Comforting family food

PREP TIME: 10 mins
3 – 4 hrs slow cooking
one-pot meal, family, crowd-pleaser

WINE MATCH: Suzie (Michael Sutton’s Cellar) suggests a Chianti Classico which has a lovely sour cherry acidity to off set the richness of the beef.

You could do that with an easy-drinking, not-too-hard-on-the-wallet, Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo for £9 – a great midweek wine which will bring you back from ‘Dry January’ with ease.

Or if you fancy pushing the boat out, then try Retromarcia for £20. This one is beautifully made and will really compliment the steak & veal.

Simple slow-cooked Bolognese

So, I thought, ‘I know! I’ll do a good ole favourite this week… Bolognese’.

And to be completely honest, I thought it would an easy post to write.

I mean, it’s a well-known and loved classic.

And simple. Right?

What could be complicated about a post on Bolognese??

Bolognese vs Bolognaise

Let’s start right there… the spelling.

A simple google search suddenly makes me question the way I spell the word.

So, I dig a little deeper… (internet rabbit hole approaching…)

And discovered little facts I didn’t know, such as …

  1. Bolognese; originates in Bologna, Italy – but I think we all knew that.
  2. Bolognese is an Italian word, while the French word, bolognaise.
  3. Ragù alla Bolognese, or Bolognese sauce, is an Italian meat sauce i.e. a ragù.
  4. These meat sauces vary from region to region in Italy, hence Ragù alla Bolognese is the method and ingredients that differentiates it.
  5. A ragù in Italy is a general term, used to indicate any meat sauce cooked over low heat for many hours.
  6. You’ll never see an Italian eat Ragù alla Bolognese with spaghetti (we’ll address that below).

Is there a difference between spaghetti sauce and Bolognese sauce?


A spaghetti sauce is a marinara sauce.

Which is a tomato sauce with herbs and veggies like carrots and onion.

A Bolognese is primarily a meat based sauce, with just a bit of tomato (and in some other regions has ingredients like wine or milk added)

Ragu vs Bolognese?

I know, it’s getting a little over-complicated now.

However, they’re pretty similar but a bit reversed on quantities

A ragù uses red wine and more tomatoes.

And a Bolognese is usually white wine and only a little tomato.

I think the key in this is the meat vs tomato quantity.

What kind of meat do you use in Bolognese?

Again, if you google it, you’re in for a lot of strong opinions on what’s ‘authentic’ or ‘traditional’.

I have followed Angela Hartnetts’ recipe with her Italian roots.

And her Nonna (aka Grandmother) uses mainly beef chuck and some veal.

(nb: I couldn’t find veal when I made her recipe so I used some venison).

She also recommends hand dicing the meat like her Nonna used to do as it tastes much better.

It’s up to you. I hand diced it because I was curious about her Nonna’s claim.

But if I’m totally honest, next time I’ll probably mince it in our grinder, just for speed.

Other recipes call for beef mince and pancetta.

Whatever you decide, just make sure you go for high quality (organic grass-fed) meat.

I think it’s worth having a go at some of the other versions as well to see which one you prefer the most.

The pasta conundrum

Let’s not stop while we’re rolling…

So, we got through the spelling and the ragu vs Bolognese etc

Now it’s pasta! Which one?

I think ultimately (and quietly between us), we’re going to use whatever pasta is in the cupboard.

Having said that, why not place this little bit of interesting cookery info into your ‘Mind Palace’ to retrieve one day.

But remember… a genuine ragù alla Bolognese is never served with spaghetti.

The reason; the luscious meat sauce you’ve lovingly laboured over, will simply fall off those small, skinny strands of pasta.

You need something that holds the ragù so you get pasta and meat sauce in one bite.

That makes good practical sense.

Ever had that annoying bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese and all the meat is at the bottom?

Well, that’s why. Wrong pasta for the job,

Your spaghetti pasta is better suited to the marinara sauce.

In this recipe, Angela Harnett opts for penne pasta.

But other ‘acceptable’ pasta shapes include…

  • tagliatelle – flat and wide
  • garganelli or farfalle (bowties)
  • ziti – narrow and hollow
  • pappardelle – wider than tagliatelle

Can Bolognese be made in advance?

Like with most low and slow cooking, if you leave it over night the flavours will develop further.


What’s your favourite Italian pasta dish? Leave a comment...

Slow-cooked Penne Bolognese

Course Main Course
Keyword bolognese, Italian, penne, ragu
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 3 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 13 minutes
Servings 4 people
Cost £


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 500 g chuck steak, finely diced (you could use minced)
  • 150 g veal rump, finely diced (I used venision as I couldn't find veal)
  • 3 tbsp tomato purée
  • 100 ml white or red wine
  • 300 -500 ml water or chicken stock
  • 400 g penne
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • handful of grated parmesan, to serve


  • Heat the oil over a low heat in a heavy-based pan, then add the vegetables and garlic and cook gently, stirring occasionally.
    Add the diced (or minced) meat and colour slightly for 1 – 2 mins.
    Add the tomato purée and cook for 4-5 mins (this ensures it acts as a thickening agent and does not overpower the meat).
  • Add the wine, turn up the heat a little and allow to bubble and reduce.
    Cover with the water or stock and stir well. Cover with a cartouche (a circle of baking parchment).
  • Angela Hartnett says, that a good bolognese should cook for at least 3-4 hours over a very low heat, but checking it every hour and give it a stir.
    If necessary, add a touch of water so it does not dry out.
    Once cooked, it should have formed a lovely thick sauce.
  • Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and add to the bolognese.
    Season, then serve sprinkled with parmesan


Inspired by Angela Hartnett’s Cucina cookbook