Spaghetti Bolognese – with no apologies to Dolmio!!

I know, I know, I know. Spag Bol…Jesus, Wilkins what are ya doing!! Probably the most abused ‘Italian’ dish on the face of the planet. I deliberately ‘bracketed’ Italian there. Marco Roccasalvo, Chef Patron and owner of what is reputedly Ireland’s most authentic Italian restaurant, “Campo de’ Fiori” here in Bray, is horrified by what recipes have been murdered and called ‘bolognese’. Apparently what we’ve all been making for decades are bastardised versions of a traditional Italian dish called ‘Ragu’. And even then there are dozens, if not hundreds, of variations depending on where you’re from in Italy.

I must’ve tried 7 or 8 different recipes at least, including my own sauce that has about 15 ingredients. But I’ll soldier on and give you a take on this really tasty version that I found on the Weight Watchers Ireland website. Again, diet or no diet dozens of great recipes are on there worth having a go at, and tinkering with as I am want to do.This is a really simple recipe. There’s no reason to ever buy jars of pre-made sauce, like Dolmio or Ragu.

Serves 4


  • 4 sprays Cooking Spray. I used a couple of glugs of olive oil.
  • 400 g round steak mince.
  • 1 medium Onion finely chopped.
  • 1 medium Courgette, grated, top and tail, but don’t bother peeling.
  • 250 g Carrots finely chopped.
  • 1 medium Yellow Pepper, deseeded and chopped.
  • 200 g Mushrooms, sliced. I didn’t use any, someone in our house isn’t a fan…<ehem>.
  • 2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped or crushed. Again I used the pre puree’d garlic, so easy.
  • 800 g tinned Tomatoes – see Top Tip on tomatoes below.
  • 2 tbsp Tomato Purèe.
  • 1 tbsp Mixed Herbs.
  • 1 Stock Cube made up with 200ml boiling water.
  • 1 pinch each Salt & Pepper.
  • 240 g Pasta. Use spaghetti or whatever pasta you like. I used wholewheat spaghetti.
  • Fresh basil leaves to garnish
  • Grated Parmesan cheese. Not in the WW recipe.

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I’ve modified the WW method somewhat. For those who must know the unabridged WW version is 9 ProPoints. Main difference is they brown the mince then add in the veg and other ingredients. Unless I can see a reason not to, I always sweat the onions over a low heat, lid on, for 8-10 mins first.

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Heat a large saucepan and spray with calorie-controlled cooking spray / olive oil. Add the mince and brown it well all over. Usually 10 minutes will do. Set aside the browned mince, and the juices, in a bowl or dish, and add a little more oil to the pan. Sweat the onions over an initial medium heat, then a low heat for 8-10 minutes, with the lid on, stirring a few times. Add a tablespoon of water if they look like they’re drying. Add courgette, carrots, pepper, mushrooms, and garlic, stir and cook for another few minutes. Add back in the browned mince incl. any juices, tomatoes, stock and herbs. Mixed together well and bring to a high heat.

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The recipe says bring to the boil, but I’m a firm believer that boiling sauces in cooking kills flavour. Yes, heat it to a very high heat, but try and avoid actually boiling the sauce for long. Similarly when reheating sauces, do it gently over a medium heat and then simmer. It really does help the flavours. Reduce to a simmer and half cover with the lid, and cook for 50 to 60 minutes stirring a few times. Serve with whatever pasta you like, and a sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese. Leftovers can be used to make lasagne.

This is one of those dishes that tastes even better the following day. This sauce is suitable for freezing.

Top tip on tinned tomatoes from the aforementioned Marco Roccasalvo. Never ever buy tinned chopped tomatoes. Always buy good quality plum tomatoes. With chopped tomatoes your getting bits of possibly not great quality mixed in. With plum tomatoes you can see you’re getting the whole thing. Usually 5 per tin. I completely agree, and usually blitz them with a hand blender before cooking. You can hand chop them if you wish.

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Original recipe © Weight Watchers International. Link here:

Blogpost © David Wilkins – June 2014


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