All chefs had to start some where, mine started with a big bowl of  spaghetti with bolognese. I can still taste the sage my mother used. Until this day it is a highlight to cook and to eat, ultimate in simplicity and patience. When I got slightly older and could look down in a pot while stirring, I was given lessons over the phone, step by step. My mothers recipe is slightly different to the one I use today, with the biggest difference being the addition of milk in mine. I want to share this as this is where a lot of things started in my life. My journey my meditation.

Ragù, as it is known in Italian, is a meat-based pasta sauce traditionally served with tagliatelle. As with many recipes, it varies according to the region, with some strong interpretations of what it is and what it is not. The classic bolognese ragù is very different to the spaghetti bolognese most of us grew up with. The ingredients are simple – onion, carrots, celery, stock, wine, milk, tomato and pancetta – cooked slowly and served with a fresh pasta, such as tagliatelle or pappardelle. Spaghetti was never used – only outside Italy. Some recipes contain no garlic or herbs. Red wine can be used instead of white wine, or pork and beef mince mixed in some cases I will even add some chicken livers. I like to add fresh herbs at the end. This recipe contains more tomato than traditional versions (just because i like the stuff)

last thing spend a little extra to buy a good pasta like de cecco.

Serves 6-8


60ml olive oil or 60g butter
1-2 large onions, chopped
150g bacon, minced or chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
150g carrots, diced small or grated
150g celery sticks, diced small
2 bay leaves
650g beef mince
150ml dry white wine
250ml (1 cup) chicken stock
250ml (1 cup) milk
400g chopped canned tomatoes
400g fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
Pinch of grated nutmeg
15ml (1 tbsp) chopped fresh oregano
30ml (2 tbsp) chopped fresh parsley
30ml (2 tbsp) chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
800g fresh tagliatelle
lots of Freshly grated parmesan, to serve


Heat half the oil in a large, heavy-based pan and fry the onions and bacon until onions are soft. Add garlic and fry for a minute, then add carrot and celery and fry until soft. Add bay leaves, transfer to a bowl and set aside. Heat the remaining oil in the same pan and brown the mince (this adds flavour, but you can also just add the mince to the vegetables). Return vegetables to pan and bring to a simmer. Add wine and stir to deglaze (remove any bits sticking to the bottom). Add stock and simmer until reduced by . Add milk and reduce by . Add tomatoes and simmer until reduced by . Cover with a lid and continue cooking for 1 hour. The sauce should be thick. Add nutmeg and fresh herbs and season. Cook tagliatelle in plenty of salted boiling water until al dente and drain. Do not rinse as the sauce will not stick as well. Toss the sauce through the pasta and serve with plenty of parmesan.

First appeared in Sunday Times food weekly, January 2013


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