This is one of my youngest son’s favourite midweek meals. It’s super easy to make and leftovers freeze well for effortless dinners for those days where I’m just too busy to cook.
I recommend using a good quality lean beef mince from your local butchers as it makes such a difference with the flavour of the finished dish. Meat from your butchers is sourced from one animal, and it is made with care and craftsmanship that I find you don’t get from supermarket meats. It just tastes better.
If you do opt for the supermarket mince, look out for higher welfare labels and I recommend going for UK-farmed produce as much as possible. In this time of economic recovery, I believe it’s important to be shopping local as much as we can.
The onion, carrot and celery combination which is cooked in olive oil at the start of this recipe is called soffritto, which means ‘under-fried’ or ‘fried slowly’ in Italian. This very finely diced 2:1:1 ratio of onion, carrot and celery gently sauteed in olive oil is an important step for making a tasty Bolognese sauce.
Cook the soffritto for around ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and golden, but not browned and crispy.
Two key ingredients for a traditional Bolognese sauce recipe include dry white wine and the addition of milk. Yes, milk! Milk adds a delicious silkiness to the sauce and makes the meat tender.
To cook the spaghetti, bring a very large pan of salted water to the boil. If you’re cooking 400 grams of spaghetti (enough for 4 people) use 1.5 tablespoonfuls of salt and 3-4 litres of water. When the water is rapidly boiling (don’t turn the heat down as this rapid boil keeps the pasta pieces from sticking to each other), add the dried pasta and cook for 8-12 minutes, until al dente or firm to the bite.
Check the pasta after 8 minutes by tasting it, you’re looking for tender pasta that still has some texture to it. Many of us were taught that spaghetti wasn’t done until it stuck when you threw it to the wall, but if your pasta has reached that stage it’s overcooked.
I like to add some basil-infused extra virgin olive oil in at the end of cooking, for added flavour. I’ve also been known to add a further drizzle of chilli-infused olive oil at the table, for an extra fiery kick.
1 tbsp good quality olive oil, plus extra
100 grams bacon rashers (or pancetta), finely chopped
1 large brown onion, very finely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and very finely diced
1 celery stick, very finely diced
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
500 grams good quality lean beef mince
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp tomato puree
200 ml rich beef stock
125 ml dry white wine
400 gram tin chopped tomatoes in juice
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried mixed Italian herbs
1 handful each fresh basil, parsley and oregano
150 ml full fat milk
1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.
2. Gently cook the bacon, onion, carrot and celery for around ten minutes, until the vegetables are softened and golden, but not browned.
3. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
4. Add the beef mince and season well with salt and pepper. Turn up the heat to medium high and fry the mince until it is browned all over.
5. Add the tomato puree and stir well.
6. Stir in the tinned tomatoes and beef stock.
7. Add the bay leaves and Italian herbs and bring to a simmer.
8. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, gently, for half an hour minimum and up to an hour.
9. Remove the bay leaves and add the milk. Simmer, gently, for a further half an hour.
10. Stir in the freshly chopped herbs and a further tablespoonful or two of olive oil in at the end.
11. Serve with al dente spaghetti and Parmesan cheese
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