I have dabbled with almost every ingredient I can think of in varying amount to get my Bolognese to taste similar to a restaurant made Bolognese in the italian alps.

Including: Pepper Sugar Salt Tomatos and tomato puree, tinned and chopped tomatos garlic lea & perrins / Worcester sauce Onions & onion gravy granules different meats, pork, beef and veal Herbs Basil, greek basil, thyme and oregano red wine and most recently balsamic vinegar

These all get close and do make a nice Bolognese. However the secret ingredient is still missing!

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    You would have to describe in some detail what the flavor or outcome that is missing is... and I am not sure how you would do that. There is an infinite variation in what individual local cooks do.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 13:26
  • I guess what my Bolognese's are missing is Moorish-ness. I think it wants to me in line with something like soy as I get closest with the balsamic vinegar but this can spoil it. Is there something umami esk that will go? Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 13:32
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    There may also be psychological factors. Were you on vacation? With good company? These factors will affect your memory of the taste. Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 20:24
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    I wonder if @MrSorbose means more-ishness rather than Moorishness? I can't imagine an Alpine bolognese having many North African influences. Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 11:04
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    I hate to put it this way, but you may be over-thinking what is added to the sauce. Remember, Italy, historically has not been very well off as a country. Most of their dishes tend to do amazing things with a few simple ingredients. Have you tried dumbing down the recipe some?
    – Matthew
    Commented Sep 13, 2013 at 15:53

9 Answers 9



I don't see any dairy listed in the things you tried, but a true Ragù Bolognese (ie, in the style of Bologna, not the British tomato & meat sauce) contains a bit of dairy in it.

It also requires cooking for hours, as you want the meat to completely fall apart. By that time, the milk's completely incorporated and impossible to distinguish in the final sauce.


If you are missing an umami note, it's possible you are missing a very common ingredient in bolognese - chicken livers. These give a meaty, almost sweet flavour. Soak them in water for a few minutes, then finely chop or pulse in a food processor. I use minced (ground) pork, beef and chicken livers.

You might also try adding pancetta, to add a smoky tinge.

  • pancetta isn't usually smoked. Spiced, yes, but not smoked.
    – Joe
    Commented Sep 13, 2013 at 15:50
  • Bear with me here.. but you should attempt to incorporate chicken gizzards. They have a deeply meaty flavour (yes meaty, not chickeny) with a hint of ofally-ness, it tastes nowhere near as strong as the offal flavour you'd get from chicken liver and the texture more closely resembles that of meat. You won't regret it.
    – seeker
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 22:13

My guess is a good, highly reduced, veal stock; I've found that this is (often) the difference between a really rich, flavourful, sauce and one that is lacking oomph.


In my experience, there is no Bolognese without celery. I normally use very finely chopped celery stems, and add them after the onions have softened a little. You can use celery salt too, but fresh celery is best.

There is also something to be said for finely chopped carrots, but the effect on the overall flavor isn't that big.


Not sure what flavor you're looking for, but try adding a parmesan rind. Pull it out at the end of cooking.


Dried, reconstituted porcinis? I've been tweaking Bolognese for a while now, adding those was an AHA moment. After reconstituting and chopping, I sauteed them with the sofrito. Very nice. The chicken livers mentioned above could be the key too, I just can't do it. I viscerally hate liver.


A pinch of sugar cuts through the acidity of the tomatoes, also slow cooking improves texture and flavors.


Sweet cherry, smoked bacon, heaps of basil and a glass or 2 while cooking helps for a great spaghetti bolognese.

I love adding a chorizo sausage during the slow simmer also!!!


I use umami paste by Laura Santtini (in fact her entire line is awesome) as well as her tomato paste bomb. With a little Worcestershire sauce that added level of flavour depth is reached. Hope this helps.

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