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Bolognese - Back to Basics 23

It is one of the Cookie House tadpole’s birthday, his 21st birthday actually. Being too cool for dinner with his parents now, he hemmed and haa-ed about what he wanted for his birthday dinner, so I made him that which he has chosen for the last ten years, lasagne and triple chocolate fudge cake, only to have him say, oh, I was hoping for roast lamb and Yorkshire puddings. Hmmm.....

Anyway, this is what he got and we are going to break it down into a few tutorials for our Back to Basics as this lasagne is made up of a couple of things that can be used in other things.

To begin with, let us look at our meat layer. This is a classic bolognese, but I am going to teach you a cheat that will give you really great flavour, but not need you to simmer it for hours.


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 carrot

1 onion

2 sticks celery

4 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon fresh chopped herbs, I used marjoram, rosemary and thyme

500g lean beef mince

200ml red wine

2 x 400g crushed tomatoes

Salt and pepper (optional)

Heat the half the olive oil in a medium saucepan, add the finely diced carrot, celery and onion, cook for several minutes, stirring often until the onion is translucent, stir in the garlic and herbs, cook for another two minutes until very fragrant.

Tip into a bowl, return the pot to the heat, turn the heat up to medium high, add the other half of the olive oil and then drop the mince straight in.

Okay, remember I promised you a cheat that is going to speed up your simmer time while ensuring depth of flavour? This is it, see this image up above? We dropped our mince in onto our hot oil, we let that sizzle for a minute until we have some good colour, like this -

And then we flip it over, tip in our red wine, tinned tomatoes, a cup of water and sauteed veg, give it all a stir and bring it to the boil.

Can you tell me what the cheat is here? Well, this bit of caramelisation on the meat is going to give us some gorgeous flavour, but if we brown all of our mince we are either going to have a tough bolognese or we are going to have to simmer it for hours to get it tender, and it is more likely to end up grainy and paste-like. This way we are getting the tenderness from braising our raw meat in the liquid that will reduce to make up our sauce, while getting the richness of flavour that the browning imparts, and the brown bits will disperse through the bolognese and you won’t notice that some of the meat is a little bit firmer.

So, we have added all of our other ingredients, brought it to the boil and now we reduce the heat and we simmer until everything is thick and saucy, like this -

Beautiful. Take it off the heat and season to taste. This can be used on a pasta for the absolute classic Spaghetti Bolognese. It can be used as the base for a Shepherds Pie. OR it can be used in a traditional lasagne, which is what we are going to do with it. If you want to see how that turns out, trundle along to the Lasagne Blog.


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