I find it hard to believe that I've been writing this blog for over six months and I still haven't shared my recipe for spaghetti bolognese (or "spag bol", as us Brits call it). This was my favourite meal as a child growing up in the 1980s, probably because it was one of the most exotic meals on the menu. Back in those days, spaghetti bolognese night was the only time we ever ate pasta (unless you count canned spaghetti in tomato sauce), which I find rather incredible considering how much of the stuff my own children consume!
This recipe is probably as far from a classic Italian spaghetti bolognese (or ragu) as you can get but it's the only version I can contemplate making because it's the dish of my childhood. It's not my mother's recipe, but it tastes similar (from what I can remember) even though I've made some tweaks to make it more acceptable to my own children. They are not keen on "bits" so I've learnt to grate the carrots rather than dice them, and to use passata in place of canned tomatoes for a smoother sauce - and cleaner plates!
The recipe I've given below serves four adults, but the sauce is ideal for batch cooking so the ingredients can easily be doubled, or even tripled if you have a large enough saucepan. I also use the sauce as a base for lasagne (recipe to follow another time), which is a fabulous dish to serve when you have a crowd to feed.
Spaghetti BologneseServes 4
2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 small carrots, peeled and coarsely grated (100g prepared weight)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
500g lean steak mince (5% fat)
1 reduced-salt beef stock cube
2 tbsp tomato purée
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dried mixed herbs (I like to use Italian seasoning)
350g dried spaghetti
grated Parmesan cheese, to serve
Heat the oil over a low-medium heat, then add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the carrots and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for a further minute.
Increase the heat and add the mince and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned all over. Crumble over the stock cube and stir until thoroughly combined.
Add the tomato purée, Worcestershire sauce, herbs and passata. Season to taste with pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low-medium and simmer for at least 25 minutes, or until the sauce is thick and reduced.
Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, then add the spaghetti and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until tender but firm to the bite. Drain and transfer to dishes along with the bolognese sauce. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.
- There's no reason why you couldn't add extra vegetables to the sauce - mushrooms work especially well, but finely diced red peppers or celery, or grated courgette would also make fantastic additions.
- The bolognese sauce freezes successfully and is very useful to have to hand when you need a quick dinner. Freeze in single portions in freezerproof containers or freezer bags. Remember to label and date them - unless you enjoy playing freezer roulette!
- When I'm cooking meals that the children will eat, I only season with pepper as I figure that some of the ingredients I use (for example, the stock cube, Worcestershire sauce and Parmesan) are salty already.