bolognese mac and cheese

bolognese mac and cheese

bolognese mac and cheese

Mac n cheese has to be one of my favourite comfort foods, and when you add a hearty bolognese sauce into the mix, it becomes just that much more comforting.

Don’t you agree?

I never use a recipe when making a bolognese and just cook by instinct. I sometimes add celery and carrot, and other times I add bacon. I often use oregano as a herb, and generally like to include tomato paste to intensify the tomato flavour. Its always a case of a bit of this, a splash of that, and whatever herb I have lying around.

Here I decided to make it a bit differently to what I normally do, and I also wrote the recipe down. I happened to have parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme on hand, so decided to go with all of these. Why not? They wrote a song about them, so they must be good together.

Rosemary is not what I would typically add, but my mom used to use it in her bolognese, so this recipe brought back memories of her which kinda made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Because I live alone I didn’t eat the whole thing and froze off a few portions for later consumption. The later consumption has already taken place (I did this a while ago), and was so thrilled to have written the recipe down. It is a dish I will definitely want to make again. Exactly like I did it here.

*A note on the herbs for this: I used a small bunch of parsley (the most out of the 4) , about 5 sage leaves, 4 – 5 sprigs of thyme, 2 small sprigs of rosemary (leaves removed). Apologies for no precise measurement here, you will have to wing it. I chopped them all up fairly finely.

* A note on the meat cooking:  here I followed a little technique I picked up from Gordon Ramsay on his ‘Ultimate Cooking Course’ – which is to fry the meat further than you would normally, until all the liquid has cooked off and the meat starts to caramelise. The browning that happens to the meat is called the Maillard reaction and is when the protein in the meat changes to sugar compounds and in the process a load of different flavour is created. It makes so much sense to me to make sure the mince gets to this stage, so when you add all the other sauce components, they build on the base flavour. I have taken to adding miso paste to a lot of my savoury and meaty recipes, it adds so much umamui and depth. As its fairly flavour neutral, it amplifies the other flavours in the dish.

Recipe | serves 4

  • 350 – 400g – short pasta noodles like macaroni or rigatoni – cooked to al dente

Meat sauce:

  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 star anise pod
  • splash of olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 500 g of beef mince
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) red wine – and maybe a splash more
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 1 T miso paste
  • 2 t sugar
  • parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme – all chopped
  • pinch of dried chilli flakes.

Bechamel sauce:

  • 50g butter
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) flour)
  • milk – about 2 1/2 – 3 cups
  • 1 t Dijon mustard
  • a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt and pepper (I prefer white pepper here)


  • 3/4 of a cup of breadcrumbs fried in about 50g of butter until golden. Add a few thyme leaves (optional)
  • 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese for the top

Fry the onions and star anise  in the olive oil until soft over a low temp until (This is a Heston Blumenthal thing which I have taken to doing, it makes the onions taste better).

Remove the star anise, add the garlic and the mince and turn up the heat. Fry this until the meat has caramelised (see note above recipe on this).

Add the wine and and deglaze the pan and allow the liquid to cook off.

Add the rest of the ingredients and allow them to bubble away for a min of 45 minutes, but longer if possible. I love to cook my bolognese for ages over a low heat, adding a splash of wine later of if it looks to be drying out a bit. I cook it for some of the time with the lid on to retain the moisture, and some of the time with it off to thicken it. You could also consider getting very cheffy and placing a cartouche over the sauce (this is a paper lid, cut to the size of your pot, that helps to retain moisture in the food).

Make the bechamel by melting the butter in a small put and then add the flour to form a roux. Cook this for a bit until it is stiff. Add the milk bit by bit, continuing to whisk all the time until the sauce has thickened and does not thicken any further. Add the mustard, nutmeg and seasoning. I always make sure the bechamel tastes just right on its own to ensure its ready, before adding it to a dish.

Mix the cooked pasta with the bolognese sauce and add about 2/3 of the bechamel sauce and mix evenly. Empty this into an appropriately sized oven dish. Spread the remaining bechamel sauce over the top, sprinkle the crumb garnish and Parmesan cheese, and bake in an oven that has been pre heated to 180C for 25 minutes until golden and bubbling.

bolognese mac and cheese

A good hearty meal like this needs a hearty red wine to go with it, and after tasting the recently launched De Wetshof Thibault, this is one I could highly recommend.

De Wetshof is one of my favourite wine producers in South Africa and are well known for their beautiful Chardonnays. They are committed to site-specific vineyard management and wine making, and the Thibault is made from two of these specific blocks, Merlot block 8, and Cabernet Sauvignon block 11. Its kind of like raising each child in their own special way, nurturing their specific needs, which can only have a better result.

The grapes are picked in the cool mornings to capture their fruitiness, and this wine is robust, elegant and typical of a Bordeaux style blend. I absolutely love it.

The launch of this spectacular wine took place at the Planet restaurant at the Mount Nelson Hotel, with a knock out lunch cooked by chef Rudi Liebenburg.

This is a little look at the special lunch.

Planet restaurant, Mount Nelson Hotel, Cape Town

Bolognese, mac and cheese, De Wetshof, Thibault, wine, Planet Restaurant, Mount Nelson Hotel, Rudi Liebenberg Untitled-3

Planet restaurant, Mount Nelson Hotel, Cape Town

I look forward to connecting with you again in the future.

