If you’re going to invest in one piece of cookware, it has to be a wok, hands down. Because they’re not just for stir-frying. Woks are ideal for all manner of things, from noodle dishes and fried rice to deep frying and steaming. Is there anything a wok can’t do? Not much, in my book (which is why I made my own… check out MAKO!). And one dish you’re probably NOT expecting to cook in a wok? Bolognese sauce. Correction: the BEST bolognese sauce.
Other than one of the most comforting pasta dishes in the world, you mean? Bolognese is a meat sauce with a rich, tomato base and originates from Italy, or Bologna to be precise. It’s savoury, full of umami and delicious served with pasta.
Just LOOK at that bolognese. Just look at that WOK!
I like to use beef and pork; a half and half ratio works well. Adding pork gives that extra flavour from the higher fat content. Some people looking for a healthier option could try turkey mince as it is a low-fat meat, but I’m a purist, so I’ll stick with the classics!
Nope, ragu and bolognese are not the same! However, bolognese is a type of ragu sauce. The difference between the two comes down to the ingredients used and the preparation.
Traditionally, a ragu is any Italian meat sauce cooked using meat, herbs, spices, wine (typically red), and tomato. It’s also thicker in consistency than bolognese and typically served with spaghetti or any other type of pasta.
Bolognese is predominantly meat-based. In fact, foodies say it has very little tomato in it, and instead focuses on meat, vegetables, herbs and spices. And, if it DOES have wine it, it will be of the white variety, which is commonly used to deglaze the pan. That said, the differences between bolognese and ragu are pretty similar, and there are probably many regional differences in Italy to further differentiate the two.
Hold on to your hats, my friends… spaghetti bolognese, aka spag bol is NOT a thing! Well, it is outside of Italy I mean (I’ve even done a fusion pasta recipe for it!). Traditionally, bolognese is served with lasagne or wider pasta, such as tagliatelle or pappardelle.
Now we’ve got all that background info out the way, it’s time to get cooking my 15-minute Bolognese (the prep time will take you a bit past that, but it’s only 15 minutes at the cooking stage!).
While the full recipe is on my site (plus the video version of my better bolognese is up too!), these are the key takeaways for you.
A good pan – I’m looking at you, MAKO wok – has excellent heat distribution, which is essential when you’re making a quick bolognese. Why? Because you want to sear that meat hard and fast to get the most flavour in the shortest time. So pop your wok on a high heat and get it scary hot.
After adding your beef mince, break it up with your spatula and spread it around the pan so it’s coming into contact with as much hot surface as possible. The more thin the layer, the less likely it is to get all sweaty and meh. Then leave it alone. Let it sear and go all crispy and golden at the edges before you start about flipping it.
Once that’s done, it’s in with the pork mince. The beef mince will give you that typical bolognese flavour, while the high fat content in the pork will give you a more unctuous feel.
Here’s where we go off piste (sorry, Italy). I like to add onion and garlic for flavour, as well as the very untraditional star anise, tomato paste and tinned tomatoes. Then leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Next up? Miso paste, soy sauce and a beef stock cube! All three give you umami and savoury characters. Oooooh and butter, because quite frankly when is butter ever a bad idea?
And that’s it! Serve with fresh tagliatelle or pappardelle and with lashings of parmesan. The chunky beefiness of this bolognese sauce tastes like it’s been cooking forever, but the truth is it’s taken a fraction of the time. Thank you, wok.