Spaghetti Bolognese

Frugal Spaghetti Bolognese

Bolognese is one of those dishes that food bloggers rarely write about, probably because everyone already has their own recipe, as though it is an integral part of inherited human knowledge. However, the public at large still seem to buy jars of the damn stuff or develop poor imitations of what this classic dish should be – this recipe cometh to set the record straight. A good Bolognese recipe, frugal or otherwise, is just as important as any other… Oh look, here’s one now!

The most important consideration when making Bolognese, other than flavour, is consistency. In my opinion, which may or may not be valid, its texture needs to be almost like that of a sauce. The best way of achieving such a thing is to cook the meat separately to begin with, allowing you to break it down a little. Being able to finely dice vegetables also helps – no one wants to be gnawing on a lump of celery whilst eating an otherwise scrumptious Bolognese.

Spaghetti Bolognese Recipe

In terms of flavour, your Bolognese, whether you follow this recipe or not, simply must pack considerable punch. Carrots, celery and onion provide the dish with an awe-inspiring base on which the garlic, rosemary and other mouth-watering constituents are able to build. Of course, the addition of red wine is optional, though highly recommended if you happen to have some close at hand and a flavoursome homemade beef stock will always be better than an equivalent cube. Don’t skimp on the olive oil either, it adds a devastating richness and a velvety quality to the proceedings and is almost as important to the recipe as the meat itself. Basically, hurl everything you have at this recipe, excepting the kitchen sink, it’s worth it!

Spaghetti alla Bolognese

Serves 4


• 300g minced beef

• 1 onion, finely chopped

• 1 carrot, finely chopped

• 1 stick of celery, finely chopped

• 1 red pepper, finely sliced

• 3 cloves of garlic, mashed

• 2 x 400g peeled plum tomatoes

• 2 tbsp tomato puree

• 1 branch of rosemary, tied up

• 2 bay leaves

• 2 tsp balsamic vinegar

• 200ml strong beef stock or 1 cube of beef stock

• 250ml red wine (optional)

• 1 handful red lentils

• Olive oil (and plenty of it)

• Salt

• Pepper


1. Heat a slosh of olive oil up in a frying pan, break the mince into it with your fingers and cook through. Meanwhile, fry off the onion, carrot, celery and pepper, until translucent, in a generous amount of olive oil. Add the meat and garlic to the vegetables, stir until fully incorporated.

Cooked Minced Beef

2. Add the tomatoes, tomato purée  rosemary, bay leaves, vinegar, beef stock, wine and lentils – stir thoroughly. Add some more olive oil for good measure and cook for at least an hour, two is preferable. Make sure the sauce is reduced until thick and rich, season and serve with spaghetti and garlic bread.

Spaghetti Bolognese Recipe

Cost: As my tips section will tell you, the best way to conserve money when making a dish like this is to bulk it out a little with ingredients other than meat. I can guarantee you that if you ate some of this you’d never be able to tell it contains lentils, yet they do give it a little more body and help it go that little bit further. 300g of beef mince really is enough for four people, I assure you. As such, this entire Bolognese sauce should set one back no more than £3.70 without the wine and a little more if one includes it.


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138 comments on “Spaghetti Bolognese

  1. Apples and Arteries
    December 12, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    This looks delicious and I really like the addition of red lentils!

  2. omfgsogood
    December 12, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    That looks incredible. I’ll confess I’m guilty of using store purchased sauce out of sheer lack of time. You’ve inspired me to find time. Wish me luck. 🙂

  3. cookinginsens
    December 12, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Different and interesting.

    • frugalfeeding
      December 12, 2012 at 5:20 pm

      How so, Rosemary? I think you mean delicious and interesting 😀

      • Somer
        December 12, 2012 at 5:22 pm


      • cookinginsens
        December 12, 2012 at 9:31 pm

        I thought the rosemary and some of the other ingredients were different from classic bolognese and was interested in how the flavor would change. Sounds like it was delicious.

