Spaghetti Bolognese. It’s the cliché signature dish of bedsit land. Nevertheless, and because this is what GET STUFFED is all about, we thought that we should give you a totally idiot proof recipe.
This is not THE definitive Spag Bol recipe, it's just a bog-standard recipe. Maybe your recipe is better, but this one is good and everyone who lives in that scrambled, studenty, penny-pinching Wasteland will know that a good spag. bol. will set you up for the worst of weeks. Make no mistake - the way that you cook your spag. bol. is the key to your soul and your creativity ... a good Spag Bol is an art form.
(quantities are for two very generous servings - multiply up for more).
Mushrooms (get the button-sized ones they sell fresh in supermarkets; get one big graspfull).
A normal sized tin of peeled tomatoes.
A tube of tomato puree, (actually, you’ll only need a squeeze).
Stock cube. (get any flavour - you’ll only need three quarters of this).
Garlic. (Say three cloves for two friendly people, or omit if you hate garlic).
Bay leaves (dried)
Dry red wine. (Never ever pay more than £3.99 for a bottle).
Grated cheese: Ideally Parmesan or, if you hate Parmesan cos it’s too smeggy, go for grated Cheddar or Wensleydale; (if you’re veggie, you will already know what to do with your cheese).
2 big saucepans. 1 frying pan. A fish slice (you know: that thing that everyone has to poke & flip stuff around in their frying pan). A wooden spoon thing. Cheese grater. A serious kitchen knife. (This meal can be cooked on just 2 rings, which is why it’s ideal for bedsits, etc.)
At least 2 hours. Maybe longer.
First, wash yer handies.
Now put a generous slop of olive oil into a big saucepan and set it on an oven ring at a lowish heat.
Skin and chop the onion and cloves of garlic. Chop the onion and murder to death the garlic. (Crush it. Pulverise it. Exorcise out your aggression on it). Put them in the heating olive oil. Heat gently on a low heat and occasionally stir with your wooden spoon.
Next, put a slop of sunflower oil into the frying pan and heat over a highish (but not the top) heat.
Bung in the minced beef - which will almost certainly be one big, scary, congealed slab. Using that thing that everyone has to poke food around in a frying pan, break the meat into small fragments. Keep moving and turning the meat and you will see it go brown. If watery stuff starts to come out of the meat, drain it down the sink - you don’t want to swallow that stuff. After a few minutes, all the meat will be brown and in little bits. Now take it off the heat and set it aside in a sensible place where it won’t get lost.
Peal and grate a carrot and bung the bits in the pan with the gently frying onion and garlic.
Let the carrot fry gently for about 5 minutes. Stir with your wooden spoon and add a bit more olive oil if it looks dryish or is sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Open the tin of tomatoes and bung em in the saucepan with the frying onion & carrot. With your wooden spoon, smash up the tomatoes until they look like they’ve been involved in a traffic accident.
Add a squirt of tomato puree (it normally comes in a tube so imagine that it is toothpaste and add about 8 times more than you usually put on your toothbrush each morning).
Brush off any flecks of mud or cack from the mushrooms and roughly chop them to about an eighth or tenth of their original size. Add them to the saucepan with the tomato/onion/carrot/etc.
Open the bottle of wine and pour a glassful into the saucepan with the tomato/etc. You know what to do with the rest of the bottle, but don’t get pissed yet.
Oh ... and don’t forget to regularly stir that pan with the tomato/etc. Like every 5 mins.
Add to the pan with the tomato/onion/carrot/mushrooms/etc. the following: 2 teaspoons of dried oregano, 1 teaspoon of dried basil, 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary, 2 bay leaves, a few drops of tabasco, a big pinch of pepper (doesn’t matter what sort of pepper) and three quarters of a crumbled stock cube (doesn’t matter what flavour).
Add the browned mince, which has been lying around somewhere in the frying pan.
Now add a mugful of boiling water (get it from your kettle) and stir the stuff all around. The contents of your saucepan should look like the contents of the witches’ cauldron in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It should not look like a Bolognese sauce but don’t be disappointed. Drink a swig of wine and stir the saucepan all around with your wooden spoon. A cackle of high pitched, manic laughter might even be appropriate.
Turn up the heat until the mixture is boiling. Then turn down the heat until the mixture is just lightly bubbling (it is a total pig getting this just right and it might take you a few minutes). Put a lid on the pan and get the heat setting really really low and, for the next 90 minutes just keep the pan gently bubbling. Don’t forget to give the mixture a stir every 10 minutes, otherwise the stuff at the bottom of the pan will overheat and start to burn.
As the mixture cooks, water will evaporate from the pan and the sauce will become thicker - as thick as a proper Bolognese sauce. But, you do not want this thick consistency until the very end of the cooking process, otherwise the sauce will almost certainly start burning on the bottom of the pan. To avoid ruining your sauce during the cooking process, you need to occasionally add boiling water from your kettle. i.e. Keep your sauce liquidy.
Eventually, all the separate ingredients in the pan will have disintegrated into a yummy goo. When it has been cooking for about 90 minutes, it will be ready. During the final stage of the cooking process, you can stop adding boiling water and let the sauce give off its steam until it takes on the consistency of wet cement. But do KEEP STIRRING otherwise it will burn.
btw. Don’t start giving yourself silly notions about becoming a big, fat, Neapolitan, 24/7, cucinamama when you cook this stuff ... basically, it only needs to cook for 90 mins. It starts to taste worse, NOT better, if you cook it for longer.
By now, anyone who comes into your home will be knocked off their feet by the mouth-watering aroma that you have created but, unfortunately, if you’ve been cooking the stuff, you will have become acclimatised to the smell and will not be able to appreciate the beauty of your creation. Believe me, your guests’ juices will be flowing.
A NOTE ABOUT PASTA
Naturally, spag. bol. is supposed to be served with spaghetti. We are talking about proper spaghetti here, not the sort of stuff that comes in tins. You will find great heaps of the stuff on your supermarket shelves and I am not going to explain how to cook it because it comes with good instructions on the side of the packet; (usually, bung it in boiling water for 12 mins. drain and serve). But spaghetti is a pain in the bum and it’s darn fiddley to eat - so, why not serve your sauce with an easier type of pasta? Our fave is “penne rigate” which is exactly the same stuff, but it has been moulded into shapes which are easier to get onto a fork.
A NOTE ABOUT CHEESE
Everybody knows that grated Parmesan is the cheese to eat on top of your spag. bol. but not everyone likes Parmesan. If this is the case, try a grated Wensleydale (the cheese made famous by Wallace & Gromit) or grated Cheddar. Or a veggie cheese, if you’re a veggie.
A NOTE ABOUT SERVING
Put the drained spaghetti onto a hot plate. Spoon a huge dollop of the sauce onto the spag. Then sprinkle the grated cheese on top of the hot sauce.
A NOTE ABOUT HAVING TOO MUCH
If you’ve got loads of the sauce left over, don’t chuck it away ... just let it cool and spoon it into freezer bags, then put it in your freezer where it will go rock hard and keep for at least a week. De-thaw and re-cook by taking it out of the bag and heating in a saucepan with a little water. If anything, the sauce will taste better than when it was first cooked.
You can make a good veggie version of spag. bol. by substituting the minced beef with TVP (textured vegetable protein) which you can get from health food shops. The only issue is that you might need to add more water during the cooking cos TVP is dried stuff and it needs to rehydrate.