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Dish Of The Month – Bertorelli’s Famous Bolognese Sauce

Published on: 15 May, 2018
Updated on: 16 May, 2018

By Hugh Coakley

I got the recipe for Bertorelli’s Bolognese sauce over 30 years ago from a newspaper article when I was working in Turkey on the Second Bosporus Bridge. We were due our first child and, inexperienced cooks that we were, we needed food that we could freeze.

Without any doubt, it has been our family’s most used recipe over the years. The children loved it; no ‘chewy bits’ and spaghetti that you could play with. And from the parents point of view, it was always eaten. What more could you ask?

The famous Bertorelli’s spaghetti bolognese with grated cheddar.

Very tasty and versatile. It can be used for lasagne or with a tin of red kidney beans and a packet of seasoning, you have the very best chilli con carne.

The Bertorelli restaurants have closed in London now but their sauce lives on.

I have cooked it so many times over the years that I do it without the recipe. But, to be on the safe side, I did look back at our recipe book to make sure I was getting it right.

Bertorelli prepares a beautiful garlic oil by chopping up 6 cloves of garlic in 300ml of corn oil. I did that at first and it is lovely to have garlic oil in the kitchen but it is a phaff. I now just add the garlic when cooking the onions and I use rapeseed oil instead of corn oil, mainly because it is a British rather than imported oil.

The other terrible thing I do is to use cheddar cheese instead of parmesan. I am sure it is a sacrilege to the Italian purist but I think cheddar is perfect with a spaghetti bolognese. To redeem me though, I always use an Italian wine. I don’t think it makes a difference but it seems somehow appropriate.

The secret to make this beautiful, thick, savoury bolognese is in the long, slow cook. It is easy and quick to prepare but the clever bit is to simmer for 4 hours. It is definitely worth it.

2  large (or 500g) onions, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

3 bay leaves and 25ml of rapeseed oil

1 kg minced beef

2 tins of tomatoes

2/3 of a bottle of Italian red wine

2 tbsp of tomatoe puree

salt and ground pepper

100g spaghetti per person (or as much spaghetti as you can fit in the circle made by your index finger and thumb)

Grated cheddar cheese

You need a large, heavy saucepan for this to allow a long simmer.

Fry the onions and garlic in the oil for 10 minutes or so, until they are soft and golden.

Add the mince a little at a time, cooking it until it changes colour.

Add the tomatoes. Bertorelli presses the tomatoes through a course sieve. You could do that but I haven’t yet and no complaints voiced so far (fingers crossed).

Stir in the wine, tomatoe puree and bay leaves. Season well with salt and pepper.

Cover loosely and simmer for four hours.

Cook the spaghetti as per the instructions on the pack, generally 5 to 7 minutes. Rince with boiling water to take away some of the starch.

Serve a ladle of sauce for each person on the spaghetti with a good handful of grated cheddar and more pepper (of course, to individual taste).

The amounts above make at least 10 servings. It is perfect as an easy and quick freezer meal.

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