OK, I know this is about as inauthentic as Italian recipes can get. And considering how inauthentic my risotto can be, that is really saying something.
Spaghetti Bolognese was one of the first things I learned to cook as a teenager. Back in those days, I used to just chop and fry an onion, add some meat and mushrooms and then pour over a can of chopped tomatoes and let it cook for a few minutes. Over the years, I gradually refined and improved the recipe and now this is one of my staple meals.
I usually double up the recipe and freeze it in single portions, which means that I know that I’ve always got a quick meal in the freezer. Bolognese sauce is also a good way to cram veg into a meal, because you can throw in anything suitable that you have to hand – peppers, mushrooms, sweetcorn all work well.
My sons prefer me to serve bolognese sauce with linguine or tagliatelle rather than with spaghetti. But to be honest, with a ragu as inauthentic as this, I would just go ahead and serve it with whatever is your favourite pasta.
Spaghetti Bolognese (Serves 6)
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
pinch of salt
150g pancetta cubes (or chopped smoked bacon)
500g lean minced beef
2 tbsp plain flour
100ml red wine (optional)
half a tube of tomato puree
2 cans of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried oregano
Pasta and parmesan to serve
You will need a large, heavy based saucepan with a lid, which is suitable for use in the oven.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160Cfan/Gas4.
Put the peeled onion, carrots and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they are all finely chopped. If you don’t have a food processor, simply chop everything as finely as you can by hand.
Heat the oil in the saucepan over a low heat, then add the onions, carrots and garlic with a pinch of salt. Put the lid on the saucepan and cook for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice to make sure nothing is browning or sticking. While that is cooking, I usually pop the minced beef into the food processor and pulse it a few times just to break it up a bit.
When the vegetables have softened and smell sweet, turn the heat up to medium and add the pancetta. Cook for 1-2 minutes and then add the minced beef. Cook until browned, breaking up the meat as it cooks.
Next, sprinkle over the flour and stir in well. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring continuously to stop the flour sticking on the bottom of the pan. Then pour in the red wine if you are using it, and let it bubble away for 2 minutes.
Squeeze in the tomato puree and add the chopped tomatoes and water, then stir in well. At this point, feel free to throw in some chopped mushrooms, sweetcorn, or any other veg that you fancy adding to boost the veg content of the meal.
Season with the sugar, black pepper and oregano and then bring to a brisk simmer. Put the lid on and put in the oven.
The bolognese sauce needs to cook for around 1hr 15mins, but the great thing about this bolognese is that it is really forgiving. If I’m running a bit late, I turn the oven off after an hour and leave it to sit in there for 30 minutes quite happily.
When it is ready, serve with pasta and top with parmesan if you wish. I usually serve pasta bolognese with a simple side salad, but feel free to throw a garlic bread in for the last few minutes of cooking as well!