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Recipe: Bolognaise sauce with liver

Liver never quite recovered from Hannibal Lecter’s slimy endorsement. But in most animals, the liver is often the tastiest part: think pâté and the wistful, slurpy looks of people over 50 when they gross out their children with happy memories of liver and onions.

Liver crops up on many restaurant menus, and not just in the form of pâté. It’s also a very cheap way of adding flavour to dishes. Our friend, regular commenter, and renowned home cook and food enthusiast Rebecca Flynn has provided us with her bolognaise recipe, which uses liver – just as a proper Italian ragu should, adding delicious depth and flavour.

A controversial suggestion: if you’re feeding liver haters who have an imaginary dislike of this meat, don’t tell them and they won’t notice.

What do you think of liver, kidney, and other assorted offal?

Rebecca Flynn’s Ragu (aka Rebeccan Ragu)


  • 1lb Ground Beef
  • 4 rashers of pancetta or smoked bacon, cut into chunks
  • 1 strip of liver (chicken is recommended apparently but I prefer lamb’s) – chop it up as much as you can, the smaller the pieces the more you can deceive people in to eating offal. Oh, and it tastes good
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 big jar Passata
  • 1 chicken stock cube (I prefer to use those stock pots, or real stock is obviously your best bet)
  • 1 large glass wine (red or white is fine, depends on what’s handy; white works better if you’re eating it that night, red wine can be quite powerful so it’s a good addition if you have longer to let the flavours mingle)
  • Salt/pepper/dried Italian herbs to taste, if you have a couple of bay leaves they’re a very welcome addition
  • Fresh parmesan cheese


  • Sweat the onion and garlic in a large pan/wok with olive oil
  • Once they are soft add in the carrots and celery, fry for 1-2 mins
  • Add the rashers/pancetta and liver and cook through
  • Add the mince and brown
  • Once mince is cooked through add in the glass of wine, stock and seasoning/bay leaves
  • When the alcohol has burned off and stock is dissolved add in the jar of Passata
  • Simmer for 15-20 minutes, or longer – up to an hour or more if possible – and remember, bolognaise is always nicer the next day.
  • Check to taste and add more seasoning if necessary.
Serve with any pasta but spaghetti is my first choice, something nice and indulgent about all that slurping, and loads of grated fresh Parmesan.


  1. I hate red meat, but I love liver. Odd, isn’t it? Chicken liver salad is a favourite. The Jews have some liver dish, can’t remember what it’s called, it’s chopped with onions and is great.
    I also like most offal: lamb tongue in broth, kidneys sauteed in a port cream, braised heart with silver onions…. We used to eat brain and bone marrow (absolutely yum on sourdough toasts with coarse salt) but it’s gone off the menu because of the mad cow. As a kid, the bone marrow was a treat.
    And I like tripes too 🙂

  2. I remember seeing a lot of brains in the supermarkets in Saudi Arabia when I was a kid. I think it was cow or maybe camel brain, right there beside the steaks.

  3. Great post Peter 😉 Offal is a funny one for me, I absolutely adore liver, but can’t stand kidneys or tripe – UGH. My mum used a lot of offal when we were kids as it was so cheap, braised lamb’s heart was always a favourite in our house, as were sweetbreads and tongue. I’m always happy to try new and different foods but I think I’d draw the line at brains, not because of what they are but I’m pretty sure the texture would repulse me. A warning to any squeamish cooks out there, I make this bolognaise on a regular basis and I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable with the actual handling of the raw liver!!

  4. lovely recipe, will have to try it out!