Tonight’s dinner came courtesy of some chicken liver at the back of the freezer, and some veg left over from a photoshoot yesterday. Idly flicking through my cookbook collection to find a new chicken liver idea, I came across a bolognese in Save With Jamie. Mine’s not identical – I’ve left out the bacon and mushrooms and chicken stock for a start, and replaced the balsamic vinegar with white wine vinegar, and added frozen spinach for some greens and to lift the flavour… And far more tomatoes than his recipe, because I like a good tomatoey ragu sauce. The result? I ate a good portion of this from the pan, and proclaimed it the best bolognese I’d ever eaten. Between me and Jamie, this is a job jobbed. Cheers.

Chicken liver and lentil bolognese, serves 4.


1 carrot
1 onion
2 fat cloves of garlic
1tbsp oil
200g chicken livers
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 red chilli
400g chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp vinegar – red wine or white wine
100g red lentils
100g frozen spinach
300g spaghetti

First slice the onion, carrot, chilli and garlic and add to a large sauté or frying pan with a tablespoon of oil, the vinegar, herbs and fennel. Rinse the livers and toss them in too. Fry everything together on a medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes until the veg starts to soften and the livers are sealed.

Carefully pop the veg and livers into a blender with the chopped tomatoes, and blend until fairly smooth.

Pour the contents of the blender back in the pan on a medium heat, and add 200ml water, and stir well.

Thoroughly rinse the lentils and add to the pan, add the spinach, and stir in. Add a further 200ml of water if the sauce starts to dry out. Stir occasionally to help the spinach defrost and wilt.

Meanwhile, bring a pan of water to the boil and add the spaghetti to cook, simmering for around 8 minutes or according to the packet instructions.

It should all come together around the same time; the lentils should be soft and swollen, the spinach wilted throughout the sauce, and the pasta nice and soft but not bloated and claggy. Drain the pasta, toss the sauce through, and top with a generous handful of cheese to serve.

I served two portions of this, and froze four more – your portion sizes might vary but it is very rich and filling!


Jack Monroe. Twitter: @mxjackmonroe



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      • Very likely your butcher is buying his offal in frozen so advising you to not refreeze it is technically correct. But, providing it has changed ‘state’ I.e now cooked, not raw, no prob with freezing it.

      • You can buy them frozen in supermarkets for normally around 50p for a pack.

      • Looks good Jack, but (sorry if silly question) does it taste strongly of liver? My small girl won’t touch the stuff unless as pate or otherwise heavily disguised.

      • @Ellie Green, I just made it for my 7 year old son, didn’t tell him what it was, blended it all, and just coated the pasta in it. He loved it. Although I didn’t use the lentils or spinach. I also topped with crispy parmesan breadcrumbs. Success.

    • Well if the pig’s liver was frozen before at my butcher (I don’t know), me freezing it (still raw) hasn’t done me any harm.

      Wouldn’t be worth me buying offal really (I have liver, kidney and heart in my freezer) if I couldn’t freeze it – freezing it turns £1 into like seven or more meals. 🙂 Plus I’m working again now so could only go to butchers on Sat. (Though have seen liver in supermarkets before where I first learned of it’s cheapness).

      And yes I’m always using the freeze it after it’s been cooked trick 🙂 Oh and I recommend slightly fried heart – it does taste a bit like medium rare steak, even if it’s lamb’s heart you’re frying (got 600 g of that pre-packaged at another butcher for a pound 🙂 ).

  1. I’m a big fan of your work Jack, really, but your portion sizes…?
    300g of pasta & 200g of liver serves 2 by my standards, and only just. Even with the lentils to add some good, filling bulk.

    Don’t get me wrong, this looks like a great recipe and £1/person is still very good value (or I could just have more pasta with the same amount of sauce). But there’s no way I could live on 75g portions of pasta or equivalent for my main meals.

