Spaghetti Bolognese

Last night was a complete 180 from my cookbook recipe adventures of the night before.  I elected instead to make a simple, hearty bolognese from scratch, adding whatever I felt like adding in the process.  The “recipe” began — I believe — as a Giada de Laurentis recipe for marinara sauce, but was heavily altered by my mother and then further altered by me.


This is probably my favorite dish to cook and for a really weird reason.  And that reason is that I get to chop mounds upon mounds of veggies, which is somehow therapeutic and relaxing for me.  It’s like the same calm that people get from gardening or knitting — I enjoy prepping food.  Maybe I would’ve made a good entremetier in another life.


I don’t normally add meat to the sauce; this was a special request of Richard’s, who wanted “spag bowl,” his weird nomenclature for spaghetti bolognese.  He also calls bœuf bourguignon, “beef boingy-boingy” and — just the other day — I caught him trying to slice off a piece of Grueyere cheese to put on his ham and ketchup sandwich for lunch.  These are just some of the reasons I maintain that I married an eight-year-old in a thirty-two-year-old’s body.

Anyway, the three most imporant things in this sauce are:

  • good Italian D.O.P. tomatoes
  • plenty of koshering salt
  • good butter and/or heavy cream (I use both)


I also added some cooked ground turkey to the sauce after all of the other ingredients had been added and had simmered for a while.  I would have preferred beef or pork, but we figured that since the rest of the dish included enough butter and cream for ten people, perhaps going with a lower-fat meat would even everything out.  The turkey — being rather bland on its own — added nothing in the way of flavor to the sauce, but at least it didn’t detract from it.  And it was nice to have the additional protein and texture.


If you’re going to make this at home, I recommend simmering the entire concoction for at least three hours before serving.  I didn’t have that kind of time last night and was only able to cook it for about an hour, but I’m very much looking forward to the leftovers tonight.  The “recipe” (if you can even call it that) is after the jump.

There are very few ways to irretrievably damage this dish.  And each time I make it, I use different amounts of ingredients.  Therefore, this is an extremely loose recipe.  Good night and good luck. 

Bolognese Sauce
Serves 4 -6 (depending on portion sizie)

2 large cans of tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
1 large onion, diced
3 large carrots, diced
4 stalks of celery, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tablespoons of olive oil
4 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1/2 red wine
Italian spices (I use Penzey’s Pasta Sprinkle)
2 bay leaves
freshly-ground pepper to taste
a shedload of koshering salt

Heat 2 tablespoons each of olive oil and butter over medium heat in a large Dutch oven.  Saute the onions until translucent.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add the garlic and saute for a minute more.  Add the carrots and one more tablespoon each of olive oil and butter.  Saute for five minutes, with the lid on the Dutch oven.  Add the celery and the rest of the olive oil and butter.  Saute for ten minutes, with the lid on again.  Make sure you stir the mixture regularly throughout the sauteeing of these three ingredients.

Deglaze the Dutch oven with the red wine.  Add the tomatoes and tomato paste.  Stir everything together until well-mixed.  Add the heavy cream, bay leaves, two big pinches of Italian spices and roughly two tablespoons of koshering salt.  Simmer over low heat for three hours with the lid on, stirring occasionally.

Remove bay leaves before eating.

10 thoughts on “Spaghetti Bolognese”

  1. Hi There! I blundered over from Serious Eats to take a look at your Bolognese. Mine is also a very loose Bolognese which can be different every time it makes it to the table. It looks like our recipes are at least cousins since I use green pepper, no wine or bay and no dairy other than parm to sprinkle.

    “Spaghetti sauce” was actually the very first thing I ever learned to cook. (Toast, canned soup and mac and cheese don’t count.) I actually never knew at the time that it was a “Bolognese” style of suace we were making, but it really did not come as a huge surprise once I found out. The Italians in my family tree hail from, canya guess? Bologna!

  2. What a great place to blunder over from! I’m addicted to Serious Eats, as you could probably tell. Anyway, the majority of what I do in my day-to-day life could best be described as “blundering,” so welcome!

    I’m definitely going to try adding green peppers next time, as well as some mushrooms. The more veggies the merrier. 🙂

  3. Thanks for the welcome! And I think you might like the green peppers and shrooms. I know my family and I do. Sometimes in the summer when the garden is bursting, I even add diced, seeded zucchini. (It gets a little weird if simmered for a long time in bigger pieces or w/seeds.) I add or subtract based on what’s in season/on hand/mood and usually noone cares as long as it has that whole long simmered tomatoey goodness going on!

  4. Another “blunderer” here. First off, I really dig the site!

    The bolognese recipe I’ve always made chopped the veggies down to a fine mince. They get nice and soft while cooking and really disappear into the sauce. Also, I use a splash of vermouth, which adds a nice flavor along with the bay leaves.

    I hope you blunder over to my site to see the recipe. Again, great blog!

  5. Dood, I would love to blunder over to your site, but you didn’t leave the address. Share the love! 😉

    I think I need to experiment more with vermouth. I feel like I neglect and forget about it when cooking, so thanks for the idea. As far as the minced veg, I’m more of a chunky-style girl, but I think Richard would probably prefer the minced/dissolving style. I’ll try it out.

  6. Not to worry, vegetarians can find excellent gourmet cheese.
    It is often best if you go to a place outdoors that means something to the both of
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