This basic Bolognese Sauce recipe is not a classic Bolognese but it's a good staple dish, full of vegetables, for bulk cooking to eat with spaghetti or to turn into other dishes such as Chilli or Lasagne.
This probably isn't really Bolognese at all, but that's what we've always called it and it sounds better than mince, veg and tomato sauce, so the name remains. It does take a long time to prepare and cook, but you will get at least 12 portions from this recipe - and more when you turn it into something else, such as Lasagne, Chilli with Rice, Cowboy Dinner, or Mince and Potato Gratin.
You make the time investment to cook the basic recipe, but save precious time in the evenings when you need a decent meal after a busy day.
A meat sauce with lots of veg
This Basic Bolognese Sauce has lots of vegetables in it - about 4 times the amount of mince. I always use onions and mushrooms but the rest varies depending on what's in the fridge or my veg box. Of course, you can leave out the mushrooms if you don't like them, but they add good texture and the mushroom hater in my family doesn't notice them.
This way you get plenty of veg into your family without them realising (even those vegetables that they swear that they don't like). It also saves time when you're dishing up - just heat up and cook some pasta.
As this Basic Bolognese Sauce freezes well and heats quickly in the microwave, you, too, may come to regard it as one of your staple recipes.
Secrets of Success
Fry the mushrooms, don't boil them
To get the best flavour and texture from your mushrooms, don't put too many in the pan at once. You want to drive off the water, not stew them. This is more of a problem with very fresh mushrooms. If they've been hanging about for a week in the fridge, they've probably lost some moisture, which makes them easier to cook.
Chop the vegetables small
The vegetables want to be fairly small in this Bolognese Sauce, especially if you're serving it to fussy eaters. BUT, do not obliterate them into a puree.
Don't let the mince clump
Big pieces of mince are not nice to eat or look at. If you think your mince needs a bit of help, put it through the food processor with a carrot to smooth it up and you'll have a nic, lump-free sauce.
Cook long and slow
This is a dish that likes to cook for a long time, which is why I recommend making such a large quantity. After a quick fry to seal in flavours, you can leave the sauce on a low heat for up to 90 minutes to thoroughly cook through.
Make vegetarian or vegan Bolognese Sauce
- Use Quorn mince for a vegetarian/vegan version of Bolognese sauce
- Make sure the Worcester Sauce is veggie - some brands contain anchovies. Biona Worcester Sauce is vegan - and gluten-free.
How to make it gluten-free
Use gluten-free flour and check that the Worcester Sauce is GF. Many brands use malt vinegar, which is enough to trigger a coeliac reaction. Biona Worcester Sauce is vegan - and gluten-free.
Is there enough meat in this Bolognese?
When you look at the recipe you may think that there isn't much meat, but there is enough, and all the variations add extra protein.
When eating Basic Bolognese as it is, I always add some grated cheese. You may also think that you won't need so many vegetables. Trust me on this, you will. And you will feel virtuous serving and eating this nutritious, tasty meal to your family.
Batch cook and serve in diffrerent ways
You can eat Basic Bolognese as it is or use it as the basis of other dishes. Just add a few ingredients to the basic dish to turn Bolognese Sauce into one of the following meals:
Basic Bolognese Sauce
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, or whatever you prefer to use
- 300 g mushrooms
- 300 g onions
- 4 cloves garlic, adjust to taste
- 1200 g fresh vegetables, prepared weight. See note
- 2 tablespoons mixed herbs, 30ml
- 800 g minced beef
- 2 tablespoons flour, rounded tablespoon (60ml)
- 300 g tomato puree
- 4 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes, 1600g total
- 3 tablespoons Worcester Sauce (45ml)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Prepare all the vegetables - peel, trim, wash and cCut roughly, e.g. onions, carrots etc. in half, to fit in your processor
- Put a very large saucepan on a medium-high heat with the oil2 tablespoons coconut oil,
For the Basic Bolognese Sauce:
- Process the mushrooms. It's best to use the pulse function as you want them chopped up but not pureed. Add to the pan and stir300 g mushrooms
- Process the onions and garlic. Add to the mushrooms, stir well, and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionallyDon't let them burn, but you want to drive off the liquid that these vegetables hold300 g onions, 4 cloves garlic,
- Add the herbs and stir well. Turn the heat down a little2 tablespoons mixed herbs,
- Process the rest of the vegetables in batches. Add each batch to the pan and stir thoroughly before processing the next batch. You will usually have about 4 or 5 batchesYou want the vegetable pieces to be quite small, so that they aren't recognisable, but are not liquidised. It's like a very fine chop. Mix up the different vegetables so they process better1200 g fresh vegetables,
- Add the minced beef. You will need to mix this in very thoroughly, breaking it up with the back of your spoon or spatula to avoid clumps of meat800 g minced beef
- Add the flour and mix in thoroughly. This will absorb some of the liquid so that the sauce isn't too watery2 tablespoons flour,
- Add the tomato puree and mix in.300 g tomato puree
- If the liquid in your tomatoes is very thin, pour some of it off. Add the tomatoes and Worcester Sauce4 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes,, 3 tablespoons Worcester Sauce
- Give it a jolly good stir and bring to the boil. Put the lid on, lower the heat so that it just simmers and cook for at least 90 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.The longer it cooks, the better it isSalt and pepper to taste
- Leave to cool in the pan or dish up immediately and serve with pasta and grated cheese.Or freeze in protions to make lots of other dishes - see note.
- You can use whatever you like, or whatever you have. I use a mixture of carrots, celery, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, root vegetables
- The weight is after they have been prepared, i.e. washed, trimmed, peeled
Everyday Cooks tip:
- This quantity will serve 8-10 people, so freeze what is left in meal-size portions
- This is basic recipe forms the basis of dishes such as Lasagne, Everyday Chilli , Cowboy Dinner, and Mince and Potato Gratin
You will need a slightly smaller quantity of Basic Bolognese Sauce to make these dishes than you will if you eat it as it is.