    Maybe I just have an unreasonably high metabolic rate or something – I lost over a stone in the last year just by cutting down on snacks and beer. I wasn’t even trying to lose weight, I was just trying to save money by not buying snacks and beer…

    So, er, sorry if this sounds negative or attack-y, not meant that way, keep up the good work!

    • Jamie’s recipe called for around 70g pasta per person, and less chicken liver… The lentils make up an additional 300g when cooked, there’s also 400g tomatoes, additional veg… I actually got 6 portions out of this but costed it as 4 to try to stop the portion size nit picking. 150g of dried pasta is a LOT. Even the packet says to allow 70g dried pasta per person. It’s dried – it will obviously be more than 70g when cooked!!

      • I often think that the portion size dilemma is because all the posh cookery book authors assume that everyone sits down to a 3-course meall at all times. Jamie’s 70g pasta would probably do me if I’d had a starter and was then going to add a pud. However, I suspect a lot of people are like me and simply have one dish for an everyday meal. I would probably use about 100g dried pasta.

        All that’s beside the point. It’s what’s in the recipe that matters. If it tastes good (which any of your recipes I’ve tried do) simply adjust the quantities to suit yourself and don’t winge.

      • I always cook 500g for my family of 5 ( now 4 one at Uni). I have a tiny portion (50g or so) so 2 men 2 teenagers have 110g each and usually complained there were no seconds. Now the remaining 3 have 150g each and that’s now enough! 2 vegetarians so might try making 2 pots one with chicken livers and one without (add some Quorn mince?)
        Love the site many many thanks for simplifying my cooking and daring me to try value ranges and cooking much more often.

    • Most pasta packets recommend 75 – 100g per person. I use 75g per person and that is plenty, even for my husband. 150g is a mammoth portion!

    • Each to their own- I use 100g for two of us. My husband has a hearty appetite and I usually take a third and give him two thirds. But then I’d serve a meal like this with veg on the side and then follow with a piece of fruit.

    • No need to worry, if you use the Basic Spaghetti (as Jack has used in her costing), allowing 100g dry pasta per person instead of 75g will only add 1.5p per portion. A double size portion of 150g will only add 4.5p.
      I tried the Basic spaghetti for the first time the other day, and was surprised that it tasted exactly the same as the Sainsbury’s own one that I used to buy.

      • Yep, it’ s all made in Italy! That’s the only thing I check when buying the cheapest pasta…..& then occasionally I treat us all to a bag of De Cecco- it really does taste good but only when it’s on offer!!

    • I just made this and have enough sauce left for about another 6 portions, and I didn’t use lentils. Will be freezing.

    • I tend to measure out my pasta on the scales of 75g a person and then a little bit extra. Sometimes its plenty, and we have leftovers. Other times we then finish with a piece of fruit. I don’t think filling up on carbs is such a good idea. Pasta is very calorie heavy if you’re not careful… I’d rather have more veg based sauce than extra pasta. (Most the time)

      • Good idea! I think I’ll reduce the pasta a little and maybe add in some frozen green-beans instead…

    • The recommended amount of pasta per person really is 70g dried – it should provide enough carbs for a main meal. Years ago my partner and I were easily eating twice that without realizing, but we gradually managed to get it down, and our appetites adjusted along with the reduction in portion size.

  2. i love chicken livers. used to cook them with paprika, garlic and chopped onion. add a couple of spoons of yoghurt and frozen peas and serve with rice. i used to freeze chicken livers.

  3. Brilliant recipe – going to try tomorrow with babster – bought some organic chicken livers the other week from Waitrose £2.69 for 400g and froze them as hadn’t had time to find recipe. They’re high in protein, iron, zinc, vitamin A, Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, folate and B12 – so v high in vitamins and minerals.

  4. I am in the US, and can “translate” most of the ingredients and measurements…but not sure of possible cultural foodie terms. Are the red lentils in this dry (I had bought some in bulk and now can use them), or are they already cooked? If not cooked, do I need to precook as the time here doesn’t seem long enough for them not to still be like pebbles? Appreciate your blog, your story, and the delicious recipes since I am a senior citizen and living now on a tight budget.

