Saturday, 16 June 2012

Spaghetti Bolognese

Spaghetti Bolognese or Spag Bol as they call it in Britain. This is the first thing I learned  to cook as a kid and everyone should know how to make a good spaghetti sauce.  There are many many recipes out there. Start with one and develop it into YOUR Spag Bol. This one is thick and rich and meaty.

You will need:

  • 2 slices bacon or pancetta
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning mix
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 6-8 dried porcini mushrooms -soaked
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4-1/2 cup white (or red) wine
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 bottle of tomato passata or crushed tomatoes
  • additional water to thin out
  • pasta & pasta water
  • chopped parsley and basil to top
  • grated Parmesan to top

Step 1: soak a handful of dried porcini mushrooms in boiling water for a few minutes to rehydrate.

Step 2: In a food processor add onions, carrot, celery, parsley, porcini mushrooms (keep the water to add to the sauce) and garlic. Puree until fine. I like these ingredients to be small so they cook down and absorb into the sauce. This is also a good way to hide vegetables so kids or husbands can't see things they think they wont eat! You need these vegetables for good bold flavour.

Step 3: in a large saute pan cook chopped bacon until completely browned, then add beef and pork (or just beef if you prefer or beef, pork and veal) Cook the meat until all the water has evaporated and the meat starts to brown. Do not skip over this step, it adds lots of flavour to cook meat until it is browned. Add Italian seasonings and dried oregano 

Step 4: once the meat is nicely browned and you have lots of meat bits on the bottom of the pan (you want this- its good flavour!) you add some white wine and scrape off all the carmelized meat from the bottom of the pan. Let the wine completely evaporate.

Step 4: add a bit of tomato paste and cook on the bottom of the pan for a minute, then add tomato passata or a small can of crushed tomatoes. I never buy spaghetti sauce because there are too many things that can be added. Authentic spaghetti sauce is made with very little tomato sauce and is more like a dense meat topping on the pasta. In North America we serve too much sauce typically. This recipe is somewhere in the middle. There is still enough tomato sauce but, I cook it for a long time to concentrate it down and make it not so wet. You make it the way you like it.

Step 5: cook on low heat for 1 1/2- 2 hours adding 1/2 cup of water from time to time. SLOW. Taste it and adjust salt and pepper if necessary before serving. Cooking will concentrate flavour and make it bolder so don't add salt and pepper until end.

Step 6: prepare pasta according to package. Make it Al Dente meaning a bit hard. Never put oil in the water. Once the pasta is done I strain and return noodles to pot with some sauce to mix. If you keep some pasta water this is where you could need some to thin out the sauce. If you are making the full package and serving all the sauce, then add pasta directly to the sauce and then plate.

I serve with more sauce and top with fresh parsley, basil and Parmesan.
 A glass of wine and you have a bowl of gorgeous Spag Bol.

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