Spaghetti Bolognese, My Way

Spaghetti Bolognese, My Way

For years I’ve skirted around my recipe for Spaghetti Bolognese,  giving it all different names, trying not to offend anyone with it’s lack of authenticity.  I know it’s not a real Bolognese sauce, and I know a real Spaghetti Bolognese is a long slow cooked meat sauce and I know that the traditional Italian ragu isn’t even served with spaghetti but with tagliatelle.  But this is Spaghetti Bolognese, My Way, it’s an updated version of the 70’s sauce I grew up with and I’m not going to apologise for it any more.   Why should I?  It’s delicious and I did it my way.

Recipe For Spaghetti Bolognese, My Way

Preparation Time:  Less than 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 to 45 minutes

Ingredients for 4 Servings

2 tbsp of olive oil
500g of minced beef
2  shallots chopped finely (or one large onion)
3 cloves of garlic chopped finely
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp of dried oregano
Juice of a lemon
200ml red wine
Honey to taste (a couple of teaspoons)
2 tins of tomatoes
6  medium tomatoes chopped roughly
1 tbsp tomato purée
Salt to taste
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
Some fresh basil and, or oregano to dress
A handful of freshly grated parmesan (reggiano) or pecorino cheese.

  1. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan on a medium heat and add the shallots and garlic.  Let them sizzle softly for a minute then add the meat.  Break up the mince, try to get as much meat touching the surface of the pan as you can.  Avoid the temptation to keep mixing it.  If you do, it’ll take on a grey colour, and nobody wants to eat grey meat.  You want to leave it, let it brown, turn it over, let it brown and so on until it’s cooked.
  2. Add the fresh tomatoes, dried oregano, tomato puree, some salt and pepper.  Mix through and cook for about two to three minutes making sure it doesn’t stick to the pan.
  3. Add the lemon juice to de-glaze, stir through.
  4. Then add the wine, tinned tomatoes – breaking them up or squashing them in the pan, the wine, honey and bay leaves.  Fill one of your empty tins with water and add that too.  Stir everything together, set your heat so that it simmers and cover with a close fitting lid.  Cook for about fifteen minutes.
  5. Remove the lid and allow the sauce to reduce and cook further for about another fifteen to twenty minutes at a medium simmer, stirring occasionally.
  6. Once the sauce has thickened, taste it and adjust accordingly.
  7. Serve on top of your spaghetti and sprinkle over the fresh herbs and cheese.
The Pasta

I like to use spaghetti, but this sauce works loads of pasta types.  Tagliatelle of course, linguine, and I like it a lot with fusilli too.  The most important thing is the quality of the pasta.  My favourite brand is and always has been De Cecco.

Over the years, I’ve read heard about so many ‘great’ ideas on how to cook pasta.  To me, there’s only one way and I was shown it by a friend’s Italian nonna, and I’ll be sticking with it.

  1. Bring a large pan of water to a full on rolling boil – you can either boil your water in the pan or boil the kettle and transfer to the pan.
  2. Add lots of salt, lots – your water should be as salty as the Mediterranean sea.
  3. Add the pasta and cook it till ‘al dente’ which means ‘to the tooth’.  The pasta should always hold its definite shape and there should be resistance when you bite into it – not a crunch, but a resistance.  The cooking time on the packet is a good guide.

The best pasta cooking tip I ever got was about the water.  The starchy water in which the pasta has been cooked is the secret of that creamy texture and the smooth finish to Italian pasta dishes.  Whatever sauce I’m making, I like to add a little bit of the pasta water, not too much, for example for this recipe I’d add about a ladle full.

You can add this from the cooked pasta pan to the sauce directly or, you can (which I do mostly) is not drain your pasta but grab it and drag it with kitchen tongs from your pasta pan to your sauce pan.  This will include enough water for you to get that smooth finish. 

Tips and Variations
  • You can add vegetables as well as, or instead of some of the meat.  Courgettes work really well for this.
  • This sauce is a great base for lasagne and a very tasty ravioli filling.
  • I tend to make my Bolognese sauce in large quantities then freeze it.

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