The title of this post is not an idle brag. I’m of the personal opinion that how your mother makes something is the benchmark, and if you own version surpasses it, then you’ve got the best example of that particular dish in the bag.
Everyone has an idea of what a bolognese should be and what it should have in it. I’m warning you all now that mine includes wine, an obscene amount of garlic, and, controversially, carrot. Others have waxed lyrical on the inclusion of bacon, chicken liver and anchovies, but this version works a treat for me and him indoors, not least because in an otherwise vegetarian repertoire it includes actual meat.
For this, you will need the stuff below plus oil, pasta, and three pans.
I am usually gloriously unponcy about my passata but this was on special offer and it got me excited. I’d recommend a bottle of at least 650ml capacity so, rather uncoolly, had to top up with the Emergency Cheap Passata always lurking at the back of the cupboard.
I did compensate slightly by using slightly fancier pasta. I decided on tripoline for variety and also because the ridges catch the bol and make every mouthful a winner.
Now for business.
Peel the onion, cut into thick slices and then cut each slice into four. To be honest, how you cut it doesn’t matter, but I like everything in the bolognese to meld so small bits work well for me.
Peel the carrot and cut into small pieces. I’m a useless chopper (is that a technical term?) so I cut the carrot in half across the width of it, cut each half in lengthways and chop into small pieces. There must be a better way of doing this but, hey. Michelin cooking this ain’t.
Now for the garlic. I don’t think you can have enough so make sure you only eat this with someone non-judgemental or else someone who is contractually obliged to love you. I use six cloves, more if the cloves are small. Crush four of these and then finely chop the remaining two. Keep the crushed and the chopped garlic apart as you’ll use them at different stages.
Now we’re ready to cook! Take a medium-large pan and add about a tablespoon of oil (I like generic vegetable oil as I find olive oil doesn’t cook well, but use whatever you fancy). Add the same amount to a frying pan and heat both pans. (FYI I used a wok instead of a frying pan for absolutely no reason other than it was easier to reach when I went to the pan cupboard. It worked fine for me but then I don’t really know what the proper use of a wok is.)
When the oil is heated (you should be able hover a hand over the pan and feel the heat flowing upwards) add the mince to the frying pan and the onion, carrot and crushed garlic to the normal pan. Your aim here is to soften the veg and cook the mince. You might want to add a pinch of sea salt to the veg to make sure the onions don’t burn and keep the mince moving to ensure it doesn’t stick.
When the veg is soft and the mince has uniformly turned brown from pink, take a slated spoon or similar and ladle the mince into the veg. The reason for this should be pretty clear.
Yes, that is entirely beef fat mixed with oil. Yuk. Of course, if you like meat fat then feel free to add some but I do try to keep additional fat to a minimum.
Mix the mince with the veg and the passata and red wine. I used a small bottle plus an additional swish of water in the bottle to pick up the residual wine. If you’re a wine drinker then a large glass and a half would be great. I did have a full bottle of wine ready for the recipe but it mysteriously disappeared…….. (I’m looking at you, Mr Kathryn). Mix well and scatter the chopped garlic into the sauce. Now clamp on a lid, reduce the heat to medium-low and walk away for at least half an hour.
When you return everything should be cooking down nicely.
Hmm, excellent photography skills there.
Anyway, stir the sauce and put a pan of water on to boil for the pasta. The sauce should cook for a minimum of an hour so you may be able to wait a little bit to start getting the pasta ready. I however have an electric hob so practically need to put water on the week before cooking to boil. Pfft.
Start cooking the pasta in the usual way. If you use tripoline as well then your pan will resemble a quantity of octopus tentacles.
When the sauce has been on for 45-50 minutes you will need to taste it. I know some of you will be just like me and reticent to taste any dish until it’s on a plate and I’m at the table [read: in front of the telly with a dish balanced precariously on my lap] but in this instance you must taste. Tomato based dishes can so easily be sweet or acidic and it’s at this point that you can add sugar or salt to even up the flavour to your own taste. You may wish to add pepper too although I never use it. Should your bolognese still be very runny then I’d recommend a squeeze of tomato puree but that’s totally optional.
Now take this opportunity to get tables set and accoutrements ready. In this case, we have some very sexy Parmesan from a plastic pot and, should the excessive garlic content not be excessive enough, these little beauties.
EXTRA STRONG! Bloody brilliant.
You should hopefully be at about the hour mark so strain your pasta and turn the heat off the bolognese. The bolognese usually serves me and him for two dinners and two smaller lunch portions but depending on greed this could feed up to six people.
Use pasta bowls to lovingly lay your pasta in and then gently ladle bountiful spoonfuls of the best bolognese in the whole bloody world.
Don’t let the dying light and dodgy photos fool you, this tastes beautiful. I mix the sauce into the pasta and then cover in parmesan until it resembles a snowy village on a Christmas card. In no way authentically Italian or culinarily credible, this is warming and comforting. Leave the remaining sauce to cool before fridging it for lunch the next day. It will taste even better and beats a sarnie. Lush.
Got a different method? I might take no notice but do let me know how you do your spag bol. And photos please if you try to replicate this at home!