super easy to make and tastes amazing! Thick and chunky tomato meat sauce with such beautiful depth of flavour, and infused with traditional herbs and spices. Ready in under an hour, but super flavourful in 3 – 4 hours!
Spaghetti Bolognese served on a plate, garnished with chopped parsley and grated  Parmesan cheese

In our home, we love all sorts of pasta dishes but spaghetti bolognese would have to be our all-time favourite.

This is my version of an easy, classic Italian spaghetti bolognese, and it’s my favourite recipe that’s evolved as much as I have over the years.

The first time I ever made spaghetti bolognese was when I was studying abroad in college. I won’t lie, I was Miss Instant Spaghetti Bolognese for years.

All I knew to do at the time was throw in store-bought bolognese sauce with al dente noodles. Even then, mind you, I thought it tasted pretty good.

Since I started teaching myself how to cook, my meat sauce was one that I really worked on time and time again, as I inched closer and closer to my ideal of the perfect spaghetti bolognese. And this is it.

Why this spaghetti bolognese is so good

  • Super flavourful meat sauce. There are so many layers of flavour in this tomato meat sauce. Infused with fresh and dried herbs plus my secret ingredient, this sauce is slow-stewed till you get a really rich, creamy and full-bodied sauce.
  • Maximum tomato flavour! The combination of canned diced tomatoes, tomato puree and tomato paste makes this sauce sing!
  • Thick and chunky like any good, hearty stew! This bolognese sauce has just the perfect balance of hearty vegetables and meat for that thick, chunky deliciousness! If you have time, slow-simmering the sauce in a slow cooker will give you the most flavourful, tender and juicy meat.
Stewing bolognese sauce in a pot, with added rosemary herbs

Ingredients for the best bolognese sauce

  • Ground meat. I used to cook with only ground beef until I tried a mixture. I’ve never looked back since! I love a mixture of ground beef for the traditional flavour in a bolognese sauce, ground pork to add juiciness and tenderness. I use half-and-half, but you can cook with 3 parts beef to 1 part pork, if you prefer.
  • Soffritto. This is the aromatic flavour base for sauces, soups and stews in Italian cuisine. Sounds fancy but all it is, is the classic combination of sautéed onions, carrots, and celery. I love adding garlic, fresh and dried herbs as well as spices – this makes for an amazing sauce!
  • Streaky bacon. I use streaky bacon as a cheap alternative to pancetta (Italian unsmoked bacon) only because I can’t find it here. Try not to skip this, as the oils and bacon meat adds a savoury dimension to the sauce. You won’t even know it’s in there, after it’s stewed and simmered with the rest of the sauce for hours!
  • Canned diced tomatoes. I now always cook with canned variety of tomatoes, because I don’t have to worry about fresh tomatoes being too bland, not juicy enough, too sour, etc. With canned, I get consistency all the time. Be sure to pour in all the soaking juices as well.
  • Tomato puree. Also known as tomato sauce, depending on the brands. Tomato sauce is thinner in consistency than tomato paste.
  • Tomato paste. For that richer, bolder and intense tomato flavour, I always include tomato paste in my bolognese dish. Sometimes, when I happen to be out of this, I use tomato ketchup but only as a last resort because it doesn’t come close. Try not to skip this.
  • Red wine. Any dry red wine (or even white wine) will be fine. The wine acts to melt the meat as it stews.
  • Beef bouillion or stock cubes. This is my instant beef broth, except that you don’t need to make broth per se. Just cut them into the sauce to dissolve and simmer with the rest of the ingredients.
  • Italian herbs. I use store-bought, ready-made Italian herbs (some brands package as Italian seasoning or Bolognese herbs). This is typically a combination of dried thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary, parsley and marjoram, and it can vary from brand to brand. You can make your own Italian seasoning if you’ve got the individual herbs, and mix them in (see recipe notes below).
  • Other herbs. I love to use freshly chopped English parsley, bay leaves and a couple of rosemary sprigs.
  • Seasonings. I use coarsely ground black pepper, sea salt and brown sugar.
  • Sour cream (optional, but highly recommended). This is my secret ingredient, guys! Traditionally, milk is slow-simmered with the meat and veggies. As the sauce stews, the milk imparts a richer depth of flavour and helps tenderise the meat. My quick substitute is sour cream. It’s added just before you start reducing the sauce, and it emulsifies the bolognese sauce, rendering a gorgeously smooth, creamy richness and delicious tang. You can also use heavy cream, if you prefer.
Spaghetti Bolognese served on a plate, garnished with chopped parsley and grated  Parmesan cheese

Step-by-step: How to make bolognese sauce

  • In a Dutch oven or large, shallow skillet, sauté onions and garlic until light brown and softened, 1 minute.
  • Add the carrot and celery, and stir-fry together until softened, another 2 minutes.
  • Turn up the heat to high. Push the veggies to the side. Add streaky bacon, and fry for 15 seconds.
  • Tip in the ground beef and cook to brown the meat, breaking up as you go.
  • Then tip in the ground pork, again breaking up as you cook, until it browns.
  • Keep stir-frying for 2 to 3 minutes, giving everything a good stir.
  • Add the red wine, bring to a simmer and cook until you no longer smell the alcohol.
  • Add in the rest of the ingredients – diced tomatoes, tomato puree, tomato paste, beef stock cubes, fresh and dried herbs, and brown sugar (except salt and pepper).
  • Stir the meat sauce, let it come to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to medium.
  • Over-the-stove cooking: Let simmer for 20 – 30 minutes over low heat, adding water to thin the sauce a bit if it gets too thick. Slow-cooker option: Transfer to a slow cooker set to Low, and add ½ cup of water. Cook for 3 hours.
  • Stir in the sour cream (or heavy cream). Cook uncovered for 20 minutes to reduce the sauce until thick to your liking. Add salt and pepper, to your liking.
  • Cook the spaghetti and serve as suggested. Do take some time to read my tips on how to serve the spaghetti – it’s a little more effort (extra 2 minutes, tops!) but will make your eating experience all the more pleasurable!

