Food, like fashion, is a fickle beast. One minute a dish is ‘hot’, the next it is shunned. Poor old Spaghetti Bolognese suffered this fate: where once it was the darling of the dinner table it suddenly was considered too naff to be seen. Well, now it is back, possibly because in difficult economic times it is recognised as a cheap and filling dish, which also has the advantage of being delicious.
We adore Italian food here in the UK so much so that, according to recent research by Alegra, Spaghetti Bolognese is now the preferred dish both in the home and when dining out – move over Tikka Masala.
Everyone had their own way of making spag bol, and some I am sure would make any self-respecting Italian cringe, but this recipe is pretty close to the traditional sauce made in northern Italy. My only concession to the south is the addition of a little olive oil, which I like.
Use the best minced steak you can for a full, rich flavour. If you can, make this dish a day or two before it’s needed as, when left for a while, the flavours develop. But equally, this a great sauce even when eaten straight away. (See below for recipe.)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
140g smoked bacon lardoons or finely chopped Pancetta
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, washed, peeled and finely chopped
1 celery stick, washed and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1kg lean minced steak
230ml white wine
230ml whole milk
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Freshly ground nutmeg
230ml beef or chicken stock
1 generous tbsp rich tomato paste
In a large, heavy based pan heat the oil and butter together, taking care not to burn it. Add the bacon and cook gently in the melted butter to soften but not brown.
Add the onion and cook for a few minutes to soften. Add the carrot and celery, stir the butter and bacon in well, and cook for a few minutes again to soften the vegetables a little.
Raise the heat and add the minced steak. Stir well to break up the meat and incorporate the vegetables and pancetta. Leave to cook, stirring occasionally until the meat is browned all over.
Add the white wine and cook until reduced by about a third, then slowly add the milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly.
Finally, add tomatoes, half the stock and a pinch of nutmeg. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered with a lid, for two to two and a half hours. Keep checking that the bottom is not burning, and if it’s drying out, add a little more stock or water as needed.
Taste, then check the seasoning by adding ground black pepper and a little salt. (Easy on the salt, though, as Spaghetti Bolognese is served with Parmesan cheese, which is salty.) Stir in the tomato paste.
Serve with freshly cooked spaghetti and a generous sprinkling of fresh Parmesan.
Note: if you’re saving the sauce for a few days, leave to cool then cover and store in the refrigerator. Reheat gently, adding more stock or water if the sauce has thickened too much. Always check the seasoning again before serving.