    • Red lentils are dry, think they are here, and don’t generally need pre-cooking. They take around 25 – 30 mins to cook usually. Haven’t tried this recipe, but the timing is probably about right – if you are going to bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook spaghetti while they are cooking but just give them a bit longer if you think they need it

  5. I always add liver to my bolognese and sometimes green lentils but I’d never thought of leaving out the mince entirely. Interesting idea!

  6. I will definitely try this recipe, as, much as I’d like my son to eat liver, he won’t if it looks like, er, liver. Plus, bulking out with lentils also good, as I only ever make dhal with them. Would it break the rules of your blog if you included optional extras that might be a bit more expensive : because you might have a range of budgets : a beginning and end of month….just a suggestion : love your blog!

    • My 7 year old just ate this. I was able to make it while he was out, ha ha. As for extras, I topped with crispy parmesan breadcrumbs. (I left out the lentils and spinach as being a step to far for a kid!)

  7. I’ve never used the basic range spaghetti. Is it good? I’ve only ever used de cecco. I use quite a few basic range ingredients, but haven’t thought about the spaghetti.

    • Basic range pasta is absolutely fine. De cecco pasta is lovely, bit rougher than the basic range so the sauce probably clings a bit better – but for the difference in price I don’t know that its worth it. Give the basic spag a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  8. My mom used to love chicken livers but I never cared for them as a child. It’s good to re-visit some of these things as an adult, though, as tastes change. I’m also more open minded about eating things because they are nutritious even though they aren’t my favourites. Must try this recipe!

  9. Nicking ideas from the competition now eh Jack? Tush! 😉

    (I am pretty sure this is one I should try though. I like bologneses, but buying a pound of steak mince from the butchers is probably more expensive than this entire meal! Chicken liver is an ingredient i’d definitely never thought of…)

  10. Hi Jack! just saw you on the telly with Sainbury’s for the first time, and I had the ‘ooooh, that’s what she sounds like’ moment 🙂

  11. I used balsamic as I had it in, I also used bacon as I had cubed and frozen portion sizes of the basics bacon. I didn’t use lentils or spinach, I used up some peppers. The colour isn’t appetizing….kinda like Chappie!lol going to have for my tea tonight.

  12. Not sure if I’ve missed something but what herbs?! I didn’t see herbs mentioned in the ingredient list -I used mixed herbs to be sure!

  13. Add a knob of beef dripping to the oil for cooking in – dead cheap and adds a lovely richness and meatiness.

  14. Tried this tonight with thrifty Lesley gnocchi, what a fab cheap tasty meal loved by the whole family!

  15. Made this tonight… gorgeous! Ignore what people said earlier – it makes 4 large portions (my 6′ 4″ partner is a BIG eater) easily.

    Normally I wouldn’t touch liver with a 10 foot pole, but I bloody loved this!

    I had a couple of slices of bacon in the fridge that needed using, so I stuck those in, very nice 🙂 Will be doing this again for sure!

    Thanks Jack!

  16. Made this for dinner tonight for the three of us-myself, hubby and adult son. Hubby and son both do physical jobs and have huge appetites. I class myself as a big eater too and thus easily made enough for six portions. Have frozen half for a midweek meal when I really can’t face cooking.
    As for the taste? Bloody gorgeous! Tasted like it cost many times as much-rich and delicious. Will definitely be making this again!

  17. Cooked this (sort of) tonight, didn’t blend the ingredients (went chunky) didn’t have lentils or spinach or fenel seeds but did have sage and broccoli. I loved it and even though this is off the blog it was your book that gave me the confidence to mix it up with the ingredients. Thank you

  18. Just had to add that I made a lasagne yesterday using this recipe as the ragu. It was amazing! Six large portions of lasagne and I still have enough if the ragu left to heat up with a couple of portions with spaghetti for a midweek meal.

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