Simplified Spaghetti Bolognese


July 28, 2022

How to make simplified spaghetti bolognese
Cooking spaghetti bolognese is easier than you think!

When we first moved to Houston, TX in 2017 from living in the Caribbean for 5 years, the company set our family up at the hotel residences for the first 4 months. 

It was convenient living at the hotel being new to the city and the demands of the job. As for my kids, the sports fans that they are, they enjoyed bumping into athletes in the lobby.

suite 2103 with a full ktichen

It was a 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom suite with a nice size living room, foyer, full kitchen and washer and dryer on the floor. Even if we had a full kitchen in our suite, room service was available to us 24/7 if we needed it.

Since I had to revamp the menu, I ordered room service regularly for quality control and ensuring that our five-star service standards were being met. It’s no secret, but I always gain about 20 lbs. every time I start a new job in a new city. With some discipline, I shed it off after some months. But that’s a story for another day.

Living on property, my family absolutely loved the room service spaghetti bolognese and they ordered it all the time. It was definitely their go-to on the menu.

How to make simplified spaghetti bolognese

The Spaghetti Bolognese Hack

In this post, I’m sharing my hack on how to make this spaghetti bolognese at home for an easy weeknight meal.

Why is it a hack?

Because when I normally make traditional bolognese, it takes over an hour. I let the beef cook in the sauce for all the flavors to develop. I tell my family, “You have to make this with love. It takes time!”

This simplified spaghetti bolognese recipe however, takes half the time, but you won’t sacrifice its flavor. My wife and kids call it, “2103 Spaghetti”. That was our suite number: a corner apartment, facing the city and the park nearby. To this day, we refer to it as 2103 spaghetti, and you’re welcome to call it the same, as it was inspired by our early months in Houston. Call it simplified spaghetti bolognese or just bolognese…whatever you like.

How to make simplified spaghetti bolognese

What is spaghetti bolognese made of?

Pronounced “bow-luh-nez,” the sauce comes from the Bologna region of Italy, so that’s where it gets its name.

Bolognese sauce is a classic Italian sauce for pasta made with ground meat such as beef or pork. It’s slow cooked with a sauce of onions, carrots, and celery, tomatoes, and milk to give it a creamy texture.

Why do they call it spaghetti bolognese?

Here’s a fun fact: the original pasta Bolognese isn’t made with spaghetti at all. Actually, the name comes from an early recipe from Bologna, involving tagliatelle and a rich ragù (Italian for meat sauce).

What is spaghetti called in Italy?

Spaghetti is the plural form of the Italian word spaghetto, meaning “thin string” or “twine”.

What does Bolognese mean in Italian?

It means relating to Bologna or coming from Bologna or its inhabitants. 

How to make simplified spaghetti bolognese

What is the difference between meat sauce and Bolognese?

Bolognese originated in Bologna, Italy and dates back to the 15th century. It is a kind of ragù, which is Italian for meat sauce. Don’t mistake this for your American meat sauce, which is usually a tomato-based sauce simmered with ground beef. Bolognese is much thicker, creamier (since milk is one of the ingredients) and only with a hint of tomato. Believe it or not, traditional Bolognese doesn’t feature tomatoes as the star of the dish.

Should spaghetti bolognese have garlic?

This may come as a surprise but the real deal, true, authentic bolognese never has garlic listed as one of its ingredients. “Bolognese” is not synonymous to “meat sauce”. It’s a specific meat sauce from a particular place (in this case, Bologna) where garlic and tomatoes aren’t part of their cooking tradition.

In our simplified spaghetti bolognese, we’re not using garlic as well, staying true to the flavors of authentic bolognese and our 2103 room service spaghetti.

Does spaghetti bolognese have milk?

The official recipe from the official tourist information site of Bologna, registered with the Bologna chamber of commerce back in the 1980s, states the sauce should contain onions, celery, carrots, pancetta, ground beef, tomatoes, white wine and – guess what? M-I-L-K.

