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Bolognese Sauce.

Seems like a very very misunderstood sauce, this is a sauce that has been mucked up by almost every country. It has certainly been mucked up by members of my own family and me.

Bolognese Sauce is a native of Bologna region of Italy where it is known as Ragu, it is not a tomato sauce, but a meat based sauce that has some (in fact quite little) tomato in it. The recipes from 'experts' vary between using canned tomato or tomato puree or both.

Canned tomato is a relatively recent innovation of the past 100 years or so, before that it was preserving tomato by drying them or by drying the flesh and this lead to Tomato Paste. Tomato was introduced into Europe in about 1490 (give or take) and spread throughout the Mediterranean regions because it was found to be ideal growing conditions. 

Pasta itself was (thought to be) introduced into Italy when Marco Polo returned to Italy in 1295. It is clear that from that date, sauces were created to cater for the eating of pasta. It is not known how old Bolognese Sauce may be, but that it is ancient, is not in dispute and that it was a sauce for the wealthy is also not in dispute.

What is more apparent is that it has been seriously badly treated around the world. The cry of Spag Bol and many other names given to this sauce/dish are a clear indication of it being turned into a go to cheap fast food for busy and not particularly discriminatory eaters. Bolognese people would never eat it with spaghetti, but with wide noodles like tagliatelli.

A bit of research among the Italian foodie community has turned up a few interesting facts and 'issues'. The queen of Italian cooking, now no longer with us, Marcella Hazan, is as ever, quite determined in content and method... whilst I don't swear that my recipe is her's, or that I slavishly followed her recipe, I didn't. But the spirit and essence are here.


1 kilo of minced beef (ask the butcher to please have at least 20% fat).

1 kilo of minced pork, same proportion of fat to meat.

200 to 250 gram of minced bacon, pancetta or similar (I have occasionally used Salami when all else was unavailable).

The Rest

1/2 cup good Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 pieces of celery about 20 cm long

2 large carrots

2 large onions (Italians use yellow onion if they can, its milder)

4 large cloves of garlic

1 cup of cream

1 x 200 gr organic tomato paste

1 cup of red (or white) wine... I used red

1 cup of beef stock

1 can of chopped tomato (500 gr)

1 tablespoon of herbs, I used dried oregano, but rosemary, thyme or basil are all acceptable.


Put the carrots, celery, onion, garlic in the kitchen whiz and blend until all is chopped but NOT reduced to a puree.

Put the oil in a saucepan (I always use a bigger than I should need pot, easier to stir!) and add the chopped vegetables and the meat, allow this to cook until the meat has commenced to turn grey, here Marcella is very strict... you must NOT fry the meat and allow it to become browned, it will ruin the taste!! At this point add the cream and allow the meat and vegetables to cook a little in the cream and then add the stock, wine, tomato paste, canned tomato and stir well, this now needs to commence a long slow cook for three or four hours until the meat and juices have all combined. I add some herbs at the point where the long cook is starting, but not salt or pepper, this is added at the end.

Should the sauce start to become too dry, add some water or beef stock, just remember that the stock could be salty.

In the end, your sauce should be very rich, the meat well cooked and very soft, it should NOT look like an over ripe tomato. This is a meat sauce.