Bolognese With Bite

A meaty bolognese cooks up with some surprising ingredients.

Alas, I don’t think I’ll be boarding a plane to the UK anytime soon. Not with my pitiful bank account.

And alas, that means I won’t be dining anytime in the near future, either, at the acclaimed Fat Duck restaurant.

So I did the next best thing.

I made “New Style” Ragu alla Blogonese, a recipe published a year or so ago in Saveur magazine that was inspired by one in “In Search of Perfection” (Bloomsbury), the book by the Fat Duck’s award-winning chef, Heston Blumenthal.

A Brit cooking an old-school Italian dish?

You bet.

A Brit adding ketchup, fish sauce, and star anise to ragu?

Heck, yes.

Along with Worcestershire sauce, those ingredients heighten the meaty or umami taste of the dish. In fact, I even added a tad more fish sauce to up the ante.

I can’t say that this particular bolognese edged out my favorite one, Perbacco’s 5-Hour Pork Sugo. But it’s a definite contender. Unlike the Perbacco version that calls for ground pork, the Blementhal one uses boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1/4-inch dice. Whereas the Perbacco version cooks up into a cohesive, thick, rich sauce, the Blumenthal one has a texture more like chili, with distinct chunks of meat.

It’s quite hardy, and will satiate like nothing else on a blustery evening.

You don’t even have to bother with a plane ticket to enjoy a big bowl of it, either.

New Style Ragu alla Bolognese

(makes 4 cups)

4 sprigs thyme

4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley

1 fresh bay leaf

1 sprig tarragon

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1/4-inch dice

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 large onions, finely chopped

2 large carrots, finely chopped

2 ribs celery, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 whole cloves

2 whole star anise

1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed

1 cup white wine

1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and crushed

2 tablespoons ketchup, or to taste

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4 to 1 teaspoon fish sauce, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon Tabasco

1 cup milk

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Using kitchen twine, tie together thyme, parsley, bay leaf, and tarragon. Set herb bundle aside. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add pork, season with salt and pepper; cook until browned, 12-15 minutes. Remove meat with a slotted spoon; set aside. Heat remaining oil in pot; add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, cloves, star anise, and coriander. Cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 15 minutes. Add wine; cook until evaporated, 4 to 6 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium. Add herb bundle, tomatoes, ketchup, Worcestershire, fish sauce, and Tabasco; season with salt and pepper. Simmer until tomatoes break down, 12-15 minutes. Stir in pork and milk, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until very thick, 3-3 1/2 hours. (Add a little water, if needed.) Discard herb bundle; stir in vinegar. Toss with fresh tagliatelle or pasta of your choice. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Adapted from a recipe from Saveur, inspired by Heston Blumenthal

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  • That looks delicious! I’ve never made Ragû in that way… I’ll have to try this version soon!



  • Carolyn, there’s no necessity to get a plane ticket to enjoy this delicious Ragu modified recipe… ideal for a stormy day like today!

    Thanks for this wonderful recipe 🙂

    All the best!

  • Interesting ingredient list, but I bet it comes together perfectly and tastes delicious!

  • This recipe sounds fantastic! What a great way to have a 3-star Michelin experience at home!

  • Food Gal, did you ever eat at Corso in Berkeley? They make this great sugo that I felt rivaled Perbacco’s ragu. I don’t know if it took 5 hours but it’s good just the same.

  • I share your opinion on Perbacco – definitely a favorite dish of mine, but your recipe looks delicious and I cannot wait to give it a try.

  • Fish sauce? Never would’ve thought to add that! We’ve put it in many an Asian dish of course, but never a pasta sauce. Great idea.

  • Um, you’re not the only one not eating at the Fat Duck at the moment.

  • I wonder what the original recipe really was. Saveur Magazine has a history of modifying recipes significantly from their original form. I know a couple of chefs in France who have personal experience with the magazine modifying their recipes to make them “workable.” The changes often seem to come from the magazine’s desire to make the recipes more American or easier prepare. Changes also come from the editor’s lack of understanding of cooking. Would Blumenthal use canned tomatoes? Would vegetables be specified by size rather than weight? Ketchup in the U.K. is a much different product than in the U.S., even if the same brand is used. I could go on…

  • What a beautifully photographed Bolognese…wish I had a bowl right now.

  • Cheryl: I heard about that incident at the Fat Duck. Scary! Though, it sounds like the food was not the culprit. Thank goodness.

    Peter K: If I get my hands on a copy of Blumenthal’s book, I’ll have to check to see what the original recipe was like. I’m sure the magazine did simplify it a bit.

    Single Guy Chef: I have eaten at Corso in Berkeley. We didn’t try that particular ragu dish, though. But I did love all the other dishes we had. Must go back.

  • Great way to save a trip to the UK especially in this financial crisis =(
    Thanks Carolyn for sharing this recipe! Did you take that picture?

  • Yes, Nick, for good or bad, I did indeed take the photo. I’m still finding my way as a photographer, believe me. I took that photo as my hubby was yelling in the background: “Are you done yet? Can I eat it yet?? When you going to be done???” ‘;)

  • this dish looks great I cant wait to try it

  • Mmmm. That looks delicious. I love the integration of more unusual flavors. I may have to make this as it sounds unusual and delicious. Your comment above about the photograph cracks me up. My boyfriend tends to say the same thing and my stomach often growls in protest while I’m prancing around trying to get the perfect shot.

  • Wow there’s a whole lot going on in that sauce. I’m having trouble envisioning what it tastes like. I like the use of some asian ingredients like the fish sauce though. I recently made a pork cheek ragu using shiitake mushroom powder, which has now become my go-to addition for adding umami to a dish.

  • Yes yes yes! Fish sauce is absolutely terrific in pasta sauces like this. If I’m out of anchovies I use fish sauce. And it’s not totally crazy – the Romans had that garum? garam? fish sauce that they sprinkled over all sorts of stuff.
    Marc, I’m with you on the mushroom powder – I added the crumbs from the bottom of my dried mushroom container to an omelet once and it was like a whole nother dish!

    The addition of star anise and coriander made me raise an eyebrow. That’s really different. Hmmmm!
    Thanks, Carolyn, for yet another intriguing recipe – I’m putting this one on my list!

  • amazing pics carol! how are u? I love this recipe, I may try it out soon hehe


  • This bolognese sauce sounds really good. I like all of the Asian flavours in it. I have been meaning to try adding some Korean gochujang to a bolognese sauce.

  • Ok, I made the Perbacco sugo recipe using Blumenthal’s pork shoulder. MOST EXCELLENT. Just do it. I love how something so “simple” – it’s just a pot of sauce, right – nothing gourmet about that, can be so complex. Served with artisan malfadine pasta from AG Ferrari. Thanks for tuning me into this Carolyn!

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