Ragu Bolognese

There are so many recipes for this classic Italian sauce, each chef adding this or that to make it their own. My recipe is simple, economical, has few ingredients but most of all has a rich deep flavour achieved from low slow cooking. Traditionally served with tagliatelle – ragu Bolognese is now often served with spaghetti or any pasta of choice and is also a great base for lasagne. The amounts here will serve six to eight people depending on portion size. I make double this amount often then freeze it in portions so that we have a quick meal to come home to when I have been out for the day, gardening, shopping, writing, working or feeling just too lazy to cook.


Place the casserole on a medium heat and add the oil followed by the finely chopped onion. Give a good stir then drop the heat to its lowest, put the lid on and leave the onions to sweat for ten minutes until they become soft and translucent. Take off the lid then add the dried herbs, nutmeg, finely chopped carrot and celery – give another thorough stir then pop the lid on again and leave for ten minutes. Turn off the heat.
Place the frying pan on a medium to high heat then add the chopped bacon and allow to brown then transfer to the casserole pan containing the vegetables.
With the heat high then start to “dry fry” the minced pork and beef in small batches. No extra oil or fat required but too much meat in the pan and it will “boil” to a grey colour so small amounts only and allow it to fry until well browned. As each batch is fried, using a slotted spoon, transfer to the casserole pan containing the vegetables.
Once the meat frying is completed, turn down the heat but whilst the pan is still hot, pour over the red wine. This has two purposes, firstly the wine will deglaze the pan of any luscious, caramelised bits that may be left in the pan and secondly the alcohol in the wine is burnt off leaving just a fruity jus and no bitterness.
You can know when the alcohol has burnt off because if you waft the vapours from the liquid when the alcohol is still present they are unpleasant to inhale yet once the alcohol has cooked off inhaling the vapour feels fine. It’s a difficult one to explain but try it and you will understand what I mean.

Pour the reduced wine into the casserole followed by the stock, passata or tinned tomatoes, salt and pepper and the tomato paste. Give everything a thorough stir then pop into a low oven set at 100 degrees C for 8 hours. A slow cooker is fine or the bottom oven of an Aga if you have one. An hour here or there is not going to make a difference to this delicious sauce.

After the cooking time is up, take from the oven and check the seasoning adjusting as necessary. I actually prefer to allow this ragu to go completely cold and reheat the next day. I think the flavours improve but you will not be disappointed if you eat it straight away.

Cook pasta of choice according to the pack instructions allowing 100g per person. Cook in well salted water then drain briefly, retaining a little water then add about a dsp of oil before stirring through your ragu Bolognese then top with a grating of parmesan.

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