Everyone seems to have an opinion on bolognese sauce and secret tips they say make theirs special. I’ve experiment­ed with many over the years, but this is the one I always come back to. Rich and tomatoey with a deep meaty flavour, it’s my idea of the perfect bolognese. My tricks? There are a few. But the two things people stop me in the streets to declare changed their bolognese game forever are a touch of sugar and beef bouillon cubes. Trust me, you’ll also become a convert! 1½ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 brown onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced 500 grams beef mince

½ cup (125ml) pinot noir wine1 2 beef bouillon cubes, crumbled 800-gram can crushed tomatoes2 2 tablespoon­s tomato paste 2 teaspoons Worcesters­hire sauce 2 bay leaves 2 thyme sprigs

(or ½ teaspoon dried thyme) ½ teaspoon black pepper ¾ teaspoon cooking salt 1 teaspoon white sugar2 (optional)


400 grams dried spaghetti, or other pasta3

Parmesan, freshly grated finely chopped parsley (optional)

Heat the oil in a large heavy- based pot over medium- high heat. Cook the onion and garlic for 3 minutes until softened. Turn the heat up to high and add the beef.

Cook, breaking it up as you go, until browned. Add the wine, bring to a simmer and cook for 1 minute, scraping the bottom of the pot, until the alcohol smell is gone.

Add the remaining ingredient­s. Stir, bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down to medium so it bubbles gently. Cook for 20-30 minutes, uncovered, adding water if the sauce gets too thick for your preference. Stir occasional­ly. At the end of the cook time, taste the bolognese sauce then add more salt or sugar if needed.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water as per the packet directions minus 1 minute. Just before draining, scoop out a mug of pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the pot of hot bolognese sauce. Add ½ cup (125ml) of the pasta cooking water. Toss the pasta4 over medium heat, continuous­ly, using two wooden spoons for 1½ minutes until the spaghetti turns red and the sauce is clinging to the pasta rather than pooled at the bottom of the pot. If the pasta sauce gets too thick, add a splash of the reserved pasta cooking water to loosen it up.

To serve: Divide the spaghetti among bowls. Garnish with the Parmesan, and parsley, if desired. Serve immediatel­y.

Slow- cook option (premium!): Add ¾ cup (185ml) water, cover with a lid and simmer on the lowest heat for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so. Uncover and simmer for another 20 minutes to thicken the sauce.


1. Any red wine that’s not too sweet can be used or non-alcoholic red wine or water.

2. Many economical canned tomato brands can have a sour edge, so be sure to use the sugar in your bolognese. Start with 1 teaspoon, simmer, taste, then add more if needed.

3. Despite what you may have been doing for years, 500 grams mince doesn’t make enough sauce for 500 grams pasta, only 400 grams! This quantity serves five people (80 grams pasta is a standard serving size per person, in general).

4. You can just put bolognese sauce over cooked spaghetti, but it is better tossed with the pasta. It would be unacceptab­le in Italy to skip this step!

5. Slow-cooker: After the beef is browned, transfer everything into a slow-cooker and cook for 6 hours on low.

LEFTOVERS Bolognese sauce keeps 4 days in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer.

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