Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Spag Bol

Winter, summer, hot, cold I love spaghetti bolognese. It has been one of my favourite foods since I was a little kid - my mother makes great s'ghetti. It is a dish that gives great pleasure - lots of textures and flavours wrapped around long threads of pasta that are guaranteed to be messy and fun to eat. At the end of a bad day it will give you comfort, possibly even cheer you back to equilibrium. You come as close as it is possible to be that if you make this for dinner everyone will be happy. It goes well with a green salad and with garlic bread. Or you can simply eat it with nothing more than a fork and a generous sprinkle of fresh Parmesan.

Everybody is convinced that they make the best spag bol but they are wrong - I do! This version, in fact, would not pass muster with the culinary masters of Bologna. In 1982 the Bolognese delegation of Accademia Italiana della Cucina issued a recipe that confines the ingredients to beef, pancetta, onions, carrots, celery, tomato paste, meat broth, white wine, and milk. One day I will follow it exactly and then I will have to re-name this recipe. In the meantime try this one - it's lovely. This is best thought of as a slow dish. It is always better the next day - try and factor that in if you can.

Spaghetti with a rich meat sauce

1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
4 slices smoked bacon, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
500g/1 lb coarsely minced beef
2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes
1 tbspn tomato paste
1 tspn tabasco

1 tbspn worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
Scant teaspoon dried mixed herbs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
500g/1 lb pack dried Spaghetti - the thicker the better
Grated Parmesan to serve

In a large pan gently fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil till it starts to soften then add the bacon and continue cooking over a low heat till the bacon gives up its fat. Increase the heat and add the beef and stir to be sure that all the meat comes into contact with the pan and browns. Add the sauces and herbs and stir through then add the tomato paste and the tomatoes, squeezing them to break them up before they go into the pan - or chop them with a sharp knife for a slightly less messy (and fun) solution. Season generously, bring the sauce to a simmer then put the lid on the pan, turn the heat right down and leave to simmer for a couple of hours. At this point it is best to turn off the heat and leave the sacue to cool, then refrigerate overnight to allow the flavours to develop.

Next day cook the spaghetti as directed on the packet and re-heat the sauce. Drain the pasta then return it to the pan and add the sauce and stir to thoroughly coat the strands. Leave on a low heat for 10-15 minutes to let the flavours meld and some of the sauce to soak in to the spaghetti. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan.

This recipe makes enough for four huge bowls - it willl freeze well if you don't fancy it two nights running - but who can resist.

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