The best way to serve spaghetti bolognese

I picked up this priceless tip from my sister-in-law, who was really the one who had me kindling a whole new love for spaghetti bolognese.

Whenever she served this dish, the spaghetti noodles were always gloriously tinged and coated with sauce. She never served the noodles ‘naked’, right out of the pot.

Spaghetti Bolognese served on a plate, garnished with chopped parsley and grated  Parmesan cheese

If you want your spaghetti noodles to have that beautiful, magnificent thick sauce you’ve just spent time stewing, clinging to every bit of pasta, do not rinse the spaghetti under running water after draining it.

Because this actually washes away a starch coating on the noodles that will help the sauce stick.

Once you’ve drained it, tip into a large bowl and spoon some meat sauce over. Then toss vigorously! Add a bit of the salted pasta water you just cooked your spaghetti in, if the meat sauce has gotten a bit thick. You want just enough water to have the meat sauce adhere to the noodles, not run off.

Then dish out onto your serving plate. This is when you can pile on more of that glorious meat sauce!

Garnish with freshly chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese, if desired. Finally, I love serving every plate of spaghetti bolognese with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil all over. Buon appetito, everyone!

Here are more recipes to inspire your next meal:

Tried this recipe? I’d love to see! Share your pics on Instagram and tag @foodelicacy or #foodelicacy.

PIN THIS RECIPE!

Easy Spaghetti Bolognese

Easy Spaghetti Bolognese

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 50 minutes

A delicious spaghetti bolognese that's super easy to make and tastes amazing! Thick and chunky tomato meat sauce infused with traditional herbs and spices. Ready in under 1 hour, but super flavourful in 3 - 4 hours!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 carrot, minced
  • 2 celery sticks, minced
  • 6 streaky bacon strips, roughly sliced
  • 600 g ground meat (half-and-half beef and pork)
  • ½ cup (125 ml) dry red wine
  • 1 can (14.5 oz/411 g) diced tomatoes 
  • 1 can (10.75 oz/305 g) tomato puree 
  • 2 - 3 tbsp (28 - 42 g) tomato paste 
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes

Herbs and spices

  • 2 tbsp Italian herbs (or 1 tsp each of dried thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary, and marjoram)  
  • ¼ cup fresh English parsley, chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 - 2 tbsp brown sugar, to your taste
  • 1 tbsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt, to your taste
  • 3 tbsp sour cream (or heavy cream)

For garnishing and serving:

  • 500 g dried spaghetti, or amount as needed
  • Parsley, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for tossing and drizzling

Instructions


Cook the bolognese sauce:

  1. In a Dutch oven or large, shallow skillet, heat up 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat until hot. Sauté onions and garlic until light brown and softened, 1 minute. Add the carrot and celery, and stir-fry together until softened, another 2 minutes.
  2. Turn up the heat to high. Push the veggies to the side. Add streaky bacon, and fry for 15 seconds. Tip in the ground beef and cook to brown the meat, breaking up as you go.
  3. Then tip in the ground pork, again breaking up as you cook, until it browns. Keep stir-frying for 2 to 3 minutes, giving everything a good stir.
  4. Add the red wine, bring to a simmer and cook until you no longer smell the alcohol.
  5. Add in the rest of the ingredients - diced tomatoes, tomato puree, tomato paste, beef stock cubes, fresh and dried herbs, and brown sugar (except salt and pepper).
  6. Stir the meat sauce, let it come to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to medium.
  7. Over-the-stove cooking: Let simmer for 20 - 30 minutes, adding water to thin the sauce a bit if it gets too thick. Slow-cooker option: Transfer to a slow cooker set to Low, and add ½ cup of water. Cook for 3 hours.
  8. Remove the lid, stir in the sour cream. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes to reduce the sauce until thick to your liking.
  9. Add pepper and salt, adjust to your liking.


Cook the spaghetti:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the spaghetti until al dente, as per the package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.
  2. Important! Do not rinse the noodles.
  3. Scoop out ¼ cup of the pasta water and add to the bolognese sauce, and stir to mix well. Then drain the spaghetti.


Serve spaghetti bolognese:

  1. In a large bowl, mix the cooked spaghetti with ½ - 1 cup of the bolognese sauce, or as needed depending on the amount of pasta.
  2. Toss with tongs until the pasta is thickly coated with sauce. Add a bit of the reserved pasta water if the sauce has gotten too thick. Dish out onto serving plates. Spoon more bolognese sauce over the pasta, as desired.
  3. Garnish with chopped parsley and grated parmesan cheese, and serve immediately.

Notes

1. Italian herbs or Bolognese herbs: I usually get store-bought, ready-made Italian herb mix. If you wish to add your own dried herbs, use 1 tsp each of dried thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary, parsley (or cilantro), and marjoram, in place of 2 tbsps Italian herbs.

Did you make this recipe?

I’d love to see! Remember to share your pics on Instagram and tag @foodelicacy or #foodelicacy.

2 Comments

  1. Hi Jason, I hope you do! You won’t even taste the sour cream. If you prefer, you can use heavy cream too.. I’ve also used mayo. All work really well, they all emulsify the sauce so it becomes smooth and creamy.

  2. I’m normally not a fan of sour cream but I’ll be sure to give this a go!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*