Bolognese Sauce with Cloves and Cinnamon

Spaghetti Bolognese

This bolognese sauce came into my life during the summer of 2002 while I was living in New York City for an internship at YM magazine. Every day after work, I walked from my office on the edge of Madison Square Park to my brother’s apartment on East 22nd for dinner. Most suppers were uneventful and consisted of boxed macaroni and cheese, or something equally processed and convenient. Sometimes though, when the heat wasn’t too overbearing in his apartment, my brother whipped up something extra special for us to eat. Spaghetti bolognese was a rare treat from that sticky summer in the city.

My brother learned how to prepare this sauce from his friend Anastasia. The secret to its fragrant profile and unique flavor is whole cloves and cinnamon sticks. While it might seem strange mingling warm spices with pork, beef, and tomatoes, it works beyond beautifully in this situation. Two hours of slow and low simmering on the stove top marries all of the flavors together, creating a thick, hearty, and complex brew. One bite and it’ll be obvious that this ain’t your average meat sauce.

  • Olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • Salt
  • .75 pounds lean ground beef
  • .75 pounds lean ground pork
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 ounces)
  • 1 can tomato sauce (14.5 ounces)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6-8 cloves
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • Dried spaghetti (1 pound)
  • Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

Spaghetti Bolognese

Whole cloves are the secret to this sauce’s success. Make sure to fish them out to avoid crunchy bits of bitterness. Same with the cinnamon sticks.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add in sliced garlic and cook until its edges are golden, about three minutes.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Next, add the chopped onions into the pot and saute until slightly softened and translucent, about five minutes. Season with salt while sauteing, approximately 1/2 teaspoon.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Add beef and pork, and increase the heat to high. Cook until the meat is brown, breaking into small pieces with the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Season with additional salt, approximately 1/2 teaspoon.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Stir in diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, as well as cinnamon sticks and cloves. Reduce heat to low. Simmer with lid slightly ajar until the sauce is thick, stirring occasionally, about 90 to 120 minutes.

Spaghetti Bolognese

When the sauce is just about ready, cook the pasta in a very large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, but still firm to bite. Drain and return the pasta to the same pot. Stir in a ladle of sauce and swish around, lightly coating the noodles. This will keep the pasta from clumping together and imbues the sauce’s flavors into the starch.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Right before serving, add in fresh parsley to the sauce and incorporate evenly. Season with additional salt if necessary.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Serve the bolognese atop warm noodles, along with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Serves 4.

[For Printable Recipe Click Here]

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17 Responses to “Bolognese Sauce with Cloves and Cinnamon”


  • he’s an orator and a cook…what a guy!

  • I am intrigued by the addition of cloves and cinnamon….intrigued in a positive manner as I have added cinnamon sticks to a dish made of tomatoes in the past and it was delicious.

  • What an awesome yellow enameled pot!

  • Oooh YM – blast from the past! I loved that magazine!
    This bolognese looks so hearty and comforting. Great picture, too!

  • I love that there is cinnamon and clove included in this recipe. The sauce is absolutely gorgeous, and I bet the smell – and taste – are intoxicating! Thank you for sharing this recipe. I’ll be bookmarking it to try soon!

  • Bolognese happens to be my most favorite food in the whole wide world. I could eat it without pasta. I can’t wait to try this recipe–looks so good and simple.

  • I was planning to do spaghetti squash tonight and this bolognese sounds soooooooooo good! I love the sweet spices in it. I have everything on hand, Im making this :)

  • beautiful & simple! Love this sauce!!!

  • this is beautiful. i’ve been looking for a bolognese sauce that comes highly recommended. i like idea of the the addition of cloves and cinnamon.

    this is a perfect dish for the cooling weather. thanks for sharing!

  • My brother actually used to make my other brother and me spaghetti with meat sauce when he would cook us dinner as youngsters. Nothing as fancy as this, but it always seemed very upscale because he made it.

    I love the addition of cloves and cinnamon in this sauce — I bet it really develops a wonderful flavor as it simmers. Can’t wait to try!

  • Yhea! This is very Greek byzantium style. We put cinnamon and nutmeg tomato meat sauces all the time. Maybe Anatassia is Greek? lol It’s a Greek name! Either way, I like your stuff here!

  • Anna - Anatassia is Greek! My bro thought she learned this from an Italian boyfriend or something… It could very well be a family recipe ;-) Either way, it’s fab!

  • I’d like to vouch for adding warm spices to meat. I’ve done it with my meat pies (tourtière). It’s also common in Indian cooking. Those spices lend a certain earthiness to the dish. I’m looking forward to trying it with a bolognese! Yum!

  • This is soooo good. I Love a good spaghetti bolgonese. Have you tried using some pommagranite molases. It is my secret ingrediant. In addition to your recipe, I think it would work great. I am going to make this for lunch. Yumm!

  • wow, i need to try this. looks good and i’m always trying to cook up a pot of sauce for work lunches.

  • VERY flattered for posting this recipe!
    it is a traditional greek recipe (i learnt it from my mom – tho i am sure there are plenty of italian recipes similar to it) and actually there are a couple of alternatives you could try, which in turn i learnt from other greek moms…
    my latest one is to add some spiced sausage – you have to cut it in small pieces tho, the smaller the better! it does make the sauce heavier, but very much worth it as it adds a kick to it!
    you could also add 4-5 whole black peppercorns to it, together with the cloves and cinnamon sticks.
    hope this helps!

  • In Bologna, they often add nutmeg to the sauce. So you weren’t straying too far from the original, after all.

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