Friday, 22 June 2012

My Out of the Packet Secret

Spaghetti Bolognese

I wasn't always brave enough to try to cook things from scratch. When I had to start cooking for myself and Ralph, we made a LOT of things out of packets. One of those things was bolognese. But no more! I am free of the shame of the packet sauce! All thanks to Smitten Kitchen.

Whenever I tried to make bolognese myself, it didn't have the rich colour and gooeyness of the packet sauce. I didn't give up, and for the past few years have tried lots of different recipes, none of which were terrible, I was just looking for that appetising colour and that gooey factor, and all I was getting was tomatoey mince. I even tried a proper italian recipe that takes 4-5 hours to cook and uses everything but the kitchen sink. No luck.

Then Smitten Kitchen did a lasagna. When I saw the colour of that sauce I was SOLD. I've been working crazy hours lately so I only got to try it out a couple of weeks later, on a Saturday night. I bought all the ingredients, which luckily included a bottle of wine. The recipe used all wine but a glass, which worked out perfectly for me who, after having that glass forgot all my problems and slid around the house in my socks, giggling loudly to myself. Damn I'm a lightweight..

It turns out the key to that gorgeous gorgeous colour is tomato paste and red wine. I might play around with also adding some canned tomatoes- but for now this is MORE than delicious enough!! Next I make a proper homemade lasagna!

Spagetti Bolognese
From Smitten Kitchen

1 Medium onion
1 Large carrot
2 Ribs celery
3 Cloves garlic
2-3 tblsp olive oil
Salt & Pepper
1 kg Lean beef mince
1 1/4 cups Tomato paste
2 cups Red wine
2 Bay leaves
A few sprigs of Thyme

Serves 4
Cooking Time: About 5 hours, but an impatient person's 3

1) Chop up onion, carrot, celery and garlic finely.
2) Place a heavy bottomed pan on a high heat, and pour in the olive oil. Add the chopped veggies, and season them with salt and pepper. Fry them until they're nicely browned. This should take about 15 minutes.
3) Add the mince to the veggies, and add salt and pepper. Fry the mince until it's nicely brown- and I mean with small bits of caramelised brown! This should take about another 15 minutes.

4) Add the tomato paste and cook through for about 5 minutes.
5) Now add the red wine, and as soon as it's mixed in, scrape up the the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook it until it reduces by half- another 5 minutes.
6) Now, add enough water to the pan to cover the mince and slightly above.
7) Add the bay leaves and Thyme, stir and reduce the heat to allow the mince to simmer very slightly.
8) The mince should simmer to 3 - 4 hours. The water will cook off the sauce, and you will want to replenish it, but only bit by bit, not lots at a time.
9) I got too hungry after 2 hours and served the pasta. It was AMAZING! I can only imagine how it would have tasted if I had more patience! A friend in the office doesn't cook it for more than an hour, and still loves this recipe. So the bottom line is, wait as long as you possibly can, and if you can't, you can't.
10) Serve with pasta of your choosing. If I remember correctly, bolognese should be traditionally served with fettuccine or tagliatelle, but these days we always seem to make it with spaghetti. 

Here's my general rule on pasta: If I'm eating with Ralph- spaghetti all the way! The messiness makes it more fun and delicious! But yeah, around people to whom I want to prove I wasn't raised by wolves, I get it with penne, and love it :-).

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