If you’re not used to adding dairy to tomatoes, meaty sauces, give it a go! Adding milk to your bolognese adds a richer depth of flavor. You’ll end up with much more tender meat.

Should spaghetti bolognese have carrots?

Another yes! The tomato isn’t the star of the sauce as much as the meat. Why add carrots to a Bolognese sauce? Carrots along with celery and onion are part of main ingredients that help season the sauce. The natural sweetness of the carrots helps build the complex flavor profile associated with a bolognese sauce.

However, in our simplified spaghetti bolognese recipe, I took out the carrots as it was an extra step. When I make the “real deal” on the weekends when I have more time, I do take the time to add the carrots, as this is an important ingredient.

How to make simplified spaghetti bolognese

Does America have spaghetti bolognese?

Spaghetti Bolognese is a classic Italian pasta dish with a meaty sauce that is extremely rich in flavor. Every Italian-American restaurant usually has a version of it on their menu, but, you can make this at home too and adjust the flavor to your liking.

How do Italians eat spaghetti bolognese?

Bolognese sauce is generally not served with spaghetti in Italy because it tends to fall off the noodles and stay on the plate. Instead, the people of Bologna traditionally serve their famous ragú with tagliatelle (tagliatelle alla bolognese).

Is spaghetti bolognese better the next day?

Oh yes! This is what we’re all about when we cook at home. Bolognese tastes even better the next day as the flavors further develop so it makes a perfect make-ahead dinner for your family.

What do I need to make a simplified spaghetti bolognese?

1 lb. 90-10 ground beef

This would be the proper ratio of fat to meat. You want lean meat here, otherwise, you’ll end up with a greasy mess.

Dried oregano

A beautiful herb that adds an earthy, robust flavor to your homemade sauce. Certainly, you should have this as part of your pantry inventory and spice cabinet.

Whole Milk

It’s not real bolognese without the dairy. Remember bolognese is not synonymous to meat cooked in tomato sauce. While we are modifying this recipe for a quick weeknight meal, we still want to try to end with traditional flavors of Bologna.

Freshly Grated Parmesan

Fresh is the key word here. Get a block of parmigiano and grate it fresh at home. When you’re not cooking from scratch completely, it’s best to use all other ingredients fresh. 

1 jar RAO’s Homemade Marinara Sauce

Yes, we’re using something pre-made! But here’s the trick. Get the best. Quality more than matters. It’s everything. 

1 lb. pasta

While Italians traditionally use tagliatelle for their bolognese, we’re going with spaghetti as we are trying to recreate the room service version and make the kids happy.

Fresh basil leaves

Do you have an herb garden or pot at home? Basil is one of the musts to have. You can use it for salads, pizzas, sauces and if you’re like my wife, her favorite cocktail, The Rickshaw. So having fresh basil for us is a must.

How to make simplified spaghetti bolognese


  • Start by cooking the ground beef for 3-5 minutes, season it with salt, pepper and oregano and cook for another 2 minutes. Then here’s where you’ll add that secret ingredient, the milk! Next comes the parmesan that you’ll add into the pot and you’ll just cook until the milk reduces by half.
  • Now add your RAO’s marinara sauce and you’re almost done. Cook this for 45 minutes (it’s still shorter than how I cook the real bolognese on weekends), and stir occasionally.
  • After about 20 minutes of cooking, you can start boiling the water to make your pasta. Don’t forget to salt the water! Follow the package instructions for either your linguine or spaghetti.
  • Don’t forget your sauce at this point! Keep stirring until your 45 minute timer goes off.
  • After 45 minutes, turn off the heat, and taste and season if needed.
  • Finish this off with a chiffonade of fresh basil.
  • Another way to make this even creamier is to add some butter.


I would serve it both mixed up AND on top.

Firstly, add your pasta to the pan with just enough bolognese to coat the pasta, and a splash of the pasta water.

Following that step, toss for a minute or so over medium low heat, so the pasta and sauce marry.

Then, twist it onto your plate with tongs, dolloping a heaping spoonful of the bolognese in the middle of your pasta.

