Budget Bolognese recipe

(76 ratings)

If you're trying to save some pennies this year, try this budget Bolognese - a simple, classic recipe which keeps the cost low and the flavour high

Close up image of budget bolognese on penne pasta
(Image credit: Getty/Zepp1969)
Preparation Time20 mins
Cooking Time30 mins
Total Time50 mins
Cost RangeCheap

This budget Bolognese is a classic meaty pasta dish, updated for penny-pinching times. 

We've stripped back everything that doesn't need to be in this sauce and ramped up the fresh vegetables - doubling the usual quantities of carrots, celery and onion. This brings a lovely varied texture to the dish. If you're cooking for kids, this dish will feed six. If you're stoking up hungry teenagers, this is a four-person dinner. For picky kids you can cook the veggies and tomatoes separately to the meat, then blend the veg to make a smooth sauce, which you can then add the cooked mince into. Adapt this recipe depending on what you have to hand. Add in chillies, dried herbs, lentils or beans. 


  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 250g lean minced beef
  • 2 onions, peeled and diced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 pepper, de-seeded and diced (optional)
  • 2 cans chopped tomatoes
  • 150ml water
  • 500g penne pasta or spaghetti




  1. Put the oil and the onion in a pan and fry over a moderate to high heat for about three to four minutes. Stir frequently to avoid burning.
  2. Add the minced beef to the pan and continue to cook, on high, until the mince is brown all over.
  3. Next add the carrots and pepper and cook for a few more minutes.
  4. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and water, bring to the boil, and then reduce the heat, cover and simmer. Be sure to give it a stir every so often and check to see if it requires a drop more water. Cook for approximately 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling water, according to the packet instructions.
  6. Once the pasta is cooked, take it off of the heat, drain it well and return to the pan.
  7. Now it's time to dish up your meal. Share the pasta between warmed plates and top with spoonfuls of bolognese. Sprinkle some grated cheese over the top, if liked.

Top tip for making budget Bolognese

If you have potatoes that need using up, skip them pasta. Mash the potatoes and use them as a topping to make this into a cottage pie.

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Anneliese Giggins
Freelance food writer

Author, writer and Mum of three, Anneliese Giggins has been creating recipes for Goodto.com for the past 9 years. She has also created food-related content for household names such as Daily Mail, Daily Express and Goodto.com. Her most successful to date was how to feed a family of 4 on £20 a week