Spaghetti Bolognese is a tried and true recipe fave for many Australian families. No matter that it’s got its roots in Italy, it transcends all borders and is the anchoring spaghetti-shaped equator, in a delicious dinner world!
There are literally thousands of ways to cook this trusty standard, and very luckily for us, Babyology readers were keen to share how they put their own stamp on good old Spag Bol (or Spag Bog, as some say).
We don’t suggest you combine all these ideas, because your pasta pot might run over, but what we do suggest is that you have a read through and snaffle some bright ideas on super-charging your (possibly already great) signature spaghetti!
Let’s start with the meat (and more)
Some people liked to mix up their meat, while others stressed that adding vegetables, bacon, olives, anchovies and other bits and bobs at the early browning stage is key.
Bright ideas included:
- Using a 50/50 pork and beef mince.
- Adding pancetta and bacon to give it a rich taste.
- Combine bacon and a small amount of anchovies at the browning stage.
- Black olives and a few slices of finely chopped bacon added to the mince.
- Onion flakes and a teaspoon of minced garlic while browning the mince gives it more flavour.
- Add finely chopped spinach to the mince.
A splash or a dash
There were some secret sauces added to the Spag Bol mix of many. People suggested adding:
- A splash of milk to take away the acidity
- A dash of Worcestershire sauce
- A dash red wine
- A dash of red wine vinegar and roasted eggplant.
- Add a dash of smokey barbeque sauce. It sweetens it just a little.
- A spoon of sugar takes the acidic taste out of the tomatoes.
- Add a dash of balsamic vinegar, instead of adding a dash of sugar to balance the acid of the tomato.
Secret herbs and spices?
The simple things in life truly were the best when it came to delicious herbs and spices. People loved to add:
- Bay leaves
- Fresh basil
- Smoked paprika
- Garlic salt
- Rosemary and garlic will make even the most simple bolognese awesome.
This is how you cook it
There was a very distinct method in the madness for many bolognese aficionados. They suggested:
- Use the pressure cooker for 30 minutes.
- Use the slow cooker! For 4 to 6 hours.
- Put it on in the morning, keep adding water and cook all day.
- Plonk some parmesan rinds into the pressure cooker with all other ingredients.
Unusual, different, nice
Some people got a little bit weird with their Spag Bol additions but we are totally on board. Have you tried adding:
- Heinz Big Red tomato soup? (Thanks Angela W!)
- A spoon or two of Vegemite?
- Baked beans?
- Tomato paste, fine apricot jam and smoked paprika? Wait. What?! (Thanks Morne!)
The veg and fibre smugglers
Lots and lots of sneaky parents used spaghetti night as an opportunity to veg-load their usually vegetable averse kids:
- Add loads of fresh veggies and a little beef stock to blend veg
- Add beef, celery stick, a whole carrot… and about a tablespoon of sugar!
- Use 400g of mince with 400g of brown lentils, then add onion, finely grated carrot and zucchini then add the usual ingredients. Nobody has ever noticed the veggies – or that half the meat is actually lentils!
Hey gang, we NEED to know! What's your secret ingredient that makes your bolognese the BEST? It's been the hottest topic…
Not sure how to proceed, here’s some ideas from those in the know. You can see everyone’s comments and suggestions over on our Facebook post (above).
[Start with] a base of carrots, onions and celery with pancetta and bay leaves. Add pork and beef mince, passata, wine and throw in some parmesan rinds into pressure cooker for 30 minutes or so. Season at the end add and a splash of milk to take away the acidity. – Andrea W
I cook the mince until it’s all really really brown, almost burning onto the pan to get that strong beef flavour. Then add onions. When they’re soft add the pasta sauce I usually get a basil flavoured one. Then add a heap of minced garlic, beef stock, tomato paste, dash of red wine and fresh mushrooms and tomatoes. Super easy, my fav thing to cook cause it’s so easy and hubby loves it. – Kailyn R
Onion flakes and teaspoon of minced garlic while browning the meat gives it more flavour, I tend to use the garlicky pasta sauce too, I also go all out & like to add tomato paste & tinned diced tomatoes. I also crumble a cube of beef stock, sprinkle dried herbs like chives, parsley, oregano & basil, bit of salt and pepper & my 2 secret ingredients – a generous swirl or 5 of tomato sauce (ketchup) & a sprinkle of sugar. We tend to make ours in one pot; so frozen veggies & pasta go in then it’s allowed to bubble away until the pasta cooks, it’s usually a “quick” dinner for us as it takes approx 20 mins, if that, specially when you buy the quick cook pasta. – Rachel T
My secret ingredient is not for flavour but is to give my kids more vege and fibre.. we try to eat less meat so instead of cooking up 800g of mince for bolognese I will cook 400g of mince with 400g of brown lentils then add onion, finely grated carrot and zucchini then add the usual ingredients.. no one has ever noticed the vege or that half the meat is actually lentils. – Louise B
Build your flavours. And make sure you taste as you go to get the balance right. I use red wine in mine and I put it in just after I brown the mine. I use leek instead of onion, green capsicum, canned tomatoes, liquid beef & chicken stock, garlic, Italian herbs (in the tube but I prefer fresh), salt, pepper, 1/2 tsp sugar, lean beef mince, 1 small tub tomato paste. Capsicum, carrot, leek, & herbs all sautéed before mince is browned. Add mince, add red wine, stir then add tomatoes & sugar, stir, add stock. Stir, add any remaining ingredients. Simmer until ready – about an 45 to 60 minutes. – Terrin I
Good quality olive oil, cook onions and garlic, add and well brown your mince and break it up really well add oregano then a good splash of wine (red or white doesn’t matter) allow to mostly cook out, add beef stock, Heinz Big Red Tomato Soup (trust me!!) tomato paste, salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar, a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Make sure there is enough liquid to completely cover the mince (and then some) bring to simmer then reduce heat and cook low and slow until sauce is reduced and thickened. It’s the BEST! – Gabrielle R
[Use] the slow cooker! Super super easy & hubby says it’s the best sauce I’ve ever made. Just chuck in mince, a jar of passata pasta sauce base & some garlic, basil & mixed herbs. I leave it to slow cook for anywhere from 4-6 hrs. – Dani D
A spoon or two of Vegemite stirred through for the umani. Otherwise simples fresh brown onion finely diced, fresh crushed garlic, crushed tomato tins and or fresh tomato and herbs. Seems to come out ok most of the time. – Bart S
Home made Passata , lots of fresh basil, good olive oil, loads of frsh garlic , combination of pork and beef mince right amount of salt and pepper and cook for hours. Add water as you go . Good quality pasta and parmesan is also important. Bon appetit! – Laura De V
And here’s even more ideas from some other experts:
Try Italian genius cook Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese Sauce
How about Antonio Carluccio’s authentic Ragu Bolognese?
Give Karen Martini’s Sneaky Spaghetti Bolognese a go
Dabble in Alice Waters’ Bolognese Sauce
Sample Jamie Oliver’s Bolognese
Whip up blogger Not Quite Nigella’s Bolognese Sauce
Have a crack at Ina Garten’s Weeknight Bolognese
Try Barilla’s Spaghetti alla Bolognese?
Magic up The New York Time’s Spaghetti Bolognese
Or try Matt Preston’s Spag Bol!
Huge thanks to all the readers who shared their secrets with us! Let us know if you try any of these recipes – or if you have more great tips – via Facebook and we’ll update this post with our favourites!