Nigel Slater's Really Good Spaghetti Bolognese

By • March 4, 2014 56 Comments

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Author Notes: A bolognese that works around your schedule -- and might even be better than Nonna's, thanks to a secret ingredient or four. Adapted slightly from The Kitchen Diaries (Gotham Books, 2006).Genius Recipes

Serves 4

For the bolognese

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 ounces cubed pancetta
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 fat cloves garlic
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 large, flat mushrooms such as portobello, about 4 ounces
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound ground beef or lamb
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes or passata
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 3/4 cup stock
  • 1 nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half or cream

For serving

  • Spaghetti or tagliatelle for 4
  • Grated Parmesan
  1. Melt the butter in a large, heavy-based pot -- then stir in the pancetta and let it cook for five minutes or so, without coloring much. Meanwhile peel and finely chop the onion and garlic and stir them into the pancetta. Peel and finely chop the carrot and celery and stir them in, too. Lastly, finely chop the mushrooms and add to the pan, then tuck in the bay leaves and leave to cook for ten minutes over a moderate heat, stirring frequently.
  2. Turn up the heat and tip in the meat, breaking it up well with a fork.
  3. Now leave to cook without stirring for a good three or four minutes, then, as the meat on the bottom is starting to brown, stir again, breaking up the meat where necessary, and leave to color.
  4. Mix in the tomatoes, red wine, stock, a grating of nutmeg and some salt and black pepper, letting it come to the boil. Turn the heat down so that everything barely bubbles. There should be movement, but one that is gentle, not quite a simmer. Partially cover the pan with a lid and leave to putter away for an hour to an hour and a half, stirring from time to time and checking the liquid levels. You don't want it to be dry.
  5. Pour in the half-and-half or cream a bit at a time, stir and continue cooking for twenty minutes. Check the seasoning, then serve with the pasta and grated Parmesan.

More Great Recipes: Ground Beef|Beef & Veal|Pasta|Entrees|Tomatoes

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Comments (56) Questions (4)


27 days ago jstucky

One of the best things I have ever made! So many of my favorite flavors to cook come together-- pancetta, butter, garlic, onions, mushrooms, red wine, cream. Like others mentioned, I also reduced the amount of butter and half and half and it still absolutely delicious!


3 months ago Pablo Duganheim

Just one thing. What does 'leave the putter away' mean? Apologies for my ignorance, but I honestly only have a guess that it means something like only to stir it once in a while.


3 months ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Thanks for noting that typo. It should actually be "leave to putter away" -- I just updated the recipe. Slater means that it should be left to simmer gently, and I think the rest of that step describes the way it should do that pretty well. Hope that helps!


3 months ago Pablo Duganheim

Ha! Thanks for the clarification! I figured it was something like that. Great recipe though and it is good enough for me to want to fully understand each of the steps completely, which I now do. And my typing abilities are atrocious, so no worries there. Keep up the excellent work! :-)


3 months ago Melissa

A good bolognese- will it replace Ina's? Nah but it's just as good


6 months ago Marina Bailey

Perhaps it was the beef stock but my attempt was horrible.


7 months ago Georgetown-DC

With the temps in the teens this was the perfect dish to make for tonight's dinner. It's currently bubbling on the stove and it's oh so yummy. I used lamb and initially thought it was a big gamey but I've had it on the stove for about 3 hours now and the flavors have gone sublime! As for the half-and-half, I will add in small increments because the sauce is outstanding as is and do not want to overwhelm it. For dessert I'm serving Julia Child's free-form rustic Apple Tart with apricot jam,Grand Marnier and currents in the mixture with a side of Dulce de leche ice cream. If I'm going to break the bank in terms of carbs and calories, I might as well do it all! My neighbors are going to love me!!!!


7 months ago Jonathan Mandel

This recipe is loaded up with so much fat that it could be made of cardboard and it would still be "good". Consider: 4T butter + rendered fat from 3oz pancetta + rendered fat from 1LB ground beef + 3/4C heavy cream. This style of cooking, which uses fat to replace flavor, is the problem with much American restaurant cooking. This recipe is actually quite bland, because no specific amount of salt is included in the prep. If I make it again, I will trade nearly all the animal fat for olive oil, and add 2 tsp salt at step 4.


7 months ago Fran McGinty

I made this last night and it was unbelievable, I loved it and will be making it again. That being said, I couldn't bring myself to eat all the fat so after cooking the meat I strained all the fat out. It was still fantastic. I did use the 1\2 & 1\2. When I make it next time I will only add 1 Tbsp. butter.


7 months ago Smamfy

Not Vegetarian as it's collection lists it to be?


8 months ago Sam

This was pretty darn good! I ended up using half the amount of cream, although I will likely leave it out all together next time since it was a little bit too rich for my taste, and it was so wonderful prior to adding the dairy anyway.


8 months ago FavourFlavour

Superb! I love the way this lets you chop the items in order and toss them in as you go - a great way to prepare. Followed recipe exactly as written. I let it simmer for 1.5 hours - served with fettuccine. So SO good, thank you!


about 1 year ago procrastibaker

I loved this! We made it last night, and it was hearty and delicious (perfect for summer in the Bay Area). I doubled the recipe and used half beef and half pork for the meat, which added some more depth to the flavor, and also threw in two teaspoons or so of crushed red pepper. Wonderful recipe, will definitely be making again.


about 1 year ago Transcendancing

Loved this, worth the time and effort most definitely. The sauce without the cream tastes incredible, and with the cream is a different kind of incredible. I'm very impressed by the flavour of the sauce - it reminds me of Bolognaise sauce but... also feels markedly different. I will definitely make this again for a dinner party of some sort. I used beef mince and home made beef stock. My stock is unsalted and I also found that I didn't need to salt the sauce at all - the celery I think does the job of salt very well in this recipe. I also like that it seems to be a fairly forgiving recipe in terms of amounts - I roughly measured the liquids, erring on a little more rather than less and ended up with the perfect ratio.


about 1 year ago IMOm

Absolutely delicious! Quadrupled recipe first time I made it for a big party & people were scraping down the bowl. Paws asked to make it for another party tomorrow! That makes u feel good!


about 1 year ago dhyka darwin

I made this recipe just now, subs the cream with milk. and used combination of olive oil and butter. Amazing flavour, better than the one in the Italian restaurant. :p


over 1 year ago jampot

This was so yummy! I know we'll make it again and again. Made it to spec!


over 1 year ago Janet

accidentally forgot about the cream and just chowed down, thinking it was delicious, only to realize half way into my bowl of pasta that i left out the cream. oh well! just letting people know it's still good without the dairy!


over 1 year ago ktchnninja

soooo good! thanks for the recipe. followed exactly but found I needed about double the tomato/stock/wine mix over the course of 1 hour and 15 minutes. I did use the full 3/4 cup of half-and-half but would prefer it at about 3/8 cup to 1/2 cup. It was a little creamy/rich for my liking. However, the flavors were incredibly deep and rich. I also loved the texture from the carrots and celery. Great recipe!


over 1 year ago tastysweet

I noticed that all of the comments are separated from the main recipe page to the full recipe page. Any way they can be all in one place? Does this make sense?


over 1 year ago gasgirl

I only commented about the serving dish..asking who made them. I had not made the made this sauce and loved it! So good and the mushrooms are the secret! Make will not regret it!


over 1 year ago m.juliusbrown

Just made it. I really enjoyed it. Thank you.