Worst Bolognese Ever

If I am putting this post in the wrong place, please feel free to move it. I just had to vent. I got take out last night from an Italian place in my neighborhood. I was absolutely craving a good bolognese. This was not that. I smelled it as soon as I put it in the car - vegetable broth? I figured I was smelling the veges from my husband’s veal dish. But, as soon as I opened my container there it was - BAM, in my face vegetable stock in my bolognese. Who does that? Yes, if your are doing a vegetarian version with vegies instead of meat, but when I order a bolognese I expect meat unless it says othewise on the menu. I can still smell it. UGH! Thanks all, just had to bitch about it.


Bad bolognese is always a huge let down. Sorry.

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I refuse to order Bolognese out because no one EVER makes it correctly in my experience. Too much tomato is the usual culprit, but in America you never know what you’re going to get! Sickly sweet, full of chunky vegetables, runny with little meat, you name it, restaurants here find a way to ruin it! Sorry your dinner was such a disappointment!


This may possibly be another of those differences between American English and English English. But, when you refer to “vegetable stock”, do you mean that there was no meat at all in the bolognese (which I agree would not be a bolognese) or, as I’ve read it, that the liquid was a vegetable stock, not a beef based one? If the latter, I see no great crime if everything else is as it should be - and has definitely been long cooked.

FWIW, we’d usually cook at home to this basic recipe, excluding the minced pork, adding carrot, only using one tin of tomatoes and topping up the liquid with beef stock (from cube or bottle). https://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/collections/delia-online-cookery-school/ragu-bolognese


There was meat but I believe they used vegetable stock instead of maybe the milk. Whatever the reason it was not cooked sufficiently, as you say. I don’t expect the potent smell of vege stock that hit me in the face when I order a bolognese. Ugh.

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Thanks. Milk in bolognese is a new one on me - is there a reason for including it as part of the liquid?

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I believe some recipes call for it, some don’t. Makes it a bit richer. It’s added at the end and simmered. It’s a small amount.

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Bolognese is one of those things that there are as many recipes as people who make it . . . .

I know of 3 general strategies when it comes to milk in bolognese

  1. Milk simmered with the meat at the very beginning, before the wine/broth is added. I’m led to believe that this method helps the meat stay more tender during the long cooking.
  2. Milk/cream added at the end - to create a richer sauce
  3. I’ve also seen recipes that are essentially a very long simmered meat sauce with bechamel mixed in at the very end.

If done right, they all taste great in the end.


That all sounds great,

@winecountrygirl, I too would have been disappointed, or downright irritated! Sorry for the letdown. Bolognese is beloved in our household, and my version always has a dairy component. It’s one of two pasta sauces that I make in large batches, and then freeze. But I better get going, because I think we’re out.

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@Lambchop - can you share your favorite recipe?? Pretty please?

Absolutely @winecountrygirl - let me post it later this evening or tomorrow am at latest. It’s become my go to, although I’ve tried many other versions. Pretty straightforward, but a bit of cooking down, between additions of dairy and stock. So
it won’t be watery, like last night…:upside_down_face:

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I think we’re circling in on what “bolognese” means. For me the big issue with a good bolognese is keeping the fat from overwhelming the sauce. That generally makes diary counterproductive.

My bolognese is based on Alton Brown’s here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spiCPDEXW4s except I add carrots (sweet not fat) with the celery and garlic and simply skip the evaporated milk.

At least in the US, “bolognese” has very often been used - especially until fairly recently - to mean “any tomato-based pasta sauce with ground beef”, much the way “marinara” came to be grossly over-applied to almost any tomato-sauce-for-pasta that couldn’t be given a more marketing-worthy name. There may very well be traditional Italian recipes for “ragù bolognese” that don’t call for milk (and no doubt many variations exist on the household-to-household level), but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in print that didn’t…

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This. Drives me bonkers. Bolognese is a MEAT SAUCE with a hint of tomato for flavor and color, NOT A TOMATO SAUCE. I have tried a number of recipes (Hazan, Rosetto-Kasper, Batali), and Batali’s recipe are by far my favorite because they are mainly meat, light on tomato, and use milk rather than cream (which I find dulls the overall flavor of the sauce).

This one is the one I prefer, but I substitute ground pancetta, well-rendered, for the oil and butter in the first step.

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On my early visits to America, I was surprised and disappointed when I ordered something “marinara” to find it was a tomato sauce, not the seafood preparation I’d expected. Took me about three trips to realise there was a difference between British expectation and American reality.


Yes, I think of it as a very meaty sauce and I have not had it that way in a very long time. I may need to make one now!

“Marinara” as a tomato-based pasta sauce is definitely A Thing, but it’s not the same as the long, slow-cooked “tomato sauce” (often referred to as “red gravy” by 1st and subsequent-generation Italian-Americans). It’s a “rougher”, quicker-cooked sauce, with more texture. The jarred (and many restaurants’) versions almost always resemble the former, though…

Here is my recipe @winecountrygirl, with the adaptations and method I use. Hopefully, since I copied just the ingredients we don’t have a violation here, but if so, mods, please remove.

First off, this recipe was found based on one I enjoyed during a Greek vacation. It’s from one of those Consumer Guide Cookbooks, which I spotted a lot, an era ago. Finding they had really good recipes, I bought several of them. I’m pretty sure those books were compiled from the Australian Women’s Weekly Magazine - at least that’s my understanding.

I change up the meats frequently, often using part ground pork/veal, with ground beef, sometimes all three. I tend to use either an 85/15 or 90/10 ratio of fat to beef. I usually triple this recipe, because we love it, and it freezes well.

I do like to use wine in it, but have made it without, if I don’t have any. In that case, I’ll use extra broth. I do like the hint of spice in there, and I also like to put a little cinnamon in - probably no more than 1/2 tsp for a triple batch, less if it’s strong, like Vietnamese cinnamon. I do pare down on the salt a little, and also the thyme. Seems this version has more tomato in it than some, but to us, not too much, by any means.

Here then are the instructions:

In a 6 qt pot, heat the OO over med-low heat and add the chopped onion. Sauté until soft, about 10 minutes. Add meat to the skillet. Turn the heat up to a med - high. Cook, breaking up the meat into small pieces, until meat loses the raw color. Do not brown. Stir carrot and celery mixture into the meat, and sauté for about 5 minutes. Stir in wine, and cook until evaporated, about 10 minutes. Stir in milk and nutmeg; reduce heat to medium, and cook til milk is evaporated, about 5-10 minutes. Put the canned tomatoes in a FP, and drain through a sieve, to remove seeds, if desired. Add tomatoes, broth, tomato paste, salt, basil, thyme, pepper, and bay leaf into the mixture. Heat to boiling, and then reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, and sauce is thick, about 1-1/2 hours. Serve over cooked pasta, with cheese, as you wish. Enjoy!

Note: this recipe was written for regular canned tomatoes; if you prefer a meaty plum or San Marzano style tomatoes, half the amount will do.

BTW, the recipe @biondanonima included in her post looks really solid to me also. I’ve tried quite a few versions of this, but have never made Mario’s or Marcella Hazan’s recipes. Or other famous chefs, probably.

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@Lambchop - thanks so much! And @biondanonima, thanks for the Mario one too.

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