Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Spaghetti Bolognese

This has been voted the favourite dinner in our house, everyone enjoys it!

It's one of those meals that most people can make, and there are many different versions. This one is easy to make, and using the passata rather than whole/crushed tomatoes makes a smoother than usual sauce. You can use two large tins of crushed tomatoes if you prefer.

The most important ingredient to get right is the meat. I use minced beef, and I make sure it's good quality. Don't get the churned-out stringy supermarket mince or the sauce won't work properly. My local butcher is part of a small supermarket so it packages up some of its meat supermarket-style, but it's good quality and also low-fat.

Some people I know, including my mother-in-law, who has an Italian background, use a veal/pork mince which tastes good and has a lighter flavour than the beef.

Fry onions in a little olive oil in a big, heavy-based pan until soft, then add some chopped garlic. Stir around to heat through, then push to one side.

Increase the heat, add some more oil, then put in the mince. Chop into it with a wooden spoon to separate it out and turn it to brown the whole lot.

When the mince is all browned, mix it in with the onion/garlic, and add the tomato paste, dried oregano, basil, a teaspoon of sugar, some salt and pepper.

I always use a generous amount of dried oregano and a smaller amount of basil. In summer I use fresh basil, but dried works well too if fresh isn't available.

Give it all a stir and warm it through.

Pour in the tomato passata and stir through. Half-fill each passata jar with water, give a shake to get all the passata and pour into the pot. Bring to the boil, then reduce to simmering point. The sauce will be quite watery, but it's going to simmer for a couple of hours so it will thicken as it cooks.

If you don't have a spare couple of hours, it can also be simmered for a much shorter amount of time, but don't add as much water.

If you have some red wine, add a glug of it to the sauce as it will make it a little richer, but I very rarely do this as I normally don't have any wine.

I have a splatter-proof lid to avoid mess, but otherwise just leave the whole thing uncovered and simmer gently for as long as you can.

When the sauce has reduced in volume and is looking richer and thicker, give it a taste and add some more sugar, salt or pepper if you think it needs it.

Serve with pasta - spaghetti, penne, rigatoni, whatever you like.

Stir some sauce through the drained pasta in its pot before dishing up, then add a blob to the top of each serve.

Add some grated cheese - our favourite is pecorino.

Serve with salad and crusty bread.

This makes enough sauce for 10 or more serves, so will normally be enough for two meals for most families. It tastes even better the next day, and also freezes very well.

- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 kg minced beef, good quality
- 300 g tomato paste (approx) - (called tomato puree in the UK) I either use a 250 g jar or a couple of 140 g tubs.
- Herbs: 2 or 3 heaped tablespoons dried oregano; 1 or 2 heaped of dried basil, or a generous amount of chopped fresh basil; fresh chopped parsley if you have some.
- salt, pepper, 1-2 tsp sugar
- 2 jars (around 700 g each) tomato passata


Coby said...

I always like to cook off my tomato paste too Arista, I find otherwise it can have a rather astringent or raw taste to it. I think some spag bols have become much too OTT with ingredients, and so far removed from the goods, I love that yours is a REAL bolognese:D Is it any wonder this is a favourite in your house? Nope:)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

That looks lovely! I haven't had Spaghetti bolognese for ages. I always find a home cooked one infinity better than one at a restaurant :)