        • frugalfeeding
          December 16, 2012 at 11:04 am

          No, I know it is a little different! I think they contribute a lot though!

  4. The Kat and The Falling Leaves
    December 12, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    I would love a bowl of this right now 🙂

  5. KatrinaOrchid
    December 12, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Fantastic post, bolognese sauce is my freezer staple. I mix my mince beef with Quorn to make the the dish stretch a bit further and all the carnivores I have fed never noticed.

    • frugalfeeding
      December 28, 2012 at 11:20 pm

      Thanks so much! It’s so hard to discern things like quorn and lentils. Give the latter a go, much cheaper than quorn!

  6. Somer
    December 12, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    I was going to say that this is a beautiful classic! Nick, this was one of my all time favorite meals before you know what 🙂 I love your take on it.

    • frugalfeeding
      December 16, 2012 at 11:11 am

      Hehe, thanks, Somer! Indeed! We’ll have to come up with a version free of a few things 😀

      • Somer
        December 16, 2012 at 2:37 pm

        Don’t you worry, I’ve all ready got it covered 😉

  7. yiyime
    December 12, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Presentation is very good and it look delicious .

  8. Katie
    December 12, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    I absolutely enjoy reading your posts. Your prose is captivating. Can’t wait to try this recipe!

  9. Shari Kelley
    December 12, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    One of my cooking goals is to try to make more Italian dishes. I am going to print this out right now to try soon. Thank you for sharing it!

  10. apocalyptophilia
    December 12, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    LOVE THIS!!! Any chance you could come cook dinner for me? I’m always happy to do dishes! And with such savings there’ll be plenty left over for more wine (though I suppose the cost of the plane ticket would have to be factored in…)

    • frugalfeeding
      December 28, 2012 at 11:18 pm

      Thanks! I’m afraid the logistics might be a little tricky :D. Pay for the ticket!

  11. My French Heaven
    December 12, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    One of my favorites!

  12. cecilia
    December 12, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    We quite rudely call that Spag Bog in our family and yours looks perfect, i do agree that the sauce must be saucy. It loves to have a good long cook.. c

    • lizintheshed
      December 12, 2012 at 7:20 pm

      Spag Bog is very polite – we call it Spag Bollocks – I hope the kids don’t repeat it at school! I never cook mine quite so long, but will give it a whirl. Cook double and make up a lasagne at the same time or freeze for emergencies – Yum

      • frugalfeeding
        December 28, 2012 at 11:16 pm

        Lovely term 😀 – I hope they don’t! The cooking time is essential 😀

    • frugalfeeding
      December 16, 2012 at 11:08 am

      Haha – we called it spag bol/bog too! I’m glad you agree!

  13. smallworldbigmouth
    December 12, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    It’s just not the same without the red wine! If all else fails…marmite! mmm I like the idea of using lentils, balsamic vinegar and rosemary!

    • frugalfeeding
      December 16, 2012 at 11:06 am

      Exactly… marmite… hmm… I’ll stick to the beef stock 😀 – I prefer my marmite on toast 😀

  14. Korena in the Kitchen
    December 12, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    I wish I could dive into a bowl of that right now…

  15. MonkeyBreadandSweetPea
    December 12, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    You are killing me. I’m trying to hold off for another 30 minutes before I have lunch. Now I can’t hold back! haha I can’t wait to make this for dinner next week. Thanks for sharing!

    • frugalfeeding
      December 16, 2012 at 11:06 am

      Hehe – sorry! Don’t take me to court.

  16. chefregents
    December 12, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Reblogged this on Chef Regent's and commented:
    Student staple, nuff said!

  17. countrywoodsmoke
    December 12, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    Spag Bol, certainly is a classic, and my recipe is almost exactly the same as yours(minus the lentils), but I add a couple of tbsps cream or whole milk just before serving, it just rounds off the flavours really nicely.
    One of the most important things I think is to make sure the mince browns and not boils.

