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Lisa Kalabokis

All seasons

"Similar to baking, I also love a low and slow project when I know I'm feeling a little stressed and/or know I’m going to be home for awhile (see → Sundays during Chicago winter). This recipe doesn’t require a ton of attention, but does require a bit of patience and care in the beginning.

I also love how versatile it is—you can use any meat you have on hand, or substitute something like beans or lentils. Have a ton of dry or fresh herbs you’re trying to get rid of? Throw it in! End of a chunk of cheese? Throw that in too.

After a few hours, you have a bubbling pot of goodness that can be served over pasta, sopped up with a hunk of bread, or served over polenta. Or you can be like me and just eat it with a spoon at the stove."

-Lisa Kalabokis


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 medium onion, small dice
  • 5 clove garlic, minced or sliced
  • 2 carrots, grated 
  • ¼ cup white, red or dry vermouth (optional, if you have it)
  • 2 pounds ground beef, lamb, pork or poultry 
  • 1 28oz can of tomatoes (whole, diced, puree, whatever you have)
  • Bunch of fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano or basil), or 2 teaspoons of any of these dry
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (any variety, even honey would be good here)
  • ⅛ teaspoon fresh nutmeg, preferably grated (if you have it)
  • ¼ cup heavy cream (optional, if you have it)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste 

Optional additions:

  • Cheese rind, like parmesan or romano for a nutty, complex flavor addition
  • 1 teaspoon of red chili flake for an extra spicy kick
  • Use a combination of ground beef and pork, or even sausage if those are your only ground meat options.
  • Use beans, lentils or any meat substitute for the meat in this recipe. All of these options still add a ton of protein!
  • Extra stock on hand? Or even a bouillon cube? Add a cup in place of the tomato for an extra rich flavor.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of cold butter once the bolognese is finished cooking for an extra silky, rich texture and flavor.


  1. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot, like a dutch oven. Saute onion and garlic until translucent, about 3-5 minutes over medium- high heat. Add the grated carrot (I used a box grater). Season with salt and pepper, and continue to saute for an additional 5 minutes.
  2. Deglaze the pan with wine or vermouth, if you have it. If you don’t, just use a few splashes of water and scrape the bottom of the pan, releasing any caramelized vegetables that might be sticking. 
  3. Add beef to the vegetable mixture and season with salt and pepper. Brown the meat until just a bit of pink is still peaking through. If you’re not using meat and are using beans or lentils instead, skip this step and wait to add these until the last hour of cooking so they don’t overcook.
  4. Add tomatoes to the pot. If you’re using whole tomatoes, crush with your hands before adding to the pot, or blend in a blender. It all depends on what texture you’re looking for. I like a little chunkiness to my bolognese, so my whole tomatoes were crushed by hand before adding to the pot.
  5. Add herbs, sugar, and nutmeg. Season with more salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and lower heat to a gentle simmer. Cook bolognese for 2.5-3 hours, or until the meat is completely tender and the sauce has thickened substantially. Be sure to continue to taste through the cooking process to adjust seasoning. 
  6. Add heavy cream and stir into the finished bolognese. Serve over your favorite pasta, as a dip or over polenta. Refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 2 months.

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