Ragu' or Bolognese?

Ragu' or Bolognese?

In the UK we've all grown up with Spaghetti Bolognese thinking we were eating an authentic Italian dish. In general terms it's partially Italian but there are key differences! 

Ragu' alla bolognese which is the name of the meat sauce, is from Bologna. 'Bolognese' means something from Bologna. A local could say they are Bolognese, the same as my Husband is Milanese as he's from Milan.

It's served with tagliatelle not spaghetti. Spaghetti doesn't hold the thick sauce the way tagliatelle does. 

The traditional recipe calls for minced veal and pork but these are harder to come by in the UK. For ease you can use minced beef or if you want to do something a bit special I buy wild boar sausages and remove the skins. Mince up the meat inside and you can make a delicious rich sauce with this. 

Credit: Freepik


  • 1 carrot, finely chopped

  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped

  • 1 onion, finely chopped

  • 50g butter

  • 50g chopped bacon or pancetta

  • 200g of minced beef or half pork and half veal if you can find it.

  • Some beef or chicken stock

  • 3 tbsp tomato puree

  • Season to taste


Fry butter, bacon/pancetta, carrot, celery and onion together until the onions and celery become translucent. Add the meat and mix well. I break the mince up with my hands or a fork. 

Cook until the meat is browned. Add in the stock and you could put in a glass of red wine if so inclined!

Add tomato puree and and keep adding stock so you get a thick sauce consistency.

Really it should now be left to simmer for 1-2 hours. In England we don't really do this and that's why you often get quite big lumps of meat that haven't broken down yet. The meat should be like small crumbs in the sauce that coat the pasta, not lumps that roll off it! 

Add some more stock towards the end of the cooking if you feel it's going a bit dry. Give it a couple of minutes for this to mix and thicken.

Season to taste. 

And there you have it! A recipe for a decent Ragu'! It's best served with fresh tagliatelle. Here we've used a fluted edge version called Mafalde, which is wide, comforting ribbons and delicious! 

Buon appetito! Mangia mangia!

Bolognese sauce
Bolognese sauce