This is my go-to bolognese. It doesn’t quite have the same depth of flavour as my Irishman’s 2-day ragu, but between you and me, it’s pretty close.
I make a big batch about once a month and freeze in jars ready for quick meals for my boys when my Irishman and I are having something more adult.
The ingredient list is longer than my usual 6, but if you want a more simple version, skip the optional bay leaves and star anise and just use onion as your veg.
Star anise may seem like an unusual ingredient but it really boosts the meaty flavours in the ragu. A Heston Blumenthal trick my Irishman introduced me to.
Easiest Baked Bolognese
- 2 small onions 200g / 7oz total
- 2 small carrots 200g / 7oz total
- 2 small sticks celery 200g / 7oz total
- 1/2 star anise optional
- 1 kg ground minced beef
- 1 jar tomato passata / puree 700g / 3 cups
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 4 bay leaves optional
- 1 teaspoon salt
Turn your oven to 150C (300F).
Heat a little olive oil in a large oven proof pot on a medium heat. Finely dice onion, carrots and celery and add to the pot as you chop. Add the star anise (if using). Cover and cook, stirring every few minutes until the veg are soft but not browned. Will take about 10 minutes total.
Add meat, using a spoon to break it up into smaller chunks. Add tomato passata / puree, balsamic, bay leaves (if using) and salt. Stir to combine then pop in the oven uncovered.
Cook for about 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so. When the sauce has reduced and thickened, taste and season with more salt if needed and possibly a little more balsamic.
Remove and discard star anise and bay leaves (if using). Use immediately or store in glass containers in the fridge or freezer.
Variations and Substitutions for Easiest Baked Bolognese
tomato passata / puree alternatives – substitute 2 standard cans tomatoes or 200g (7oz) concentrated tomato paste + 400g (1.5 cups) water.
short on time – simmer rapidly uncovered on the stove top for about 30 minutes or until the sauce has reduced. Or cook uncovered in the oven at 220C (425F) for about 30 minutes.
less energy – sometimes I start it in a hot oven after cooking dinner then turn it off and leave to cook uncovered in the oven overnight. I then just simmer it again in the morning until reduced enough if it needs it.
Keto / ultra low carb – halve the tomato, skip the carrot and halve the onion.
vegetarian – replace beef with cooked lentils. Cook the sauce first then add the lentils at the end.
nightshade-free – replace tomato with red wine or bone broth. You might like a little extra balsamic for more sweetness.
Low FODMAP – skip the onion and celery. Serve with chopped chives added at the end. The chives are OK but to be honest I was happy when my Irishman’s IBS resolved and I was able to start using onion again. Sorry!
different protein – any ground (minced) meat can be used. Or use a slow cooking cut like lamb shanks, chuck beef, pork shoulder, osso buco (beef shin), beef short ribs, lamb shoulder or brisket.
more veg – feel free to double the onion, celery and carrot. Diced zucchini works well too.
Recipes to use your Easiest Baked Bolognese
- In Cabbage Lasagna – so far the number 1 most popular recipe on my online Simple Meal Plans website is my Cabbage Lasagne. I couldn’t be more proud! Basically just cook cabbage as above and use it instead of pasta to layer with your usual lasagna recipe.
- Seriously Easy Moussaka
- Curry Stuffed Eggplant with Yoghurt
- Stuffed Sweet Potato
- Creamy Mushroom, Beef & Almond Pies
Ways to serve your bolognese
- With almond pasta
- With cabbage
- With baby spinach
- With broccoli
- With cauliflower
- With kale ‘linguine’
- With Roast Veg
- With spiralized zucchini
Waste Avoidance Strategy
onion – will keep in the pantry for months. Best if in a dark corner in a brown paper bag.
carrots – keep in a plastic bag in the fridge for weeks. Can be frozen if you’re leaving town!
celery – keep in a plastic bag in the fridge for weeks.
star anise / tomato passata / puree / balsamic vinegar / bay leaves / salt – keep them in the pantry.
ground (minced) beef – freeze it.
Problem Solving Guide
bland – more salt! Or more balsamic. Or cook uncovered for longer.
too dry – add more water until you’re happy with the consistency.
no oven – brown the meat in a frying pan and simmer on the stove top uncovered for about an hour.
burning on the edges – next time stir more frequently. For now, if it’s just a bit stir it into the sauce. Or if it’s a lot, just scoop out the burnt bits and discard them. Soak the pan and it will be easy to clean the next day.
Yes! Just cook as per the recipe but keep. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or can be frozen. To serve, bring back to a simmer.
More Simple Recipes like this Easiest Baked Bolognese
- Greek Bolognese
- Chinese Noodle Not-Bolognese
- Spicy Sichuan Pork & Noodles
- Lovely Lemon Ragu
- Cherry Meatballs