Monday, March 09, 2009

Spaghetti Bolognese

Sun 08 March 2009

The other day Jamie Goode wrote a glowing review of a Lambrusco available at Marks and Spencer. Lambrusco comes from Emilia-Romagna, where you'll find the lovely city of Bologna, known as Bologna la Grassa for its top notch food and which gave its name to bolognese sauce. Despite Andy suggesting that I didn't really need to buy any more wine I had an idea and I was running with it.

You'll often hear that Italian wine is built to go with the food of its region. If you think about a rich Bolognese sauce and then Jamie's description of the wine you can see how the match could work: high acidity and fizziness to help cut through the weight and fat.

Unfortunately, I can't tell you about whether or not this wine would go with my Bolognese sauce because yesterday's weather was too awful to contemplate a trip into town for a bottle of wine.

I guess everyone's made a spag bol by just chucking anything and everything into a pot and cooking it up for a bit. I was on the hunt for something a bit more ... Italian. I consulted The Silver Spoon and Antonio Carluccio's Complete Italian Food and what struck me was the simplicity of both recipes. They had very few ingredients and differed only slightly. I took elements from both and resisted the urge to start throwing garlic, chilli, oregano etc etc in the pot. The result was a beautifully velvety sauce with an incredible depth of flavour. I'm saying this upfront so that if you do take the time to make this recipe you actually bother leaving out all the extraneous ingredients I know you want to add ...

I rarely do this but to demonstrate the simplicity here's the ingredients up front:

60g pancetta (or bacon, or just omit altogether)
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
400g lean minced beef
2 generous tablespoons tomato paste

some dry red wine
a few porcini soaked in a little hot water (optional)
perhaps a little beef stock
(or any combination of the three or just plain water)

That really is it!

Begin by frying off the pancetta in some olive oil and butter. With the heat low, add the celery, onion and carrot and gently fry for about 10 mintes - until the onion starts to soften. Increase the heat a little and add the mince - keep stirring well so it doesn't stick and to break it up. You want to try to brown it rather than steam it!

Remove the porcini from the hot water, chop finely and add to the mix. Stir through the tomato paste.

Next, add about 200 mL of the red wine and stir well.

Reduce the heat, cover and cook for about 1.5 hours. Give it a stir every now and then and if it looks to be drying out a bit or starting to stick add extra stock or water.

After the hour and a half cooking time, I had a taste, added a bit of pepper (the stock I'd used had been quite salty) and set it to one side.


When we were ready to eat, all we needed to do was heat it up. I added extra red wine to adjust the consistency and, very un-Italian like, we served this with fusilli. Carluccio takes great pains to stress that this should be served with tagliatelle rather than spaghetti - but I think you'll be safe getting away with the pasta of your choice! You'll note I didn't mix the pasta through the sauce like a proper Italian would - that's because I had one eye on left overs!

So ... no Lambrusco for us but a lovely meal none the less. I was also very pleased that I'd bothered to follow such a simple recipe: just goes to show that you don't need a cupboard laden with spices to produce tasty food!
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Blogger The Ample Cook said...

This recipe is virtually exactly how I've always made my bol sauce. It's great isn't it?

Funny you should mention Lambrusco - this was my very first wine of choice many, many years ago. Sainsbury's used to sell it in litre and a half bottles - classy. It was quite sweet and was a bit fizzy. I would like to think my palate has grown up a lot since then :o)

11:17 am  
Blogger Alex said...

I suspect the Lambrusco Jamie was on about is a notch about 1.5L bottles! ;)

4:47 pm  

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