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Bolognese sauce (ragu')

No deviation is allowed if you want to make the real Italian thing, this recipe comes directly from my granny Nonna Lu (born in 1896, you cannot beat this for an old tradition!)

  • TIP 1: never ever add sugar. The acidity of the tomatoes is counteracted by a little bit of carrot

  • TIP 2: never add water to the sauce, it needs to be thick! If using it to dress pasta, or tortellini, or pasta "al forno", just mix a little bit of butter with the pasta as soon as it's cooked, then add the Bolognese; if using for lasagne, then the thickness will be perfect as is


  • 40 gr olive oil

  • 700 gr mince meat (the leaner the better)

  • 3 tins (400 gr each) of chopped tomatoes

  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste

  • 1 large onion

  • 4 medium garlic cloves

  • 1 small carrot (or 1/2 if large)

  • 1/2 celery stick

  • 4 good slugs of Anchovies paste (or 5-6 drained fillets of anchovies preserved in olive oil)

  • Half of a grated nutmeg (I love nutmeg so I use almost a full one - it really depends on your taste: careful that too much will give a bitter taste)

  • Fine salt (very little, because of the anchovies)

  • Freshly ground black pepper, both Black and White if possible

  • A good few pinches of oregano (sometimes I do cheat, and use 2 bayleaves instead of the origano)


  • The “soffritto”: heat the olive oil well, then add the minced garlic

  • TIP: keep in mind that the length of time between the garlic becoming golden, and you adding another ingredient should not be longer than 5-10 seconds: no joke; the garlic will otherwise will change from golden to brown and the full dish will acquire a bitter taste

    • If that does happen, it is absolutely worth your while to start from scratch right at this point, rather than to proceed hoping that the bitterness will get hidden by other flavours: it won’t.

  • Add the onion, carrot and celery stick (all finely chopped but not minced) to the golden garlic and stir well

  • Cover the pot and cook on medium heat until the vegetables have become soft but not brown

  • Add the anchovies paste and stir everything very well (if using anchovies fillets, make sure you break them down with a spoon). Trust me, it won't taste "fishy" but it will add much more depth than just salt

  • Add the mince meat and break it down very well with your wooden spoon once in the pot. Make sure you continue to stir and break it down while it's cooking so that there are no lumps left

  • Add the tinned tomatoes and stir it thoroughly

  • Add also half a tomato tin of water, this is the only water you'll use

  • TIP: use that quantity of water to rinse all your empty tins, pouring the water into one tin then pour it into another, and so on. The water will gather the remainder of your tomatoes from the tins

  • Add the oregano (or bayleaf) and the grated nutmeg.

  • Add the concentrated tomato paste

  • Stir very well, then reduce the heat so that it will be simmering really slowly

  • The lid must be shut tight as you want the sauce to mature without loosing any vapour.

    • TIP: if the lid does not close very well, make a lid with tinfoil and close it tight, then place your lid on top

  • Cook for 2 hours or more, stirring it every 15 mins, on a low heat (it must be simmering very slowly)

  • After 2 hours if it's not sufficiently thickened, open the lid a little so that the vapour can get out, it will take only a few mins to get thick enough

  • When the sauce is ready it will have changed colour to a dark red/orange/brown

  • Add the ground pepper at this point, then taste for salt and for nutmeg so you can add them if needed

  • Stir well and take it off the hob to rest (30 mins if you're in a hurry, but it would be better to let it rest a full day as it’s a sauce that improves with time; if you wait longer than half a day, place the sauce in the fridge as soon as it reaches room temperature, and place it covered so that it will not absorb any smell)

  • This sauce keeps in the fridge well for 3 days, and in the freezer for 3 months

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