Main Dishes Recipe Index

Allayeh (Middle Eastern Bolognese)


Allayeh (Middle Eastern bolognese) | Wandering Spice

It’s dishes like this one – no-fuss, economical, filling, great for freezing – that I rely on when life gets too busy for its own good. And that time is swiftly approaching. You may have noticed that the blog has been a little quiet lately, particularly in the past week. That’s because, rather excitingly, the past several weeks have been spent pushing toward the official launch of the Melbourne Writers Festival, where I work. (Shameless plug: if you’re in Melbourne, you must come. The program is amazing!)

With the Festival just a few weeks away, I’m prepping some meals in advance and doing my best to fill up on healthy food that elevates my energy levels. Enter allayeh, a sort of Middle Eastern-style bolognese made simply by browning and simmering some lean beef (or lamb) in a cinnamon, garlic and cardamom-scented tomato sauce. Add some pine nuts at the end and serve with Teta Rice, and you’ve successfully made classic Arabic comfort food in about 35 minutes.

Allayeh (Middle Eastern bolognese) | Wandering Spice

It may not look like much, but allayeh is an instant trip back to my childhood, when I’d practically beg my mother to make this (I’d have eaten it every night if I could). There’s something very comforting about returning from a long day at work to the warm, aromatic comforts of your first home. In a dish like this with so few ingredients, purity matters. I opt for organic beef and tomatoes, whenever possible – do the best you can with what is available at your local store.

Allayeh (Middle Eastern-style bolognese)

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Serving Size: Serves 4


  • 1 onion, diced
  • 500g minced lean beef (preferably organic)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 2 x 400g tins diced tomatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Light olive oil (or other mild-flavored oil) for frying
  • 1/3 cup raw pine nuts


Heat 1-2 tbsp of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and fry, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5-6 minutes. Turn the heat up to high.

Add the minced beef and cook, breaking up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, 4-5 minutes or until browned. Add the spices - garlic powder, cinnamon, cardamom - and stir well to combine.

Stir in the chopped tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, then cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper, plus extra garlic or cinnamon as desired. Stir and simmer, uncovered, another 15 minutes or until reduced slightly and the flavors have combined.

Stir in the raw pine nuts and serve, traditionally with rice (but burghul and quinoa would be great, too).

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  • Reply David 16/11/2016 at 10:07 pm

    This actually might be our dinner tonight. Nothing planned and we (USA) can use some comfort food these days!

  • Reply Lunch with Yasmeen - Apples Under My Bed - A food diary. 28/02/2014 at 3:08 pm

    […] Last week I visited my friend Yasmeen for lunch. It’s always a treat spending time with this lady. She is intelligent and funny and kind, and her food brain inspires. Because of Yas I make labneh with confidence and crave comforting spices. […]

  • Reply Fanchic 08/08/2013 at 8:11 pm

    Yasmeen is great, her blog is just mind blowing and is pushing me to cook middle eastern food. So I gave it a go tonight and that was great, i love the pine nuts in there, it cuts the mooshy feeling of the stew. I found that the flavour were a bit to round though and so i added the spice i often use with tomato sauce, aniseed ground (I am completly addicted with this spice), youzzaa, this week-end i am trying the baklava 🙂

  • Reply leaf 28/07/2013 at 11:08 pm

    Oh, I must remember this recipe next time I get a craving for bolognese, for something a little different!

  • Reply Winston 25/07/2013 at 6:05 pm

    Oh maaah… This recipe is TOO cool, Yas! You never fail to amaze me with the wonders of Middle Eastern cuisine, especially with this dish. There really is so much I have yet to explore about your culture and I enjoy that I’m always slowly doing that through your blog, one bite at a time haha.

  • Reply msihua 23/07/2013 at 2:48 pm

    Delicious and looks so comforting.. I’m feeling cold and I want some!

    • Reply Yasmeen 25/07/2013 at 8:40 am

      It’s so great for this weather, I-Hua. I wish I’d made more.

  • Reply Jess 23/07/2013 at 12:07 pm

    Yasmeen – wish I lived closer to Melbourne – the festival sounds amazing! Dishes like this are some of my favorite weeknight meals – so comforting. The spices in this are wonderful – looking forward to trying it!

    • Reply Yasmeen 25/07/2013 at 8:41 am

      Thanks, Jess! I’m really proud to be part of it. Let me know how this dish goes if you try it out, and remember to always season to taste and add more/less of what you love.

  • Reply AbsolutelyJas 23/07/2013 at 10:57 am

    I love the lift that spices give to tomato-based dishes like bolognese, and this sounds lovely!

    • Reply Yasmeen 25/07/2013 at 8:41 am

      Agreed, Jas. They add a bit of interest.

  • Reply Tutti Dolci 23/07/2013 at 10:09 am

    I love the aromatics in this dish!

  • Reply Rosa 23/07/2013 at 4:08 am

    A great dish. Really mouthwatering! This spice combination is heavenly.



    • Reply Yasmeen 25/07/2013 at 8:42 am

      Thanks, Rosa, I love cinnamon and cardamom with meat dishes. Instant passport to the Middle East.

  • Reply Nuha 23/07/2013 at 2:28 am

    i haven’t had this in so long! It’s definitely one of my favorites. Mmmmm – my mouth is watering at the thought of it!

    • Reply Yasmeen 25/07/2013 at 8:42 am

      This is an oooold family favorite… we hadn’t had it in a while and I just thought, allayeh! Why don’t I make that more often!

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