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Elizabeth David's Spaghetti Bolognese

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“Entered for safe-keeping, this is considered by some to be the ultimate Bolognese sauce. Note that it requires no cream or milk (although Ms. David notes that cream/milk would make the sauce smoother), and it has little tomato. I have supplied some measurement equivalents and additional cooking direction. For the ground beef, you can use a mixture of ground chuck, veal and pork. For the ham, look first for pancetta, then if not found, look for prosciutto, then if not found, Parma ham, and as a last resort: bacon. Elizabeth David was the Julia Child of the U.K. The chicken livers are essential, and Elizabeth David considered the fresh scraping of nutmeg to be the most important ingredient. If using bottled ground nutmeg, buy a fresh bottle if over 6 months old, as nutmeg spoils rapidly. From "Italian Food". This recipe originated from Zia Nerina, who in the 1950s owned and ran the Trattoria Nerina in Bologna. It became a staple in British households.”
1hr 8mins

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 1 tablespoon butter (for sauteing beef, livers, and ham -15 g)
  • 3 ounces uncooked ham, cut in small pieces (both fat and lean - 85 g -- pancetta, prosciutto, Parma ham, or bacon)
  • 2 12 ounces carrots, finely chopped (65 g, 1 medium carrot)
  • 5 12 ounces onions, finely chopped (1 medium onion, 155 g)
  • 8 teaspoons celery, finely chopped (17 g, 1 small piece, .6 oz.)
  • 8 ounces lean ground beef (225 g)
  • 4 ounces chicken livers, chopped (115 g)
  • 3 teaspoons concentrated tomato puree
  • 5 fluid ounces dry white wine
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 18 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (1 scraping)
  • 10 fluid ounces stock or 10 fluid ounces water
  • 1 cup warm cream (optional) or 1 cup warm milk (optional)
  • 12 ounces spaghetti or 12 ounces tagliatelle pasta noodles, cooked
  • 2 tablespoons butter (1 teaspoon per serving)
  • 14 cup grated parmesan cheese, for serving


  1. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium saucepan on medium heat (I would use my Le Creuset Dutch Oven). Brown the bacon or ham gently until brown.
  2. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and stir until they are browned.
  3. Add the raw minced beef, and turn it over so it all browns evenly.
  4. Add the chopped chicken livers, and stir for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Then add the tomato puree and brown for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Add the white wine, and deglaze for 4-7 minutes. Season with salt (taking into account the saltiness of the ham or bacon), pepper, and a scraping of nutmeg.
  7. Add the meat stock or water. If using cream or milk, stir in gradually. Bring to a boil, then cover the pan and simmer the sauce very gently for 30-40 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta and return the pasta to the hot pot. Pour the sauce over the pasta, and toss to impregnate the pasta with the sauce. Serve in pasta bowls, top with 1 teaspoon of butter, and pass grated cheese at the table.

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