Family bolognese Sauce

Ed Thomson

There are so many bolognaise recipes and this one is a really tasty version but is by no means an authentic one. That would require milk, beef stock and take out the hidden zucchini.  This is a family recipe so the objective it to hide some sort of veg into it as well as creating happy faces.  You could also add grated pumpkin, finely chopped broccoli but the zucchini is the veg that hides the best- it can be yellow or green too.

Access to quality meat in Sri Lanka is challenging so I have sometimes had to adapt to making a chicken bolognaise.  Probably not something to admit in Melbourne but the key to living in Sri Lanka is being adaptable.  If using chicken, try to ask for minced thighs as they have a higher fat content and a moister meat that does not dry out like fillet.  The use of the bacon tends to give it a smoky flavour and the longer  and slower you cook the sauce, the better the flavour will be.

This sauce is a great to freeze in airtight containers and also for making lasagne.


  • 3 tablespoons         olive oil
  • 2 cloves           garlic, chopped finely
  • 100gm             onion, chopped finely
  • 100gm             carrot, chopped finely
  • 100gm             celery, chopped finely
  • 100gm             zucchini/courgette grated – optional
  • 100gm             bacon, chopped roughly (or pancetta, prosciutto, speck) – optional
  • 2-4 sprigs        rosemary or thyme – optional
  • 400gm             minced meat (ideally half pork, half beef) I have done half chicken half beef.
  • To taste           salt & pepper
  • ½ cup              red or white wine – optional
  • 3 x 400gm tins tomato & 1 tin of water


  • Your choice of pasta to serve
  • To taste           freshly grated parmesan
  • 50gm               butter
  • Drizzle             extra virgin olive oil
  • To taste           fresh basil leaves – optional


In a heavy based medium sized saucepan, add the oil, garlic, onion, carrot, celery, zucchini, bacon and herbs if using.

Sauté for 10-15 minutes on a medium to low heat until the onions are translucent and the carrot looks soft but not mushy.

Add the meat and continue cooking at the same heat, mixing the meat up and pushing it apart with your spoon.

After about 5-10 minutes when the meat is cooked through and in little pieces, add the wine, cook for 1-2 minutes.

Then add the tinned tomatoes and their juices, crush them in your hands or with a fork.  Fill one tin with water and tip this into each of the remaining tins to swish out every drop of tomato juice. Tip into the pan.

Add salt and pepper to taste and stir. Cook on a low heat for 15 minutes minimum and up to 2 hours. I like to cook it long and slow.

If using chicken, this sauce can get a bit clumpy, not the best texture, so I tend to use my stick blender and blend the sauce in the pot. This also makes all the vegies super hidden.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot with plenty of water and enough salt to make the water taste like the sea.  Cook pasta according to packet instructions.  No need to add oil, the only thing that will stop the pasta from sticking together is you with a pair of tongs or spoon.  You need to give it a good stir every few minutes to separate the pieces and ensure even cooking.

T & T Tip When cooked strain pasta and empty the pot. Put the pasta back into the pot and add 50gm of butter, a good few glugs of EVO, salt and pepper as well as a big stack of parmesan.  Mix this together well. What you are doing is coating all the pieces of pasta with fat and cheese which creates ‘teeth’ to hold the sauce.

Then add a few big spoonful’s of sauce leaving half the sauce in the pan.  Mix this through the pasta well. The thinking behind this technique is to have every piece of pasta beautifully coated with sauce and then extra sauce on top.

The second super tip if you love parmesan cheese is to plate up the pasta, grate over some cheese, add the sauce, then grate some more cheese over the top and serve.

Photography: Ed Thomson
Stylist: Ed Thomson
Props: by stylist

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