The signature of your bolognese

Spag bol

Recently, O and I were treated to a bowl of Signor Valvasori’s outstanding bolognese (boh-lonn-yezz-eh for the purists) which started me thinking about how absolutely EVERYONE has a recipe for spag bol (for the not-so-purists). Even blokes who can’t cook anything other than toast, or students in share houses who are fresh from the nest and consider two minute noodles to be haute cuisine.

My mother has the best bolognese recipe I’ve ever tasted, and I’ve never been able to copy it exactly. I don’t know why – I make mine exactly the same as she does – but it never has the same degree of texture or flavour that it did when I was a kid. Nostalgia does funny things to taste buds.

So the Italian Signor got me thinking about how a bolognese recipe is a true signature dish – everyone has one, and everyone does it a little differently. My bolognese will always contain a diced carrot or two, bay leaves, and a hearty splash of whatever red I have at hand. I also use a sacrilegious blob of Vegemite (a trick I picked up from Mum) and a drizzle of Worcestershire sauce to give it some depth in a very un-Italian way. Often my bolognese will contain a chunk of finely chopped speck or some other kind of cured piggy. And it will always be served with Barilla No 7 and lots of cheese, preferably a good parmesan.

Il Signor uses a mixture of minced meats (he told me but I won’t give away his secrets here).

I find that the best bologneses take a long time, enough for the tomatoey flavours to blend with the meat in a long slow seduction. However bolognese is also the staple of the harassed mum, who rushes home from work and is able to produce a tasty crowd pleasing family favourite in a little under 30 minutes.

Spag bol is nothing if not versatile.

And the best part about everyone’s favourite comfort food is that the leftover sauce can be eaten on toast for brekkie the next day. There was always tension in our house the morning after spaghetti bolognese when I was growing up, as the early bird (or the oldest brother) usually got to the bowl of leftover sauce first.

What’s your bolognese secret?

10 comments on The signature of your bolognese

  1. StuPOT
    June 20, 2007 at 9:47 pm (12 years ago)

    My secret is to eat lady lunchalots… it’s delicious.

    Not as good as the lasagne but then that’s to be expected, it’s the best dish in the world.


  2. clarkabrese
    June 21, 2007 at 1:11 pm (12 years ago)

    likewise, my secret is to enjoy signor valvasori’s. i reckon the gremolata and parmigiano combo that he serves it with really seals the deal. mmmmm.

    p.s. LL, there’ll be italian tears after he sees the spag bol image had the salsa on top instead of mixing it through.. mama mia!

  3. Amelia
    June 22, 2007 at 10:55 am (12 years ago)

    I’ve also inherited my mum’s recipe – which has a decidedly un-italian splash of soy sauce! I also like to stir through a big handful of fresh oregano.

  4. Red Dirt Mummy
    June 26, 2007 at 11:09 pm (12 years ago)

    I also inherited Mum’s recipe but have made a few changes over the years. My rules include: it has to cook for at least a couple of hours, the richer the better, add some sort of pig product (ham, bacon, pancetta, whatever is in the fridge) and parmesan makes it perfect.

    PS: An old boyfriend once told me that my spag bol was the second best he’d ever had. Only his Buba’s (Grandmother’s)was better. I took that as high praise indeed.

  5. kevin delmar
    June 30, 2007 at 10:05 pm (12 years ago)

    a tablespoon of full cream milk 2 mintues before serving. dont add vegetables except for onion and spring onion.

  6. Kate
    July 1, 2007 at 1:12 pm (12 years ago)

    my secret is to shred carrot and zucchini into the bol….makes it quite lip smackin’ good. I like to use a mix of ground pork and ground sirloin, and a lot of plum tomatoes but a can or two of crushed ones also…something about the taste. Once I used leftover hamburgers in my bol…what a revelation!

  7. Beck
    July 11, 2007 at 4:21 pm (12 years ago)

    It always tastes better when someone else makes it I reckon! Just on the same topic…My hubby hates it when we take the rare occasion of going out to dinner and I order Spag Bol. His theory: Why order somethin you can make at home? My answer: Refer to the first part of my comment!

  8. ben
    July 12, 2007 at 9:42 pm (12 years ago)

    a mate of mine put orange juice in bolognese. kinda strange but the end product gets two thumbs up.

  9. The Gourmand aka Paul
    August 6, 2007 at 6:55 pm (12 years ago)

    Have you tried Bolognese (ragu) like they make it in Bologna? Totally different and absolutely sublime. A rich but delicate sauce that is perfect for homemade tagliatelle. It is my favourite dish in the entire world. Heres the link- ragu do try. I hope you love it as much as I do. X

  10. Alex
    October 11, 2007 at 5:37 pm (12 years ago)

    I make my bolognese like a ragu … After converting from lifetime vegetarianism, perfecting bolognese became a slight obsession. I love the way I make it – fragrant, dense, delicious. I generally don’t have fresh stock, but use Star chicken stock as a rule ( good if you can find it).

    Finely chopped celery, parsley stalks, carrot, fresh bay leaves from the tree, coarsley ground peopper, pancetta and onion cook in a pan in evo until fragrant. I then throw in browned pork and beef or veal, a little bit of flour, cook for a couple of minutes, then add a few wineglasses of white wine ( i prefer white), some balsamic vinegar, stock, and canned tomatoes.

    At this stage I add finely chopped garlic, an organic cinnamon stick, good quality dried oregano ( the stuff still on the branch is the best, a little dried chilli (usually tasty, slightly smoky sichuan) and a little salt ( I add more later if it needs it). I cook it for at least 90 minutes, and after final seasoning, which may or may not include some fresh sage from the garden, serve it with barilla spaghettoni.

    I have been known to add things like – porcini muschrooms or stock, worcester sauce, a little brown sugar, aubergine, roasted red capsicum, chorizo, fresh mushrooms.

    At the end, I serve it with chopped parsley – and sometimes a bit of gremolata – and lashings of parmesan cheese atop the pasta.


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