Sunday, 18 September 2011

Bolognese Barese (my mamma's Bolognese recipe)

When I was in Italy, last week, I saw my big sister busy, in the kitchen, chopping celery, onions and carrots, in a food processor. I shut my eyes and saw myself, very young, in our kitchen, at home, in Italy, when I was a little girl. My mum always cut her vegetables by hand, on a wooden board and with love. She didn't need a food processor, as she had a very keen little girl whose job was to help and assist the chef! God knows how many celery stalks and carrots I must have chopped and how many tears I must have shed whilst peeling onions every time my mum made a Bolognese sauce!


When we make Bolognese, in my city, we make a healthier version as, together with minced beef, we use a lot of fresh vegetables (in this case grated or finely chopped celery, onions and carrots.) The end result is a much healthier and lighter version of this classic dish.
Contrary to what people in other countries believe, we usually have Bolognese with tagliatelle, not spaghetti!
I made Bolognese, today, as I was in a nostalgic mood... I needed to smell aromas which reminded me of a house, now empty, but still full of voices, songs and laughter, right here, in my heart...
Before I become too sentimental, here is the recipe. Try it: it's healthier than the traditional one and delicious!

Bolognese Barese
Serves 4-5
4-5 celery stalks
1 medium sized carrot
2 medium onions 
10 very generous glugs olive oil
(the amount of oil you use is up to you.
Use a quantity you are happy with)
600 g (1lb 6oz) very lean minced beef
glass of wine (optional)
700 mls ( just under 11/2 pt) passata
600 g (1 lb, 5 oz) tagliatelle
Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

Before you start, peel the onions and the carrot, then break each celery stalk in half and get rid of the filaments.
Finely chop the three vegetables (you can use a mixer, for this task, or simply a chopping board and a sharp knife) and reserve.

My vegetables are ready

In a largish pan, heat the oil until really piping hot, then add your chopped onion. Stir and cook for about three minutes. When it's beginning to smell delicious, add the celery and the carrot. Again, stir and cook until all the vegetables begin to look translucent (about 5-6 minutes)

looking translucent and already smelling good

You are now ready to add your meat to the base (the fried vegetables.) Do that and keep stirring and cooking, until the meat begins to brown, then, if you have a glass of wine, add it to the mixture and then let evaporate.

The meat is browning in the pan

Finally, you need to add your passata, bring to the boil, turn down the heat and cook for a good 40-50 minutes! Remember that passata and tinned tomatoes are actually raw and therefore they need to be cooked.

All the ingredients are blending together

Keep checking your Bolognese to make sure that it doesn't burn and remember to keep the heat really low. Should your sauce look a bit too thick, add a small amount of water.
My mum always used to put a piece of Parmesan or Pecorino in her sauce... it smelled so good, made the sauce much more interesting and I always got to eat the delicious cheese.
When the sauce is ready, cook your tagliatelle in a large pan of boiling salted water, according to the instructions on the packet, then pour some of the sauce over each serving and top with a very generous sprinkling of Italian cheese. Try it... it's so... buonissima!

Looks beautiful, whichever way you look at it!


  1. Dearest Anna
    How very kind of you to post your dearest mamma's bolognese recipe for us. I shall make it this week. It looks so delicious and now with Autumn here we have excellent ripe vegetables.
    Keeping you in my prayers
    Helen xx

  2. Ciao Anna!
    I think my nan got too much modern too, has she has started using a food processor lately..and as you do, she puts fresh veggies into her sauce.
    May I reveal you that not only I can't digest Bolognese, but also I can't stand its smell?! Am I weird?!
    Have a good week :)

  3. Dear Helen,

    Thank you so much for being such a generous, kind lady. Try this recipe, as it is a healthier way to cook a classic dish. The introduction of vegetables is nothing new: my grandmother used onions, celery and carrots in her bolognese.

    Actually, the celery makes it really aromatic... I don't promise COCO by Chanel, mind you, but who needs that when you can wear Eau de Bolognaise?

    Enjoy your heathy bolognese, Helen! And thank you for your prayers and for lighting a candle for my mum. I will do that tonight, as my family are gathering again to celebrate the life of a truly wonderful woman who will be forever missed and I wish I could be there.

    Thank you Helen!

    ANNA xx

  4. Dear Anna,
    My son loves bolognese and I do sometimes add vegetables but not so many and I've not tried grating them. It looks absolutely delicious! I shall make it your Mother's way next time and send her a 'Thank you' in our hearts. Jane x

  5. Hi Jane! It's always good to hear from you.

    When you make this sauce you will notice how fresh it tastes, compared with the traditional, rather heavy meat sauce from Bologna. I am not a fan of minced meat, really, and therefore I prefer this version.

    Thank you for your thoughts, Jane.


  6. If you are weird, Michela, what am I? I hate the smell of Chanel Number 5!

    PS: Are the orchids still in bloom in your little garden just outside Venice? I would so love to see them!


  7. The first and the last photo are great

  8. Thank you Valery... I consider this a great compliment. You know how much I enjoy photography and you know who inspired me: You did!




  9. I am so pleased you have shared your Mum's recipe with us Anna, thankyou, you know why. xx

  10. Lindy, I just spotted your comment! Two days later.

    Thank you for being sweet and for your emails in the holidays. They helped.