In an effort to celebrate one of my friend’s birthdays in style, a group of us ended up at a classy restaurant. Altitudinous ceilings, elegantly draped burgundy curtains and chic decor.
Shame that the food failed to meet these standards…
I have been told many times that I’m too hard to please but, honestly, this meal took the biscuit. Maybe hand on heart, I’m a suppressed food critic but on occasion, food can just be bad full stop lol. Now if I asked for something like a beef consommé, I would have prepared myself for this because even the most experienced chefs finds it extremely difficult to master the clarification process of this complex soup.
But what did I order?
Just a simple spaghetti bolognase.
It was served cold and greatly lacked flavour. So in an effort to resurrect it, I ended up sprinkling an excessive amount of Parmesan all over it, but to no avail. It certainly was not helped by the fact that they found it acceptable to serve it with hard, under cooked pasta either. However this bad experience was the inspiration behind this blog post so I guess it’s been useful in that respect…
You stop thousands of passersby walking on the streets of the UK and ask them what’s the typical Italian meal they’d eat and you are bound to get a lot of them quoting spaghetti bolognase, or “spag bol” as some of us love to call it! Its a household favourite everywhere often made using “a certain well-known” sauce.
But for me, when I’m cooking, I’m all about authenticity and aim to produce as near to the original recipes of the country I’m being inspired by at that time. You’d probably expect the recipe to be painstaking but the bulk of the work involves prepping the vegetables and stirring every so often, so in actual fact it is not that bad (and well worth it :-p).
Authentic bolognase contains things that most people know of including onions, ground lean beef, tomatoes but surprisingly it is also supposed to contain things like milk, celery, carrots, white wine and pancetta. The milk, though not regularly used in restaurants today makes for a more tender dish. Whilst the onions, celery and carrots are used to make what is known as a soffritto. This is where these ingredients are cut evenly into minute pieces and sauteed in oil and a bit of salt. This is a typical base for a variety of classic Italian dishes, producing an even more hearty dish. I did not have any white wine to hand at the time but thankfully it still tasted great. I just replaced the sweet and acidic flavours of the white wine with the juice of half a lemon and a sprinkle of sugar. One tip I would like to add is that it is important to make the ground beef and pancetta the focal point of the dish and not tomatoes as is often thought.
25ml sunflower oil
1 large onion
4 celery stalks
6 button mushrooms
1 large carrot
4 garlic cloves
1kg ground beef
125g pancetta, diced
1 can, chopped tomatoes
250ml beef stock (maggi cubes are ideal)
250ml white wine (or juice of 1/2 lemon and tsp sugar)
500ml whole milk
1 tbsp of salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
Finely dice the onions, mushrooms, celery, carrots and garlic and heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add a 1/2 tsp of salt and vegetables and sauté for five minutes until golden and softened. Add the pancetta and cook for an additional ten minutes until the pancetta has turned golden brown.
Turn up the heat and add the meat gradually allowing its liquid to evaporate and heat until browned evenly. As the meat begins to caramelize, lower the heat to medium and continue to sauté for another 8 minutes. Pour in the white wine and scrape all the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. The wine will be evaporated after about five minutes.
Add the can of tomatoes, beef stock, milk and 1 tsp of salt and black pepper to taste. Bring everything to the boil, turn down to the lowest heat and allow to simmer for 3 to 4 hours. Stir on occasion and don’t forget to taste every so often to see if you need a pinch more of salt or pepper.
Okay. I admit that to make it even more authentic I could of made my own pasta. But seeing as I’m a busy student at uni I’m sure you’d let me of right?
Try it out guys and you’ll never turn back!