The perfect Bolognese sauce

From one of the top cooks in Bologna, Italy, we get the perfect recipe for Bolognese sauce. This is how the experts do it – and you can too!

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Bolognese from Bologna

Fresh out of home, still in my teenage years, and having to fend for myself.

I still remember those days when, as a young man fresh out of high school I moved away from my family for study. And, like many before me and many after me, the kitchen became I place that I had to master, not somewhere I could just turn up in and expect food to be already prepared.

What do you do when suddenly you have to cook for yourself – and sometimes cook for others? Well, you fall back on the standard student meal… spaghetti bolognese.

perfect bolognese recipe, bologna, emilia romagna, italian cooking

Back then I used sauce from jars. It was much easier to have a sauce already made for me by somebody else (especially when that ‘somebody else’ was often an Academy Award-winning actor).

Deep down, though, I knew it wasn’t the right thing and ever since those student years I’ve felt the need to find the perfect bolognese sauce.

Here in the Italian city of Bologna, the home of the sauce, that time has come.

The recipe I’m about to give you comes from Alessandra Spisni, a famous cook in Bologna who now runs the cooking school Vecchia Scuola.

It came to Alessandra from her mother and it was passed down to her from her mother. For generations the secret to a perfect bolognese sauce has been shared within the family.

Now it’s time to share it with you.

perfect bolognese recipe, bologna, emilia romagna, italian cooking

The bolognese sauce recipe

Below is the recipe for the perfect bolognese sauce. It’s not something that is normally written down – it is passed on by mouth and demonstration.

For that reason there are no exact measurements… you’ll need to estimate what will work for you.

–       Start with carrots, celery and onion and grate them all together into small pieces

–       Cook the vegetables in a pot over a medium heat with a bit of pork fat (lard) until they are slightly softened

–       Take the vegetables off the heat and add them to minced beef in a bowl.

–       Use a grinder (or something similar) to grind the mixed meat and vegetables together. Then add some salt.

–       Cook the mixed vegetables and meat in a pot on a low heat. When it starts to smell nice then add some white wine.

–       When you can’t smell the alcohol anymore, it’s time to add the tomato. For this recipe, use a puree called ‘passata di pomodoro’, or the closest you can find to that.

–       Mix all of that together then add a little bit of water.

–       Leave everything on the pot on a low heat for at least four hours, stirring occasionally.

–       Serve hot over fresh pasta and be amazed at how different this tastes to any bolognese sauce you’ve had before!

perfect bolognese recipe, bologna, emilia romagna, italian cooking


Bologna is a great place to base yourself to explore the region. Here are my tips for some of the best accommodation.


For a good budget option, I would suggest the Dopa Hostel near the city centre.


For an affordable hotel, Albergo Panorama has good rooms right in the town centre.


If you’re looking for an interesting design hotel, I would suggest Art Hotel Commercianti.


And to splurge, the Savoia Hotel Regency is probably the best in Bologna.

Time Travel Turtle was a guest of Vecchia Scuola and the Emilia Romagna tourism board but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.

15 thoughts on “The perfect Bolognese sauce”

Leave a comment