Student Bolognese Recipe

Englishstudent living

When I came to uni, my cooking ability was extremely limited to say the least. My student take on bolognese probably won’t impress any serious cooks. However, it’s easy, tasty and adaptable, and it was a staple of my diet in my first year. I hope that sharing my knowledge will save countless freshers from a diet of Pot Noodles and expensive takeaways.



The ingredients and quantities for this recipe are generally quite malleable according to how you want it to taste and what you have in the cupboard. The essentials are:

  • Beef mince (or vegetarian substitute), ~110g
  • Chopped tomatoes or passata, ~½ can/200ml
  • Herbs (such as oregano, basil, parsley, or a jar of pre-mixed herbs), ~1 tbsp
  • Garlic- either 1-2 cloves, ~2 heaped tsp of garlic powder, or a pea-sized drop of garlic paste
  • ½ a brown onion
  • Pasta- around 65g. Any shape will do.

Optionals include:

  • Around 6-7 button mushrooms
  • Soy sauce - this can be added at a late stage for flavour. It sounds wrong, but trust me, it’s good.
  • Butter - around 1 dessert spoon
  • Cheese - cheddar, Parmesan, Red Leicester or anything else you want to grate on top



1 - IF you are using frozen meat or a vegetarian / vegan substitute, place it in a frying pan with roughly ½ tbsp of vegetable, sunflower or rapeseed oil, and cook on a low-medium heat until it is defrosted. If you do this, use the same pan with the defrosted meat / substitute still in it for subsequent steps.

2 - Chop your halved onion. Place it flat side down and cut it into strips first, placing vertical cuts about 5mm apart along the diameter of the onion. Do the same with horizontal cuts. Once you have done this, pour ½ tbsp of vegetable, sunflower or rapeseed oil into a frying pan, place on a medium-high heat and pour your chopped onion in. Stir using a wooden spoon or spatula (not metal, as this will destroy the non-stick coating of your pan) so that the layers of the onion break apart. You will be left with small, roughly square- or rectangular-shaped chunks of onion. 

3 - If you are using cloves of garlic, crush them with the flat of a knife, peel the skin off, and dice them into very small pieces. The exact size or shape that these turn out doesn’t matter too much. Put these in the pan once the onions have been sizzling in there for a couple of minutes. If you are using meat/substitute which is not frozen, put that in now too, and use a wooden instrument to break it apart.

4 - If you are using mushrooms, chop them up. This should be done by placing the mushrooms upside-down on a chopping board and placing three cuts - one on each side of the stem and one through the stem. Put them in the pan to fry along with everything else.

5 - Wait for your meat/substitute to turn brown. If it is burning, turn the heat down on your hob. Once it has reached this stage, pour in your tomatoes. Stir thoroughly using your wooden instrument and turn down to a low/medium heat. Add your herbs (1 tbsp) and garlic powder (2 heaped tsp) if you are using these. At this stage, feel free to add a dash of soy sauce for flavour - you can add some, try a little of the bolognese, and decide by how it tastes whether you’d like to add more or not. This stage is also where you should add your butter, if you’re using it - allow it to melt and stir it thoroughly into the mixture. Leave to simmer. 

6 - Throughout this step, stir the contents of your frying pan occasionally. Get out a saucepan to boil your pasta in. Fill your kettle with roughly half of the saucepan’s capacity of water, boil, and pour into the saucepan. Add 1 tsp of salt before placing your pasta in the water. Boil your pasta until it is soft enough to eat. You can use a fork to fish out individual pieces of pasta and check if they are ready or not. If the pan begins to boil over, turn the heat on the hob down. 

7 - Once your pasta is ready to eat, drain it thoroughly using a colander. You should then place it on a plate or in a pasta bowl, pour your bolognese on top, and mix it all together thoroughly. If you’re adding cheese, grate as much as you want onto a chopping board or plate and then sprinkle over the top. Enjoy!