Bolognese Sauce

When I was a teenager, I lived in Italy for three years. I was a typical grumpy teen most of the time we were there, so didn’t really see the positive side of it, but there was one thing I did appreciate – the food. It was amazing, from the pizza to the pasta to the arancini to the gnocchi to the gelato. It was all just so good!

Bolognese Sauce | Close Encounters of the Cooking Kind

I know our family meals involved spaghetti bolognese before we lived in Italy, but I feel that when my mum switched to using passata (tomato purée/sieved tomatoes, whatever you may call it) instead of jars of ready-made pasta sauce when we lived in Rome, our spag bol hit its prime.

Bolognese Sauce | Close Encounters of the Cooking Kind

Bolognese Sauce | Close Encounters of the Cooking Kind

This recipe is an adaptation of my mum’s tried and tested recipe. It differs from hers in that I only use basil in the sauce, whereas she uses Italian herbs. You can take your pick there. The bolognese is a thick, meaty, garlicky, rich tomato sauce and is one of the greatest comfort foods in the world. I mentioned my aversion to onions in my last post, so this recipe contains no onions. I have also found that dried basil gives a better flavour than fresh basil (is that blasphemous?!), but feel free to use fresh basil and add onions if you like.

Bolognese Sauce | Close Encounters of the Cooking Kind

Bolognese Sauce | Close Encounters of the Cooking Kind

It is one of the few dishes that has achieved divine status in our house and is on the menu at least once a week. Iain and I alternate between cooking bolognese sauce one Sunday and chilli con carne the next. It’s so easy to freeze in individual servings and there’s always enough left over that I’m able to have it on the nights when we do DIY dinners. If the freezer stock gets low then we’re in dire straits in this house.

Bolognese Sauce | Close Encounters of the Cooking Kind

Bolognese Sauce | Close Encounters of the Cooking Kind

This bolognese is a great dish to make when you don’t feel like doing too much hands-on cooking. Once it’s going, it can pretty much be left to its own devices with a stir every now and then. Served on top of your favourite pasta and topped with cheese, what more could you want in life?!

Bolognese Sauce | Close Encounters of the Cooking Kind

Bolognese Sauce

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour

(Recipe updated 20 July, 2014 to include dried oregano and beef stock cube)


500g beef mince
1L tomato passata (4 cups)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
1 beef stock cube
Pepper, to taste
Pasta of choice, to serve
Grated cheese, to serve


  1. In a large, two handled saucepan over high heat, add beef mince and cook, stirring, until browned, approx. 6-7 minutes. Add tomato passata, minced garlic, dried basil, dried oregano, beef stock cube and pepper and stir well. Cover and bring to boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 40-50 minutes, stirring regularly, until sauce reaches a consistency that suits you. I like mine thick, and normally cook for about 50 minutes.
  2. About 15 minutes before bolognese is ready, cook pasta in salted boiling water according to packet instructions. Drain and serve topped with bolognese sauce and grated cheese.
  3. Allow sauce to cool fully before freezing any leftovers.





  1. This looks GREAT Alice! And lucky you getting to live in Italy- I’ve only left the US once before and it was only to the Bahamas, Europe is on my Bucket List to visit before I die so I’m soooo jealous of you for that 😉

    1. I bet the Bahamas was still pretty idyllic!
      There’s so many amazing places to see in Europe. I’m so excited to be off to Russia, Finland and Estonia in 2 weeks. The biggest problem with travelling is meeting people who give you even more ideas for your travel bucket list!

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