Monday, July 19, 2010

I was going through a box of old photos and came across this one of me when I was 5 doing something quite rare. Eating (or should I say my lack of) was a problem my mother had to contend with during my early childhood years. Of course all of that has changed and, today, I need little motivation when it comes to tucking into a good meal. So let’s take a closer look at the picture…what is it in my plate that is prompting me to eat with such enthusiasm and vigour? Well I can tell you that it is the same thing in that plate that gets a similar reaction out of my similarly fickle 7 year old son. It’s good old-fashioned Spaghetti Bolognese.

Some interesting trivia about this meat-based pasta sauce is that it originated in Bologna, Italy. Bolognese sauce is sometimes taken to be a tomato sauce, but authentic recipes have only a small amount of tomato concentrate. The traditional recipe, registered in 1982 by the Bolognese delegation of Accademia Italiana della Cucina, confines the ingredients to beef, pancetta, onions, carrots, celery, tomato paste, meat broth, white wine, and milk or cream. However, different recipes, even in the Bolognese tradition, make use of chopped pork or pork sausage, while chicken, rabbit, or goose liver may be added along with the beef or veal for special occasions, and today many use both butter and olive oil for cooking the soffritto of small amounts of celery, carrot and onion. Prosciutto, mortadella, or porcini mushrooms, when in season, may be added to further enrich the sauce. Milk is frequently used in the early stages of cooking to render the meat flavours more "delicate" but cream is very rare in the everyday recipe and only a very little would be used. According to Marcella Hazan in "The Classic Italian Cookbook", the longer Rag├╣ alla Bolognese cooks the better; a 5 or 6 hour simmer is not unusual. But we are not lazing around in Italy. We are normal people with jobs, kids, pets and other things that fill our lives, so here is a quicker version that’s just as tasty. You will need:

2 onions - chopped
2 large garlic cloves - crushed
100g chopped pancetta (substitute lean bacon)
1kg lean beef mince
2 large carrots - diced
2 cups beef stock
1 cup red wine
3 cans diced tomatoes
3 tbs sugar
Handful of basil, origano

Start by heating some olive oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and cook the onions, garlic carrots and pancetta for 4-5 minutes. Increase the heat to high, gradually adding the mince and the herbs and cook until well browned. Add the beef stock, red wine, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar. Bring to the boil, and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer partially covered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Don’t forget to season well with salt and pepper. Serve with your choice of pasta, however traditionally spaghetti would be the pasta of choice.

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