Food, like fashion, is a fickle beast, one minute a dish is ‘hot’ the next shunned. A poor old Bolognese sauce suffered this fate; where once Spaghetti Bolognese 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.
Everyone had their own way of making Spag Bol, some I am sure would make any self-respecting Italian cringe but this recipe is pretty close to the traditional sauce I was taught to make in Northern Italy where I had my cookery school. My only concession to the south being the addition of a little olive oil which I like.
Use the finest minced steak you can for a full, rich bolognese sauce. If you can make this dish a day or two before needed as left for a while, the flavours develop, but equally this a great sauce even when eaten straight away.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
140g smoked bacon lardons or finely chopped Pancetta
2 medium or 1 large onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, washed peeled and finely chopped
1 celery stick, washed an finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 kg lean minced steak
230ml white wine
230ml whole milk
1 tin (400g) chopped tomatoes
Freshly ground nutmeg
230 ml beef or chicken stock
1 generous tablespoon 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. Then, add the onion and cook for a few minutes to soften. Add the carrot and celery, stir well in the butter and bacon 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 the sauce to cook occasionally stirring until brown all over.
- Add the white wine and cook until reduced by about a 1/3. Slowly add the milk a little at a time stirring constantly. Finally, add tomatoes plus half the stock and a pinch of nutmeg. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered with a lid for 2 – 2 ½ hours. From time to time, check that the sauce is not sticking but if it does, add a little more stock or water as needed to prevent the sauce drying out.
- Taste, then check the seasoning and add ground black pepper and a little salt (take it easy on the salt as Spaghetti Bolognese likes a little Parmesan cheese when served which is salty) and stir in the tomato paste.
- Serve with freshly cooked spaghetti and a generous sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan.
Enjoy learning how to make this dish with my Bolognese Sauce Video
Note on bolognese sauce: If you are saving the sauce for a few days, leave to cool then cover and store, covered in the refrigerator. Reheat gently adding more stock or water if the sauce has thickened too much. Always check the seasoning again before serving.