Food Guide

Sweet Bolognese Sauce: The Surprising Reason Why It’s Not What You Expected

Hey everyone! So I was making my famous bolognese the other day and my wife said “You know, your bolognese is really sweet.

I don’t know if that’s how they do it in Bologna”.

awkward moment #1. So I did some research and found out that the milk/wine mix I use to get the right consistency is in fact a very “sweet” combination.

awkward moment #2. So I decided to write this blog post to explain what I do and why I do it.

1. You used oregano, not basil

I used oregano, not basil, because I like the flavor of oregano better.

I also added a bit of sugar to the bolognese, because I like the way it enhances the flavor of the tomatoes.

Some people prefer to add a bit of milk or cream to their bolognese, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

2. You used cumin, not onion

There are a few reasons why your bolognese might be tasting sweet.

The most likely reason is that you used too much tomato paste or tomato sauce.

Tomato paste and sauce are both very sweet, and can easily overpower the other flavors in your sauce if you use too much.

Try to use a smaller amount of tomato paste or sauce in your next batch of bolognese.

Another reason your bolognese might be tasting sweet is that you used too many carrots.

Carrots are naturally sweet, and can also overpower the other flavors in your sauce if you use too many.

Try to use a smaller amount of carrots in your next batch of bolognese.

3. You used chili powder, not chili

There are lots of ways to make bolognese.

I grew up eating my mom’s, which is a bit sweeter than most because she always used Mendocino-style Italian sausage, which is quite sweet.

In fact, when I started to make my own bolognese I found that the traditional recipe (as given to me by a chef friend) was too savory for my taste.

So I added a bit of honey, which I felt balanced it out.

Also, when I make bolognese I always make a double or triple batch and then freeze the rest.

I’ve found that the sweetness is more pronounced after freezing and reheating.

So if you make my recipe and think it’s too sweet, just use less honey next time.

4. You used paprika, not pepper

My apologies, but I believe there may be some confusion.

The traditional Italian seasoning for bolognese is a small amount of dried oregano, not paprika.

A little sweetness in bolognese does come from a little pinch of sugar, or in the case of my recipe, a little bit of carrot.

5. You used brown sugar, not salt

I know this might sound weird to some people, but I like my Bolognese sauce sweet.

To me, it just tastes better.

My mom always used brown sugar when she made it, and I think that was just to help cut down on the acidity of the tomatoes.

Also, you know how they say you eat with your eyes first? Well, I think the brown sugar makes the sauce look more appetizing.

It’s a very small amount, so I don’t think it makes a huge difference in the overall flavor, but it’s something I prefer.

Some people might think that adding sugar to a sauce that’s already very tomato-y is overkill.

But I think it just helps to round out the flavor.

Also, if you taste the sauce as you’re making it, you’ll find that it’s not overly sweet.

It just has a nice, subtle sweetness to it that I like.

So, sorry if my Bolognese sauce isn’t to your taste, but I’m going to continue adding brown sugar to mine.

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Emily W.

Emily Wong is an Asian-American food writer the founder of With nearly 8 years of experience, she has a passion for making cooking accessible to everyone and sharing her personal experiences with food. Emily's vision for is to create a community of food lovers who are passionate about cooking, eating, and sharing their experiences with others. Read my story
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