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How to make your spaghetti Bolognese taste even better

When one Mumsnetter asked for for tips on how to improve her spag bol, the hive mind went into overdrive. Here's what we learned.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Jun 11, 2021

spaghetti bolognese

This is what she started out with:

  • Good quality mince (lamb or beef)
  • Onions, leeks and garlic
  • Mushrooms
  • Red peppers
  • Carrots
  • A small amount of passata
  • A small amount of stock (with a stock cube or homemade)
  • Black pepper (not salt)

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1. Turns out, the first step is to master the art of perfect mince

"I use a mix of pork and beef mince and grate a lot of nutmeg in."

"Fry your mince in small batches until it's very brown and a bit crunchy at the edges. Don't use a non-stick pan, as you want the flavour which comes from the mince sticking to the base of the pan. If you can't do it all in one pot, then deglaze the pan with a splash of wine and pour that into your cooking pot." 

"Roast your mince in the oven until very brown and almost crunchy before adding it to your sauce. This removes excess water which is then replaced by your tasty sauce flavours. Tom Kerridge - that boy really knows his stuff."

mince in pan

2. Next, add the staples that no good Bolognese is without

"Finely chopped carrots, celery and onions. I know it doesn't sound like it, but these are the things that give proper depth of flavour."

"Crisp up some bacon or pancetta first. If you want a bit of a spiciness then chorizo also works well. Or even liver to give it some richness." 

3. Then a liberal helping of your preferred vino (plus a glass for the chef)...

"I add red wine to mine for a bit more zing."

"It has to be white wine. I was putting red wine in for years till I got a mega telling off from friend's mama. Apparently only heathens use red wine."

4. ...as well as 'a dash of this' and 'a pinch of that' to really bring the dish to life

"I always use a good sprinkling of mixed herbs."

"My mum would always add a bay leaf - I think that added a special flavour."

"Add a star anise while it's simmering. A Heston B trick, but it adds the same note as lots of fresh basil while being a million times cheaper."

"Anchovy paste. Just a squeeze, but it has a similar effect to Worcester Sauce without the vinegary edge." 

vegetables for bolognese

5. Perhaps experiment with a few Mumsnet tried-and-tested secret ingredients 

"A little bit of sugar. I always thought it was weird that I did that, until I met DH who is a chef and the first time I saw him make spag Bol he put sugar in it too."

"A splash of whole milk sounds odd but is authentic, and actually does make it taste better."

"Brown sugar, tomato ketchup, porcini."

"I have a friend who has been adding a cup of freshly-brewed coffee to a big batch of Bolognese sauce and she swears by it!"

"I add a teaspoon of Marmite to mine."

6. But remember: good sauce comes to those who wait

"Cook it for longer. DH makes a bland Bolognese but that's because he makes it quickly. I let everything simmer under a lid for at least half an hour then uncover and let the sauce reduce down gradually."

"The overnight thing improves it no end."

"Simmer it for a long time - I reckon an hour. Reduces the liquid and makes it all come together. Add fresh basil towards the end, or dried earlier on."

7. And with any luck, you'll have a Bolognese worthy of this lofty accolade

"My friend is Italian and says it's as close to her nonna's ragu as her nonna's ghost will allow."

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