Visit my Drizzle and Dip Facebook page to get updates of all my posts.

I can also be found enthusiastically pinning beautiful food images on Pinterest.  



  1. Hello, I just love the way you draw me into the whole recipe and food experience, the photo’s are enticing and alluring and really set your mind into the “food zone”. I get to experience my passion every time I see this page.
    Thank you

  2. Liz Thomas

    Oh! The Mount Nelson, that does bring back memories!

    My husband and I got chatting to the Duty Manager there one evening and he took us on a hotel tour. I had been there before when I lived in SA but Graham had never been before. What an enchanting place it is. The manager told us that he never said he was “going to work” but always that he was “going to the Mount Nelson”.

    And we consumed far too much wine there that evening too! Thanks for the happy memories.

    And your Mac/Cheese/Bol looks pretty good!

  3. Carolie de Koster

    Hi Sam

    This is irresistible! It is a rainy and gloomy and chiily afternoon in New Zealand and one feels like eating the macaroni off the screen! I will certainly make it this week – have three young boys in the house so there will not be any leftovers. Next week we move into our new house and then there will be a second chance with this wonderful dish.

    Thank you!


  4. Sam

    Hi Carolie, enjoy the wintery weather, CT is going to be a warm 29 C today – last little bit of summer 🙂

  5. Sam

    What a nice memory Liz, the Mount Nelson is more of an institution in Cape Town than a hotel

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  7. O MY GOODNESS… That gigantic bowl of mac and cheese is sooooo what I am craving for! Right now! For Breakfast!!

  8. karien buter

    hi sam.
    i will be making this tomorrow night. slowly cooking my way through your recipes. your amazing pear and dukkah starter is now a staple in my house.

    i live in glasgow – can i buy your book via amazon?

  9. Hi Sam
    This recipe looks sooooooo yummy… I must admit I’ve never heard of miso paste (shoud I be saying this out loud?) LOL… Where in Cape Town area can I buy miso paste?

  10. Sam

    HI Shireen, you will find it in most Asian supermarkets (in the fridge), and its so good.

  11. Sam

    Miso is actually quite neutral in taste, it doesn’t have a specific taste other than umami – it intensifies so many savoury dishes.

  12. Marge @ A Sweet and Savory Life

    Came here because of The Kitchn, but will stay for the food and gorgeous pictures! So nice to “meet” you…

  13. Ingrid Wilson

    My Italian mother used to make this often, without the star anise and miso paste, but added a finely chopped carrot and stick of celery to her ragu, and omitted the breadcrumbs but added lots more grated Parmesan ( or Grana Padana which is slightly more affordable!). I used to love all the crispy crusty bits on top! She called it “Maccheroni al forno ” which translated means baked macaroni.

  14. Hi Sam… A Quick Message from the Man… “Pffft, serves 4, enough for me, but what the other 3 going to eat.” LOL
    Will def try this one for him. Have a Happy Almost Friday. 🙂

  15. Sam

    Hi Flee, your man will likely eat for 2 or 3 with this one. It just kind of slides down. I would suggest freezing off a few portions for him for later consumption, as I did. Its a real treat on a night when you don’t feel like cooking.
    S x

  16. Sam

    Hi Ingrid, sounds awesome, and yeah, as I said this is not a traditional bolognese, and I sure a purist Italian will be appalled by the use o f miso, but hey, it works for me.

  17. Sam

    HI Marge, lovely to have you around these parts and so awesome of the Kitchn to feature my recipe. I hope we see you again soon.

  18. Too divine for words – like a hug in bowl on a chilly day. Definate winter staple

  19. Ingrid Wilson

    Looking forward to trying your recipe- always keen to taste new versions of traditional recipes! PS Love your photos!

  20. So I have to admit that when I first glanced at the title of this recipe I thought it said Bologna Mac and Cheese, and I clicked through just so that I could be properly horrified that someone had added bologna to their mac n cheese. haha. This looks fantastic, I will have to try it out.

  21. That bolognese looks wonderful – I must be hungry. I also don’t use a recipe when I make it and it varies every time. That lunch looks delightful.

  22. I love your pictures and recipes. I’d like to inform you of a great new website I would like to invite you to come and join us and share your wonderful pictures with us. We are simply foodies and we are not photography snobs, so picture perfection is not important, all we care about is delicious food.

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  24. Sam

    thanks Foodienewz, I will check it out.

  25. Quick question from the US. We have different sized cans of tomatoes here, e.g 16 oz or 32 oz. When you say a tin of tomatoes, can you give me an idea of how many grams are in a tin where you are?

  26. Sam

    Hi Lisa – our tins are 400g or 410g

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  29. Yummm!! That pic with cheese, I am so drooling over it!! I just had dinner but I wish I had this!

  30. This is such a flavorful, well-seasoned casserole. It’s hearty and looks lovely. The only downside is that it takes a fair amount of prep and cook time. It dirties a lot of pots and pans, too. But the handful of unusual ingredients and the delicious taste are worth it.

  31. Sam

    Thanks Marsha and glad you enjoyed it. Yes, its more like a lasagne with multiple cooking elements. Sometimes – well even often times, its worth taking extra time to cook something special and doing a little washing up.

  32. A great recipe for the British winter and anytime. Makes my mouth water just reading your recipe. Thank you.

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