Spaghetti Bolognese – Sauce for Pasta

A meat ragu or Bolognese sauce that is totally inauthentic but completely delicious when served over pasta!

A plate of spaghetti bolognaise, topped with grated parmesan and basil leaves

OK, this is probably about as inauthentic as Italian recipes can get. And considering how inauthentic my risotto can be, that is really saying something!

Spaghetti Bolognese was one of the first things I learned to cook as a teenager, from a recipe I found in a library book. Back in those days, I used to just chop and fry an onion, add some meat and mushrooms and then pour over a can of chopped tomatoes and let it cook for a few minutes. Over the years, I gradually refind and improved the recipe and now this is one of my staple meals.

I’ve always cooked this spaghetti sauce in the oven so I usually double up the recipe. I freeze it in portions for one or two, that way I know that there’s lways a quick meal on hand for emergencies.

If you’d rather not use your oven, you can also cook the sauce on the hob over a gentle heat. You will need to stir it occasionally so the sauce doesn’t stick, but the results are pretty much the same.

A plate of spaghetti bolognaise, scattered with basil leaves

Bolognese sauce is also a good way to cram veg into a meal, because you can throw in anything suitable that you have to hand – peppers, mushrooms and sweetcorn all work well. Although, you might not want to tell any Italian friends that I suggested that…

Personally I prefer to serve Bolognese sauce with linguine rather than with spaghetti. But to be honest, with a meat ragu as inauthentic as this, you can serve it with whatever happens to be your favourite pasta. In fact, you could even serve this Bolognese sauce on a jacket potato or with some sweet potato wedges!

Spaghetti Bolognese Sauce
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
1 hr 15 mins
Total Time
1 hr 30 mins

An inauthentic but delicious meat ragu that's perfect for serving over spaghetti

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 6
Author: Sally Akins
  • 1 tbsp oil (rapeseed, sunflower or light olive)
  • 1 large onion peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic peeled
  • 150 g smoked streaky bacon or pancetta, chopped into small pieces
  • 500 g lean beef mince
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 100 ml red wine or water
  • 100 g tomato puree
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes (800g total)
  • 200 ml water
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pasta and parmesan to serve
  1. You will need a large, heavy based saucepan with a lid, which is suitable for use in the oven.

  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160Cfan/Gas4.

  3. Put the onion, carrots and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until everything is finely chopped. If you don't have a food processor, simply chop everything as finely as you can by hand.

  4. Heat the oil in the saucepan over a low heat, then add the onions, carrots and garlic with a good pinch of salt. Put the lid on the saucepan and gently cook for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice to make sure nothing is browning or sticking.

    While that is cooking, you can pop the minced beef into the food processor and pulse it a few times just to break it up a bit.

  5. When the vegetables have softened and smell sweet, turn the heat up to medium and add the bacon or pancetta. Cook for 1-2 minutes and then add the minced beef. Cook until browned, breaking up the meat with your spoon as it cooks.

  6. Next, sprinkle over the flour and stir in well. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, stirring continuously to stop the flour sticking on the bottom of the pan.

  7. Then pour in the red wine or water and let it bubble away for 2 minutes, stirring the pan to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan.

  8. Add the tomato puree, chopped tomatoes and the rest of the water, crumble in the stock cube and stir in well. At this point, feel free to throw in some chopped mushrooms, sweetcorn, or any other veg that you fancy adding to boost the veg content of the meal.

  9. Season with the sugar, black pepper and oregano and then bring to a boil. Put the lid on and put the pan in the oven. The Bolognese sauce needs to cook for around 1hr 15mins, but the great thing about this Bolognese is that it is really forgiving. You can easily turn the oven off after an hour and leave it to sit in there for 30 minutes quite happily.

    You can also cook this sauce on the hob, over a medium heat for around 45 minutes – stir the sauce every so often to make sure nothing is sticking.

  10. When your sauce is ready, serve with pasta and top with parmesan if you wish. I usually serve Spaghetti Bolognese with a simple side salad, but feel free to throw a garlic bread in for the last few minutes of cooking as well!

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