Three Versions of Spaghetti Bolognese

Keifer Derrin of food blog shares a collection of three delicious but different recipes for bolognese sauce.

I was visiting some friends  a while back and when I woke up, there was a wonderful aroma permeating around the house. I dragged my tired carcass into the kitchen where my friend, Lyd, was stirring a bowl of beef mince and so stuck my nose in to smell and asked what it was.  She was cooking a spag bol (spaghetti bolognese), but it didn’t smell or look like any spag bol I had seen before. Which got us talking about how spag bol has many different variations and everybody appears to have their own make on this dish. Although we had different recipes we both agreed the longer it cooks the better the flavour.  In fact, Lyd cooked her dish for almost 5 hours and it was delicious.

At the beginning of the year  I was talking to another friend about how I made a spag bol which I cooked for 3 hours and he wanted my recipe to put on his blog. He also heard that there was an original version of this from Bologna and so did a search for it’s history and found it on Wikipedia. It used milk and white wine and no tomatoes as oppose to red wine and tomatoes I use. I tried it out and it was great, the milk gave the meat a wonderful silky texture. I checked out the Wikipedia entry and was surprised to find that the dish was only registered in 1982 by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina.

All three version are so different, I decided to list them here.  I have tried all three and they are all very tasty, with different flavours and textures and hope you try each one as well.

Original version

300g beef skirt (I cheated and used beef mince)
150g pancetta (I used cut up streaky bacon)
50g carrots chopped
50g celery chopped
50g onion chopped
20g tomato purée
250ml milk
125-200ml white wine
salt and pepper to taste

Add the pancetta in the pan and cook until browned, add the chopped carrots, celery and onion and leave to cook until soft. Next add the mince and leave to gently simmer for about 5-10 mins stirring constantly to stop it from burning. Add the wine and tomato purée and leave to simmer very slowly for 2 hours. During the cooking time add a bit of the milk a little a little at a time to ensure you’ve used it all up over the 2 hours. They recommend you use tagliatelle, as there is more surface area for the sauce to stick to, but any pasta will do.

Lyd’s version

300g mince beef
1 large onion
½ tube of tomato purée
1 beef stock cube (made up to 500ml)
1 cinnamon stick
1-2 bay leaves
½ bottle of red wine
salt and pepper
Dried mint leaves

Fry the onions until soft add the mince and brown. Add salt, pepper and the tomato purée, fry until the purée is almost burning, as this intensifies the flavour. Add the stock, wine, cinnamon stick and bay leaves and stir in and cook for as long as you like.

As I said, Lyd cooked her version for 5 hours and it was incredibly tasty. Serve with any pasta and serve with dried mint leaves on top. I have omitted an ingredient from the version she cooked which was butter. When I cooked her version I was trying to be healthy. She added 75g of it in the sauce and added 75g to the pasta, once cooked, and stirred until it was melted and covered the pasta. So if you are not worried about the health aspect of all that butter then add it, because it does add to the taste and texture.

Keifer’s version

300g of mince beef
1 tbl extra virgin olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
1 carrot finely chopped
2 celery stalks finely chopped
6 mushrooms finely chopped
250ml red wine
400g tin tomatoes
1 tbs tomato purée
1 tsp Worcester sauce
salt and pepper to season
Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion and cook for a few minutes and then add the garlic and cook until the onion is soft.  Then add the mince and brown (drain off any excess fat). Once browned add the carrots, celery and mushrooms and stir well. Add the wine stirring constantly for about 5-10minutes, so that the wine has almost evaporated. Then add the tin of tomatoes, tomato purée, Worcester sauce, salt and pepper.  Turn down the heat to the lowest setting and cook for 2 hours (or as long as you like) stirring from time to time to ensure it doesn’t dry out and stick or burn. You may need to add a little water if appears to be getting a bit dry.

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About Keifer Derrin

Having worked in IT for over 20 years, Keifer Derrin quit his job to do something new. Not claiming to be a Gordon, Heston or even a Delia, Keifer’s passion for all kinds of food includes trying out new recipes whether they take 10 minutes or 8 hours to prepare. He also enjoys eating out - anything from The Ledbury to Pizza Express and even a local greasy spoon! Keifer also does voluntary work for the Food Chain, a charity that supplies food, meals & nutritional education to people who are HIV+. Check out his food blog at
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