Drizzle a bit of olive oil over top for a luxurious glaze to finish.

Finally, dust the top with a generous coating of fresh parmesan reggiano, using your microplane.


Bolognese pasta does not mean meat sauce cooked in tomato sauce. In fact, tomatoes are not the main ingredient in traditional pasta bolognese originating from Bolognese, Italy. Neither is garlic, but milk is an important ingredient that gives it a creamy texture. In this recipe, we used jarred RAO’s marinara sauce, a high-end brand that will not sacrifice flavor.
How to make simplified spaghetti bolognese

When cooking with pre-made items, it’s important to stick with fresh ingredients for the rest of the recipe so that you can maintain the quality and flavor of your meal. For our simplified 2103 Spaghetti Bolognese, we used freshly grated parmesan and fresh basil leaves. 


Are we friends on social media yet? Come follow along for more kitchen tips and inspiration. You can find me on Instagram @chef.rafael.gonzalez and on Facebook, Chef Rafael Gonzalez

Send a DM if you tried this recipe and feel free to tag me! 
virtual cooking classes for the family
If you want to try more recipes, snag my FREE mini recipe e-book with 5 of the most popular dishes my students cooked with me on the Outschool platform during the height of the pandemic. These recipes have found a cozy spot in the kitchens of many kids and parents and they continue to cook the same meals, 2 years after. 

You can get your FREE copy right HERE.
Free resource of 5 recipes for kids to master by age 13


Read this article about the many benefits of cooking with your kids at home. It doesn’t have to be a one-man, one-woman show. When your family is involved, it becomes less of a chore and more of an activity you all can look forward to together as a family.

If you’d like a new perspective and fresh take on cooking, check out this post about cooking and mental health.

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simplified spaghetti bolognese

Simplified Spaghetti Bolognese

  • Author: Rafael Gonzalez


A simplified version of bolognese alla spaghetti inspired by The Four Seasons Hotel Houston room service.


Units Scale
  • 1 lb. 90/10 ground beef
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Dried oregano
  • Salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Fresh parmesan
  • 1 jar RAO’s pasta sauce (I use marinara)
  • 1 lb. pasta (spaghetti or linguini)
  • Fresh basil
  • Butter (optional)


  1. Turn your burner on to medium-high heat. Add some oil. 
  2. When hot enough, add ground beef. Break up and stir beef for about 3-5 minutes. It will almost be completely cooked at that time.
  3. Add milk then lower heat to medium-low.
  4. Add the freshly grated parmesan into the meat mixture and cook to reduce the milk by half.
  5. Add the pasta sauce and mix together.
  6. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. About 20 minutes into cooking the meat, start preparing for the pasta: in a slated pot of boiling water, toss 1 lb. of pasta. Follow package directions but subtract a minute.
  8. Don’t forget your sauce! Keep stirring occasionally until your 45 minute timer goes off.
  9. Turn off the heat and adjust/season if needed.
  10. Finish with a chiffonade of fresh basil.
  11. If you prefer an even creamier sauce, add 2 tbs. of butter and mix well.
  12. Drain the pasta when done but save some of that pasta water.
  13. Transfer the pasta back to the pan with just enough bolognese to coat the pasta.
  14. Add a splash of the pasta water you saved. This pasta water helps the sauce stick to the pasta.
  15. Toss for about a minute over medium low heat.
  16. Grab some of the spaghetti bolognese with your tongs and twist it onto your plate.
  17. Dollop a heaping spoonful of the bolognese sauce in the middle of the pasta.
  18. Drizzle a bit of olive oil for a nice finish.
  19. Using the microplane, grate some fresh parmigiano over the spaghettti bolognese right before serving.

Keywords: simplified spaghetti bolognese, spaghetti bolognese, bolognese pasta,

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  1. Joanne C says:

    How much milk do I add?

    • Hi Joanne. Great question! 1 cup of milk. I just revised the recipe to reflect the measurements, sorry about that! Thanks for reaching out and please let me know if you have any other questions!

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