Bolognese is one of those dishes that food bloggers rarely write about, probably because everyone already has their own recipe, as though it is an integral part of inherited human knowledge. However, the public at large still seem to buy jars of the damn stuff or develop poor imitations of what this classic dish should be – this recipe cometh to set the record straight. A good Bolognese recipe, frugal or otherwise, is just as important as any other… Oh look, here’s one now!
The most important consideration when making Bolognese, other than flavour, is consistency. In my opinion, which may or may not be valid, its texture needs to be almost like that of a sauce. The best way of achieving such a thing is to cook the meat separately to begin with, allowing you to break it down a little. Being able to finely dice vegetables also helps – no one wants to be gnawing on a lump of celery whilst eating an otherwise scrumptious Bolognese.
In terms of flavour, your Bolognese, whether you follow this recipe or not, simply must pack considerable punch. Carrots, celery and onion provide the dish with an awe-inspiring base on which the garlic, rosemary and other mouth-watering constituents are able to build. Of course, the addition of red wine is optional, though highly recommended if you happen to have some close at hand and a flavoursome homemade beef stock will always be better than an equivalent cube. Don’t skimp on the olive oil either, it adds a devastating richness and a velvety quality to the proceedings and is almost as important to the recipe as the meat itself. Basically, hurl everything you have at this recipe, excepting the kitchen sink, it’s worth it!
Spaghetti alla Bolognese
• 300g minced beef
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 carrot, finely chopped
• 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
• 1 red pepper, finely sliced
• 3 cloves of garlic, mashed
• 2 x 400g peeled plum tomatoes
• 2 tbsp tomato puree
• 1 branch of rosemary, tied up
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
• 200ml strong beef stock or 1 cube of beef stock
• 250ml red wine (optional)
• 1 handful red lentils
• Olive oil (and plenty of it)
1. Heat a slosh of olive oil up in a frying pan, break the mince into it with your fingers and cook through. Meanwhile, fry off the onion, carrot, celery and pepper, until translucent, in a generous amount of olive oil. Add the meat and garlic to the vegetables, stir until fully incorporated.
2. Add the tomatoes, tomato purée rosemary, bay leaves, vinegar, beef stock, wine and lentils – stir thoroughly. Add some more olive oil for good measure and cook for at least an hour, two is preferable. Make sure the sauce is reduced until thick and rich, season and serve with spaghetti and garlic bread.
Cost: As my tips section will tell you, the best way to conserve money when making a dish like this is to bulk it out a little with ingredients other than meat. I can guarantee you that if you ate some of this you’d never be able to tell it contains lentils, yet they do give it a little more body and help it go that little bit further. 300g of beef mince really is enough for four people, I assure you. As such, this entire Bolognese sauce should set one back no more than £3.70 without the wine and a little more if one includes it.