    • frugalfeeding
      December 16, 2012 at 11:05 am

      Indeed! Oh great, someone else who does it right :D. That sounds nice, perhaps I’ll give it a go.

  18. poppytump
    December 12, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    Tummy Rumbling … your fault … 😉

    Have never put in lentils before but will do next time !

  19. Alanna
    December 12, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    My husband and I took a cooking class on our recent trip to Italy in Bologna where one of the things we cooked was “ragu” which is what people in Bologna call Bolognese. I was sort of disappointed that it wasn’t what most of the rest of the world thinks of as Bolognese with only pancetta, ground beef, onions, carrots, celery, wine. No garlic, no tomatoes. Needless to say I am not a convert to this “classic” preparation and will continue to add garlic and tomatoes and next time lentils, too!

    • frugalfeeding
      December 16, 2012 at 11:05 am

      Indeed, I’m not such a fan of the traditional version – it’s delicious, but not as satisfying as this!

  20. paisstat
    December 12, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Lovely pics!

  21. Staci
    December 12, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Great reminder of a staple meal! Bolognese is probably one of the first hearty meals most of us learn to make and it can be made just about anywhere in the world! I love it and you’ve inspired me to get it back into my meal rotation.

  22. thecookingchook
    December 12, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Love the idea of adding lentils. I like to use a combo of pork and veal mince, which has a milder taste than beef, but sometimes I like to use beef just to change it up a bit. Great post, and lovely pics! 🙂

    • frugalfeeding
      December 28, 2012 at 11:15 pm

      That’s a nice idea – perhaps I’ll give the pork mince a go.

  23. Pasta Princess
    December 12, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    I’ve never added Rosemary – your Bolognese looks awesome!

  24. foreverwellsharon
    December 12, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    I miss this dish a lot, I used to make it often too!
    Thanks for the inspiration 🙂
    Your post are always fancy with wonderful pictures.

    • frugalfeeding
      December 28, 2012 at 11:15 pm

      You should start again! Thanks so much 🙂

  25. preppyandfunny
    December 12, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    Hello! I love your blog so I decided to nominate you for the blog of the year 2012 award!
    See all details on my page! 😉

  26. Hot Pink Manolos
    December 12, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    This looks delicious, and adding the lentils is brilliant. May be making that adjustment the next time I make bolognese…

    • frugalfeeding
      December 16, 2012 at 11:03 am

      Thanks! Please do, the lentils add a lot of body!

  27. Michelle
    December 12, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    Look delicious. I’ll definitely try your recipe. Thank you!

  28. A Dog With Fleas
    December 13, 2012 at 12:23 am

    This sounds like a great recipe. And I love how you added in the tips about the lentils. They make a worthy ingredient to any recipe. Love this.

    • frugalfeeding
      December 16, 2012 at 11:02 am

      Thanks! The lentils, even in such small quantity, add a hell of a lot!

  29. spree
    December 13, 2012 at 12:52 am

    Nick since I don’t eat beef I can’t comment much except to say that your photos look really delicious!

    • frugalfeeding
      December 16, 2012 at 11:02 am

      Ah, well – thanks and I appreciate the comment and your clicking on it even though you don’t eat beef!

  30. Karista
    December 13, 2012 at 12:57 am

    Bravo Frugal!! You’re right, most food bloggers wouldn’t post a Bolognese. But this is why you are not “most food bloggers”. 🙂 A true Bolognese… Frugal style. Love the addition of the lentils too. Delicious!

    • frugalfeeding
      December 16, 2012 at 11:01 am

      Thanks, Karista! Haha – I do try to be different :D. The lentils are probably my favourite addition actually.

