Bolognese For My Brother

Bolognese For My Brother

Yes, when I was 4 years old, he told me that our fridge would suck me in if I stood in front of it for too long. Yes, he cut off my ponytails and glued them back onto my head while playing “barber”. Yes, he told me that we were related to Mahatma Gandhi and I believed him. And yes, he told me that ladyfingers were made of real ladies’ fingers. But that’s what an older brother does, right? At least mine did and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

That’s because he’s also the brother who walked 20 minutes to the store in the stifling humid heat of the summer to buy me my favorite chocolate ice-cream. He introduced me to Star Wars, Star Trek, Tron and Indiana Jones. He made me feel better about my grades one year by telling me how Einstein was not book smart, but was still a genius. He encouraged me by buying the first Valentine’s Day card I made when, at the age of 9, I wanted to “start my own business”. And he made me appreciate his favorite dish, our mother’s spaghetti Bolognese, by cooking it for me when I moved to the US.

Spaghetti Bolognese Meat Sauce

This is not your usual Bolognese.  It combines Indian, Arabic and Mediterranean flavors from the countries we’ve lived in during our shared childhood. In addition to the typical ground meat, tomatoes and garlic, my mother’s version has bold spices and herbs that make for an incredibly flavorful meaty sauce.

I love serving this over whole-wheat spaghetti, garnished with shredded Parmesan cheese and chopped cilantro. I remove the whole spices – cardamoms, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves; khara masala as we say in India for spices that don’t dissolve –  before serving as they can taste bitter eaten alone. Leftovers taste amazing the next day when the spices have had a chance to release even more flavors. For a variation, I sometimes mix the cooked spaghetti and sauce in a casserole dish, top it with cheddar cheese and bake it until the cheese turns light brown.

Bolognese - pictures of brother

There’s another reason I think of my brother when I make this dish. Growing up, he would come home from high-school in the early evening much later than all of us. We would have already eaten lunch and, on days that we had spaghetti, my mother would mix together a bowl making sure the proportions were just right. While he showered and when no one was around, I made it a ritual to sneak into the kitchen and steal a couple of bites. Those bites were always so incredibly perfect. Probably because revenge does taste good.


A printable list of ingredients and directions are at the end of this post,
along with an image of this Perfect Morsel.

Bay Leaves, Cardamom, Clove, Cinnamon

Pour the oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the whole spices: (left to right above) bay leaves, black cardamoms, green cardamoms, cloves and cinnamon. Stir until the spices release a flavorful aroma. About 2 minutes.

Garlic and Green Chili

Add the chopped garlic and green chili, and stir for a couple of minutes.

Onions being browned.

Add the chopped red onions and stir until they turn medium brown. About 20 minutes.

Meat being browned.

Add the ground meat and stir until the meat is browned. About 5 minutes.

Black Pepper, Red Chili, Salt

Stir in salt, black pepper and red chili powder.

Dried Oregano

Stir in dried oregano and fresh cilantro.

Peeled and Chopped Tomatoes

Add the peeled and chopped tomatoes. Here’s how to peel your tomatoes. You can substitute fresh tomatoes with a 28oz can of peeled tomatoes.

Tomato and Meat Sauce

Stir and break down the tomatoes using the back of your ladle. About 5 minutes.

Cooking Bolognese

Add 2 cups of water to the meat sauce. Cook on medium heat for about an 30 to 45 minutes. Make sure not to dry out the sauce. Add an extra 2 tablespoons of water if it does dry out. Using a ladle, remove and discard any excess oil that rises to the top of the sauce.

Spicy Spaghetti Bolognese

Serve the Bolognese over your favorite spaghetti and garnish with shredded Parmesan cheese and chopped cilantro. Make sure to remove the whole spices from individual servings.

Perfect Morsel: Spaghetti Bolognese

Leftovers also taste amazing the next day when the spices have had a chance to release more flavors. For a variation, mix the cooked spaghetti and meat sauce in a casserole dish, top with your favorite cheese and bake till the cheese turns light brown.


  1. says

    Ah, sublime. I can taste the bolognese now…
    And I love the photos of you two! You’ve started me thinking of all the pranks my big sister pulled on me. :)

    • says

      Thanks, Hannah! Siblings make for such fun stories. I can’t wait to hear about the pranks Holly played on you. Hope you got your tasty “revenge”. 😉

  2. Dad says

    We are extremely happy you remember vividly your amazing experiences with your brother. I, i.e. Dad, is going to try your recipe with Bishan as my assistant, and I am certain I am in for an incredible meal. Love you.

  3. Neena says

    Looks delicious and should be when it is flavoured with fond memories of a childhood spent together.Indeed a great dish for a great guy by a great sis !
    As always fantastic cooking with a special touch and a loving heart.
    I can only be grateful for the times we savoured food together , for all you have recalled so fondly, for growing up and growing old ( me !) relishing culinary experiences thanks to you.
    Lots and lots of love behna!

  4. Rob says

    Wow, this sounds like a delicious recipe! I make a very traditional bolognese which uses, in addition to the ground meat, just a bit of chicken liver, only enough to hint at the taste. But I’m sure that this one is far better! Beautiful, site, Anj. A perfect morsel of your personality!

    • says

      Hi Mek! You can skip the Parmesan since the sauce itself has a lot of flavor. If I were to pick another cheese, I think a little shredded mozzarella would be great! Let me know how it turns out. And thank you for stopping by.

  5. Umm Musa says

    Hi Anjali,

    I tried this recipe for my family yesterday and we all loved it! I must say I’m also very grateful for the way you write your recipes. They are very straightforward and precise. Thank you so much.

    I look forward to trying more of your recipes.

    • says

      I’m so happy to hear this, Umm! Yes, please do stop by for more recipes and let me know how they turn out. I love getting comments! Especially ones like this.


  1. […] Many of us wear white clothes to let the colors show more vividly and we’re all excited to be a kid again for a day. I remember, as a child, my friends and I would go to school with green ears or orange arms and we’d all know that we had “played Holi” well. This is an incredibly fun holiday, as you can see from the picture above of my niece, Safia, taken by my brother. […]

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