Bolognaise for beginners

My Sunday Lunch for beginners seemed to be quite popular so I’ve decided to do another basic recipe simplified down so that anyone can make it. This is a great lazy but hearty weekend meal that it’s definitely worth adding to your arsenal. It’s fab for family, friends or for sharing with that special someone with a nice glass of red wine. Make sure to start about 90 minutes before you want to eat.


1 large onion
1 large carrot
2 sticks of celery
2 cloves of garlic (or a cheat and buy pre-chopped garlic and use a heaped teaspoonful)
100g cubed pancetta (you can buy this in little tubs at most supermarkets)
1 teaspoon of dried rosemary (or the leaves from a sprig of fresh rosemary, finely chopped)
500g lean beef mince
1 small tub of sun dried tomato paste
200ml boiling water
1 beef stock cube
2 tins of chopped plum tomatoes
250g dried spaghetti
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese to serve

Peel the onion and carrot. Chop the ends off the onion, carrot and celery sticks and then cut all three into small cubes. If you are using cloves of garlic, then chop these finely too. Don’t feel like you have to do this all fast like they do on cooking shows. I have zero knife skills. It takes me ages to chop things. Just go at your own pace. The cubes should be about 1/2cm big for the veg and 1mm big for the garlic.

Put a large pot (or a deep pan) with a lid over a medium heat with a splash of olive oil. Allow to heat until the oil is completely runny. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, pancetta and rosemary to the pan. Fry for 5 minutes, giving it the occasional stir (about once a minute).

Put the kettle on for the boiling water. Add the mince to the pot. It is important to break the mince up as you brown it (browning just means cooking it until almost all of it has just turned colour from pink to brown) so that you don’t end up with any big lumps of meat. It’s really easy to do this, just use a wooden spoon or spatula in a twisting motion, keep doing this until you can’t see any pink bits of meat and it’s nicely separated.

Measure out 200ml of boiling water. Crumble the stock cube into the  water and stir well to mix. Add to the mince, give it a stir and let it bubble for a minute. Now it’s time for the flavour secret weapon, sun dried tomatoes. You can buy a little jar of sun dried tomato paste from Sainsburys (and most other supermarkets).  Now empty the pot of sun dried tomato paste into the mince and stir it through. Add the tinned tomatoes. Allow this to heat up until it’s all boiling. The turn down the heat as low as possible to keep it just bubbling. Cover with the lid.

Leave it for half an hour. Then take off the lid, give it a good stir and leave it for 20 minutes with the lid off. Sometimes taking the lid off can cool it all down and stop it from boiling. If this happens, turn it up the heat a little but remember you want a very gentle bubble not mad boiling.

When the 20 minutes are up, boil the kettle again. Put a medium sized pot over a high heat and add enough boiling water so that it is 2/3 full. Add a teaspoon of salt. Now add the pasta to the pot. If it is too long to fit in your pot just put one end in, this will soften and then you can push the rest in. Let the water come back up to the boil. Check your spaghetti packaging to see how long to cook it for. Keep the water boiling throughout the cooking time but keep an eye on it to ensure that it doesn’t boil over. When the cooking time is up, fish out one strand of pasta and taste it. It should be “al dente, which means that it provides a little resistance when you bite on it but isn’t chewy.

1186104_10151850238515638_1426263582_nWhen the spaghetti is done, drain it through a colander. Remove the bolognaise sauce from the heat, add the pasta and stir through. Serve with parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top and garlic bread if you fancy it.


Serves 4 – 6


  1. My partner loves spaghetti. I wonder if I can make a vegetarian version using soy meat and tofu

    1. Abbi

      I have had a lot of success making similar dishes with soy mince. I cook with it a lot because red meat is so expensive and unhealthy. I think it would work really well. Of course you’d need to substitute the beef stock with vegetable stock as well… or you could give it a little kick and use red wine.

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