SK: Pasta Bolognese

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This was one of the first dishes I learned how to make for company. It’s been perfected and altered over the years, depending on who I have made it for. It is very adaptable. If you don’t like any of the vegetables in the mix, swap them out and add something else. If you want more herbs, add more herbs. If you want less of a ‘meat’ flavour, add less stock. If you want it more watery, lessen or leave out the granules. This is a ‘how you like it’ dish and it is hard to go wrong with it. Also, it’s just two pans, so it is very easy on the washing up. I made this dish the first time I had my husband over the dinner. He asked me to marry him a few years later, so I guess it can’t have been all that bad.



(Anyone got a good non alcoholic alternative for red meat or gravy based meals?)

Serves: 2 people


  • 300g beef mince (or quorn/meat substitute)
  • 1 medium sized white onion
  • 1 medium sized green bell pepper
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • Half a dozen closed cup mushrooms (about 1-2 inch diameter)
  • 1 teaspoon of mixed herbs (OR 1/2 teaspoon of dried rosemary and 1/2 teaspoon of dried basil)
  • sprinkle of salt and ground black pepper to season
  • 4 cups of dried pasta (anything you like, shells, penne, twists, macaroni curls… You can use dried spaghetti if you like, but I’m not sure how to measure it accurately, I’ll work on a method for that later as I don’t often use it)
  • 2 beef stock cubes
  • Small splash of cooking oil (vegetable oil or olive oil or sunflower oil, any will do)


  • 1 teaspoon of tomato puree OR 1 tablespoon of tomato ketchup
  • Half a glass of red wine (the richer, the better – and yes, non alcoholic wine works just fine too)
  • Small amount of grated cheese
  • Gravy Granules


  • Garlic bread (make your own! Get some soft bread rolls or 2 slices of bread, split them in half and butter them, sprinkle a bit of mixed herbs and garlic granules on the top and save them for step 13)


  • Wok OR stove/oven safe cooking pot with lid (NOT a pottery one)
  • Large saucepan
  • Chopping board
  • Sharp Knife
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Colander
  • Ladle
  • Baking Tray (for garlic bread)
  • To dish up: 2 plates, a small side plate and a small bowl

1) If you are using the cooking pot, pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees C (there are plenty of conversion tables online if you use a gas or Farenheit oven). Also, fill and boil your kettle for the pasta later, so that the water is hot when you need it.

2) Chop up all your vegetables first, before you turn anything on on the stove.

Dice your mushrooms, onions and the bell pepper.

Open your can of chopped tomatoes. 

Open your wine now, if you’re using it. Especially if it’s a cork bottle. 

3) Check your meat. Is it lean beef? If so, you will need to heat a little oil in your wok or pan before you start. If it is not, heat your wok or pot dry, as there will probably be enough fat in the meat already without adding anything more. If the meat is sticking to the pan, you can always add a small splash of oil later to loosen things up.

4) Heat your pan and place your mince in carefully. Stir with a wooden spoon to break up the mince to ensure it cooks thoroughly. After a few minutes, add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and your dried herbs and stir them into the meat. Within 5-10 minutes, it should have turned completely brown and the juices should be starting the turn brown and bubble.

5) Add in your onion and pepper at this point, stirring them into the meat mixture so that the juices coat them. Stir for approximately 5 minutes, until the onion pieces start to turn brown and the peppers start to soften a little bit.

6) If you want to add some red wine to the mix, now is the time to do so, along with your stock cubes. Crumble them in with your fingers, or chop them into little pieces with your knife and stir them in. If you are not adding red wine, you will possibly need to add some more oil with your mushrooms in step seven.

7) Add your mushrooms to the mix and stir in thoroughly until they are also coated in the juices.

8) Pour in the can of tomatoes and, if you wish, add the puree/ketchup. Stir the mixture together with the spoon.

9) If you are using the pot, put on the lid and carefully transfer to the oven. If you are using a wok, move to a back hob, place on a low heat and if you have one, cover with a lid. If you don’t have a lid, it’s not a problem, just keep giving it the occasional stir so that it does not stick to the bottom. If you’re making quick garlic bread and haven’t already done so, pre-heat your oven now!

10) Place your dried pasta in the pan and add the water from the kettle. You should add enough water to completely cover your pasta with about another half inch of water above the top of it. Turn the hob to about 75% heat. Clean off your wooden spoon and use it to stir your pasta until the water starts to bubble and boil. Once this happens, turn your heat down to about 50%. Remember to give your pasta an occasional stir so that it does not stick. Refill your kettle and boil it again. 

11) Be a good host and keep up with the clear up!

12) Once your pasta is cooked, drain it using the colander and rinse it with the clean hot water from the kettle. Dried pasta can be very starchy.

13) Leave your pasta in the colander, resting in the saucepan, to give the water chance to drain out. Remove the bolognese from the oven, or if it’s in a wok bring it forward and set it on the still warm front hob. Is it watery? If so, add a sprinkle of gravy granules and give it a stir to thicken up. Is it too thick and solid? Add some red wine or even just some hot water and give it a stir until the mixture loosens up and becomes more juicy. If you’re making garlic bread, pop your bread on a tray now and into the oven for a couple of minutes. You just need long enough for the butter to melt a little and soak into the bread.

14) Dishing up time! Ladle your pasta onto plates, or into pasta bowls if you have them, and then ladle your bolognese mixture into the middle of the dish. If you’ve got cheese, dish it up in a small bowl so people can add their own amounts to the top of their meal. Once you’re done, rescue your garlic bread from the oven and serve it on a side plate. Don’t forget to turn your oven and hobs off.

And there you have it:

Pasta bolognese, made from fresh meat/vegetables and homemade garlic bread


  • I have not made this meal with meat substitute, but I have provided the recipe to friends who are vegetarian/vegan and have been assured that it works just as well so long as you use a mince substitute
  • As noted vegetables can be swapped out as you like
  • Separate herbs makes a nicer meal, but mixed herbs is cheaper to buy as a starter kit. I use a LOT of herbs and garlic granules in my cooking. Mixed herbs and a tub of garlic granules is a good place to start in making up your own herb collection.
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