Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Family Spaghetti Bolognese

My kids are such pasta fans that we cook Italian-style spaghetti bolognese almost every week. After several years, our version of the recipe has evolved from the usual elaborate one I used to do to this most basic recipe that we use week in, week out. With this one, I just throw in whatever is available. Sometimes it's all chopped tomatoes and no passata, sometimes it's red wine or none at all, most of the time there are no chicken livers or I forget to add Worcestershire sauce. Other times there are even no carrots nor celery. It's quite versatile such that most ingredients are optional. And you can tweak it as much as you like as long as there is that mandatory ingredients of minced meat and tomatoes (of whatever form).

Spaghetti Bolognese

1 kg  minced beef (or 3/4 beef, 1/4 pork in proportion)
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic
1 large onion - finely chopped
125 g  pancetta or streaky bacon - finely diced
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/8 tsp (pinch) dried thyme*
1 tsp dried oregano*
1 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh or 1 tsp dried basil*
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
1 cup white wine
1 cup full-fat milk
1 x 400 g  can of chopped tomatoes
500 g  passata (tomato sauce)
1 Tbsp double concentrate tomato puree (tomato paste) [optional]
2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
freshly milled black pepper
1/2 cup beef stock or water
butter or olive oil
125 g  chicken liver - trimmed, washed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces [optional]
  1. In a pan (preferably non-stick), drizzle some olive oil and heat it up. Brown the minced meats in batches. Set aside.
  2. If using chicken liver - wipe the pan and heat up some more olive oil or butter. Cook the chicken liver until well cooked and crumbly - about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, then using a fork mash it up. If need be, finely chop some of the bits of liver that refuse to get mashed.
  3. In a big stewing pot, heat the 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil and gently fry the bacon until it changes colour.
  4. Add in the garlic and cook until aromatic.
  5. Stir in the onion and cook gently for about 4-5 minutes or until translucent.
  6. Turn up the heat to medium and add the carrots and celery. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Add the spices - basil, thyme, oregano. Stir and cook for about 30 seconds.
  8. Tip in the browned minced beef and white wine. Simmer until all the wine has evaporated.
  9. Add the milk and bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer until almost all the liquid has dried up.
  10. Add the chopped tomatoes, passata, tomato puree (if using), bay leaf, nutmeg, Worcestershire sauce, chicken liver, salt, pepper, and stock.
  11. Bring to boil then bring down heat to lowest setting and simmer for *at least* 2-3 hours. The longer you simmer it the better.
  12. If you have more fresh basil lying around, chop about 2 Tbsp of it and stir in the sauce.
  13. Serve with freshly cooked al dente pasta such as spaghetti or tagliatelli.

*Note: In place of the basil, thyme, and oregano, you may use 1 Tbsp of Italian mixed herb.