16 September 2014

The Best Spaghetti Bolognese

One of my absolute favorite dishes is the ubiquitous Spaghetti Bolognese. I know it's not saying much to say I know how to cook it: it's one of the easiest pasta dishes you can make. But having said that, there are just so many bad versions of this dish that it's ridiculous.*

I first learned to make this dish from my mother. Over the years I've tried various methods and recipes: I've used carrots, celery and onion, I've used chicken, I've used many different variations of this same recipe. I think now I've nailed it. It's also, I think, the quickest method with only the most important ingredients, as well as the tastiest. It does require some multi-tasking though.

Pardon the photo. Lifted off my Instagram account.

Mise-en-place: A kuali. A pot with salted boiling water. Chopped onions, smashed garlic, sliced mushrooms, minced beef (NOT FROZEN), tomato sauce, fish sauce, worcester sauce, tabasco sauce, salt, sugar, crushed black pepper, spaghetti, parmesan cheese.

Oh, and I used a KUALI.

Step One:
In the smoking hot kuali/wok, pour some oil in. Fry the beef until all of it has well browned and is quite crispy. Lower the flame. Take out and set aside. You'll see lots of browned beef bits at the bottom of the kuali.

Step Two:
In the same kuali over medium heat, fry the onions and garlic with a pinch or two of sugar. Let it caramelize on the edges. At the same time, boil your pasta. Back to the onions and garlic. Once it's browned, use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape the bottom of the kuali. Then add the beef, mushrooms and tomato sauce. Bring it to a boil, then lower the flame and simmer.

Step Three:
Let the sauce simmer. Check the pasta: it should be cooked 3/4 of the way through. Drain of the liquid. Set aside. Back to the sauce. Season to taste with fish sauce, worcester sauce, tabasco sauce, oregano, salt, pepper and sugar. Turn off the flame and let it stand for 10 minutes.

Step Four:
In a large bowl, put some spaghetti and some sauce. Mix. Repeat this step until all the spaghetti is used up and is well coated. Plate. Sprinkle parmesan cheese. Enjoy the best bolognese ever made.

Brilliant. Savory, beefy, meaty with a hint of tang from the tomato sauce, earthiness from the mushrooms and some spice. If you're going to make this dish, make it right.
  1. This method took me about 35 minutes to prepare, and still produced the best tasting version of Spaghetti Bolognese I've made.
  2. Frying the beef until brown and slightly crisped produces the best, beefiest flavor. Hence the reason not to use frozen mince: frozen mince will let out a lot of water and make cooking times longer.
  3. Don't put oil into the boiling water. It doesn't help one bit. You're just throwing away the oil.
  4. However, always salt the boiling water. That gives your pasta flavor.
  5. I undercooked the pasta because I mixed it with the still hot sauce at the end. That'll cook the pasta further in the bowl/plate.
  6. Don't worry about the use of fish sauce or nam pla. It actually enhances the meaty, umami flavor of this recipe.

*Crimes against spaghetti bolognese:
  • Overcooked, mushy pasta 
  • Overtly sweet sauce
  • Watery sauce
  • Limp tasting meat and vegetables


  1. Wow!! must try this version.
    ABSOLUTELY TRUE!!! nOTES (3) & (4), i always felt disturbance when seeing people put oil into boiling water, when i ask why? the answer was to shine the pasta which actually doesn't help at all. If u like shining pasta, put some olive oil after cooked it..And adding salt to water not only flavoring the pasta but also can increase the boiling point of the water, meaning your water will have a higher temperature when you add the pasta, so it will cook better.

    1. spot on! :D glad to know there are people like u who're more aware of these stuff :) hi nusrah!

  2. Yo Edwan! It's Hana Rabi here haha. I shamelessly admit that I googled you (after taking a trip down memory lane by reading my old Twitter posts!) haha and found this blog. Well done! After reading this post, I gather that you have an Instagram account? It's the only social platform that I'm active on so mind if I add you there? Haha and please I hope this doesn't sound borderline-stalkerish at all!

    1. hey! i've been wondering where you've been to be honest. yes yes, do add me haha. @edwnshrr is my instagram handle.