The Cost of Making Tom Hiddleston’s Bolognese

Probably won’t do this one again.

Not the Bolognese in question (mehunt)

I’m by no means an avid fan of Tom Hiddleston — the last time I saw him in anything, that was 2012’s The Avengers. Nevertheless, I’ve been thinking about his recent profile in GQ with a certain amount of interest, curiosity, and, okay, cringe — I enjoy people who are enthusiastic about cookery and who manage to be kind about their exes, but would I actually, like, like him if we met in person? Or would he be Too Much? I determined the answer lay in the Bolognese recipe he gushes about as the profile opens, the first in a series of things he’s effusive about.

I haven’t eaten Bolognese in years, but I found myself thinking about the recipe over several days, with a kind of queasy, anticipatory excitement. Rather akin to how Julie Powell writes about beef marrow in her memoir Julie and Julia: “The taste of the marrow is rich, meaty, intense in a nearly-too-much way. In my increasingly depraved state, I could think of nothing at first but that it tasted like really good sex.”

There is no beef marrow in the Hiddleston Bolognese but it does call for: ground beef, bacon, red wine, milk, and butter. If a recipe contained just one of those ingredients, I’d consider it indulgent. Plus, two whole cups of milk? Even if my wallet could withstand the cost of those groceries, I wasn’t sure about my potentially-lactose intolerant stomach.

The recipe starts off conventionally enough, having you prepare a basic Italian soffrito of onion, carrots, and celery. It then goes hard real fast by calling for half a packet of bacon, which you cook with the vegetables till “done”, and one and a half pounds of ground beef.

Butter, 1 tbsp: $0.60

Olive oil: $0.10 (full disclosure, I used that Pam olive oil spray I’m sure isn’t “real” olive oil)

1 onion: $0.10

3 carrots: $0.50

3 stalks of celery: $0.50

Half a packet of bacon: $2.50

Ground beef: $4.80

After the beef’s done you add (gulp) the two cups of milk in. When I told my Italian friend F. about the Hiddleston Bolognese, she said, affronted, “Who adds milk in Bolognese??” Lots of people, apparently:

I wasn’t entirely opposed to the concept, but the amount threw me off. The recipe said to cook the milk off, but it’s entirely impossible to do that in the ten or so minutes that I waited before losing patience, dumping the wine in and adding nutmeg.

Milk, 2 cups: $1.20

Jacob’s Creek red wine, 2 cups: $4 (slightly less than half of a $7.99 bottle)

Nutmeg: $0.20

After the wine’s cooked off too (fat chance), add canned tomatoes.

Canned tomatoes, 28 oz —$ 1.49

Total: $15.49 ($1.93 / serving)

After that, the recipe has you leave the pot on the “lowest possible simmer”’ for three hours before using an immersion blender to break the meat down, but I only managed two before giving in and boiling pasta. Verdict? Put that much shit in a meat sauce and it’s bound to taste delicious. (Tom Hiddleston eats his Bolognese without pasta, “like a soup”, which I was feeling judgmental about until I found myself heading back, empty pasta bowl in hand, for sneaky sauce seconds.)

Was it delicious enough for it to be worth it? I dunno — my housemate is allergic to beef and my girlfriend’s vegetarian. Though I continue to be on the lookout for Bolognese, I’ve turned my attention t oJ. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s vegan Bolognese for now. (With his recipe clocking in both eggplant and miso, there’s plenty to shock and horrify F still.)

My tastes tend more toward tofu stir fries and, when I do eat meat, Chinese braises: this was basically a never-to-be-repeated indulgent cooking project. I suppose, though, cooking out of your comfort zone is its own reward. Luxury is whatever you don’t get to enjoy very often and which takes a long time to prepare, and Tom Hiddleston’s Bolognese delivered that in spades: bacon, red wine, and yes, two whole cups of milk.

Li Sian Goh is a grad student and writer in Philadelphia.

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