  31. danyandy
    December 13, 2012 at 1:00 am

    thanks for inspiring me to make spaghetti bolognese for dinner tonight. Although I did not make your version this time because I’m due to go shopping and didn’t have all the ingredients on hand (But next time I will). This bowl of spaghetti totally hit the spot! 🙂

    • frugalfeeding
      December 16, 2012 at 11:01 am

      no problem! Ahha – well I insist you try it 😀

  32. momshieb
    December 13, 2012 at 1:12 am

    As a 100% Italian American, I have to say that I love seeing recipes like this one! Makes me think of a recipe for “peanut butter and jelly”, you know? Each is the same, but each is a bit different. I grew up with this dish as “meat sauce”, and I make it now all the time. I have never included celery in it, though, or rosemary. Mine has basil and crushed red pepper, and probably more wine! As my Italian born Nanna would say, “Abbondanza!”

    • frugalfeeding
      December 28, 2012 at 11:14 pm

      Fantastic! Great stuff – give the rosemary a try, adds a little fragrance.

  33. cfanningtx
    December 13, 2012 at 2:04 am

    Looks delicious! Love the addition of lentils.

    • frugalfeeding
      December 28, 2012 at 11:14 pm

      Thanks – they really give it a great texture.

  34. musingmar
    December 13, 2012 at 3:16 am

    I’d say it’s time for me to break out some of those tomatoes I froze in September! Your recipe makes me yearn for wintry meals of pasta and meat sauce. The tip about adding red lentils is genius!

    • frugalfeeding
      December 16, 2012 at 11:01 am

      Ah yes! Great idea! The red lentils really make this dish perfect!

  35. baconbiscuit212
    December 13, 2012 at 4:34 am

    Yes, everyone has their own Bolognese, thank you very much 🙂

    But yours looks awesome. Love the addition of the peppers.

    • frugalfeeding
      December 16, 2012 at 10:59 am

      Hehe, thanks, Daisy! I love peppers in bolognese – they just… go…

  36. Julie @ happygoodtime
    December 13, 2012 at 5:20 am

    Love your take on this. There is nothing worse than a jar of too sweet Bolognese. I”ll try the lentils next time too.

    • frugalfeeding
      December 16, 2012 at 10:59 am

      Thanks, Julie! You must, they work very well.

  37. Raphaelle
    December 13, 2012 at 8:44 am

    A creative twist to a classic recipe : )

  38. soffiagudrun
    December 13, 2012 at 9:17 am

    very cool. Never thought of using the lentils for this recipe, sounds great.

  39. Parsley Sage
    December 13, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    I am a lentil fiend! This is a fantastic recipe for me, love it!

  40. Gaby Godoy de Porras
    December 13, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    This looks delicious!!! I wanna try it this weekend!

  41. theglobalgarnishgeek
    December 13, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    I never tire of bolognese. I’ll have to try this with the red lentils.

    Beautiful photos.

    • frugalfeeding
      December 16, 2012 at 10:58 am

      Me neither! Please do, they work extremely well.

  42. Asuma
    December 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Looks delicious 🙂

  43. borderlinefab
    December 13, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    I didn’t really get far down your page (basically the bowl of bolognese stopped me in my tracks) before I decided to follow you! I can tell I’m going to get fat reading your site! Challenge, accepted.

    Beautiful composition on this! I can’t wait to try the dinner!


  44. hollykaann
    December 13, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    We shall try this! I love fresh foods- no jars of goop for me…

  45. Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen
    December 13, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Very interesting to have added lentils to a classic dish.. what a great idea!

    • frugalfeeding
      December 16, 2012 at 10:58 am

      Thanks Barb’ I feel they give it a little extra body!

  46. M.K.
    December 13, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    Your blog is fantastic. My partner is at school and I’m usually the one making dinner, so I’m always on the lookout for new ways to stretch the grocery budget. :•)

  47. sockmonkeyskitchen
    December 13, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Seriously now… when will you be composing a cookbook? Between your fantasticly budgeted meals, and your outstanding photography, I see you as a shoe-in! I always look forward to your blogs’ arrival in my email each