Make Ahead

Nigel Slater's Really Good Spaghetti Bolognese

March  4, 2014
9 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
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

  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Serves 4
Ingredients
  • 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
  • 8 ounces Spaghetti or tagliatelle
  • 1 handful Grated Parmesan, to taste
In This Recipe
Directions
  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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Melissa S
    Melissa S
  • Barbara Annemarie
    Barbara Annemarie
  • stefanie
    stefanie
  • Fran McGinty
    Fran McGinty
  • Louise Anne Buchler
    Louise Anne Buchler
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

98 Reviews

Paddy February 15, 2021
I think veal is the better choice for most sauces.
 
brandyk August 21, 2020
Just made this. Delicious!! Only tweak was to use less cream. I used 1/4 cup and felt that achieved a silky result. Loved the flavor the mushrooms bring to the dish.
 
Melissa S. May 12, 2020
This is amazing! It improves in the fridge for leftovers. I make a whole batch of the sauce and cook the pasta as I need it. If the pancetta is really fatty, I skip the butter. The veggies bring a beautiful depth, especially the mushrooms.
 
Melissa S. May 12, 2020
This is amazing! It improves in the fridge for leftovers. I make a whole batch of the sauce and cook the pasta as I need it. If the pancetta is really fatty, I skip the butter. The veggies bring a beautiful depth, especially the mushrooms.
 
Melissa S. May 12, 2020
This is amazing! It improves in the fridge for leftovers. I make a whole batch of the sauce and cook the pasta as I need it. If the pancetta is really fatty, I skip the butter. The veggies bring a beautiful depth, especially the mushrooms.
 
Melissa S. May 12, 2020
This is amazing! It improves in the fridge for leftovers. I make a whole batch of the sauce and cook the pasta as I need it. If the pancetta is really fatty, I skip the butter. The veggies bring a beautiful depth, especially the mushrooms.
 
Don M. February 12, 2020
This recipe is a "go to" comfort food recipe for me. I use passata and diced tomatoes to bulk it up, and serve it with No35 rigatoni.
I've served it to friends who love the aromas and simplicity, then ask for recipe. Versatile, simple and delicious!!
 
Barbara A. October 28, 2019
lovely recipe, split up the work over 2 days and it came out great. flavor improved over a couple of days in the fridge too.
 
halfdani October 19, 2019
Followed the recipe and came out super tasty.
Worth noting that it didn't come out as saucy or tomatoey as I thought it would.
 
Ethel B. May 12, 2020
It wouldn't. That's the difference between Bolognese ragù and ragù from other regions. Bolognese is more meat than tomatoes. And in Piemonte, they have a rage with identical ingredients except for the tomatoes. I couldn't wrap my head around that.
 
stefanie September 30, 2019
Swapped in chopped up rehydrated dried porcini and porcini stock (had some from a colleague that I've been trying to use up for ages) for the mushroom and stock in the recipe. Also added a tablespoon or so of tomato paste with the aromatics. Came out great - umami was through the roof. Will make again.
 
Katie B. October 3, 2018
Tested this recipe last night- good but not wowed. And I am hoping to wow my bookclub with this recipe.
It did not taste layered as described. Maybe more cooking between layers?
Served over rigatoni’s e and sauce got lost. Not thick enough?
Used contadina crushed tomatoes, homemade chicken stock and light cream. Tasted saltier than preferred, not sure why. What does tipping the ground beep into the pan mean?
Want to get this right!
 
Kristen M. October 5, 2018
Hi Katie! I'm so bummed this wasn't a hit on the first try. My first thoughts on how to amp up the flavor: It should keep improving and melding after a day or so in the fridge, so it could be worth making ahead and reheating. Be sure to salt enough to taste to bring out all the flavors, but not enough to drown them out. Let plenty of browning happen on the bottom of the pan in step 3 (but not burning!). And make sure that the vegetables are at least softened and cooked through, no longer raw, before moving onto the next stage (you could let them even brown a little, if you want). I fit still seems too thin, let it keep reducing down and it will concentrate the flavors. I think by "tip in", he just means "add to the pan" in his lyrical way. By the way, if you're looking for less of a ground meat texture and more of a shredded, falling apart one, this recipe is very easy and delicious (some people like to add more tomatoes): https://food52.com/recipes/39733-andy-ward-jenny-rosenstrach-s-pork-shoulder-ragu
 
Fran M. September 8, 2018
My significant other informed me he was no longer eating beef or pork, I used lean ground chicken left out the pork and this dish still shines. It was wonderful. He thought I forgot and used beef.
 
Louise A. June 23, 2018
I love this recipe. I go to it again and again. I have even used it in lasagne and everyone I've made it for love it.
 
Fran M. March 22, 2018
I have been waiting for a request to make this again. It just arrived, I knew it would eventually. I didn’t think it would take this long.
 
riverdwell November 25, 2017
I plan to make this, but without the spaghetti because I'm on the Keto Diet.
 
Loreal November 25, 2017
This is a recipe I return to again and again. I never add the dairy because I'm lactose intolerant, but it's fabulous!
 
Anthony B. November 22, 2017
Wow, this was totally delicious--a streamlined bolognese worthy of the name! Do not be put off by the commenters below who are worked up by some detail about authenticity. This is very close to the real thing, with much less trouble! Thank you Nigel!!
 
Fran M. May 31, 2017
The first time I made this I forgot to add the cream. Still delicious.
 
Fran M. May 31, 2017
This dish is Amazing no matter what should or shouldn't be in it.
 
Ethel B. April 27, 2017
I've been reading over some posts. I realized from the remarks about butter, cream, mushrooms, broth, that this is not really authentic Bolognese ragù. Olive oil is used to sauté the carrots, celery and onions. There is no broth, and just a touch of cream at the end. AND NO MUSHROOMS!