Everyone knows how to make spaghetti bolognese … after a fashion. It’s classic student cookery, isn’t it? Onions, minced beef and tomatoes into a pot, simmer for a while — bam, done. But it can be done right, and then it’s a glorious thing.
And the good news is, it’s not difficult. It doesn’t need the ludicrous over-complication of Heston Blumenthal’s version. The main thing it needs is elapsed time. What you can’t do is make it in a hurry. But most of the time is simply simmering, so it doesn’t need to take up much of your time.
Here’s how I do it — most recently, a couple of nights ago, when it was so good I thought I was going to weep.
- Chop three good-sized onions and fry them until they’re up to heat. (I often have chicken fat, saved from the previous Sunday’s roast. If so, I use that; otherwise olive oil or vegetable oil is fine.)
- Turn the onions to a low heat — low enough that they won’t stick — cover them, and leave them for an hour or two.
- Coarsely chop two carrots and three sticks of celery into roughly 5 mm cubes. (If you’re feeling lazy, you can grate them instead, but the texture is better if you chop.)
- Add them to the onion, stir in, and bring the pot back up to heat.
- Turn the onion-carrot-celery mixture to a low heat, cover them and leave them for an hour or two.
- If this mixture starts to dry out, add some liquid. I use a cup of chicken stock, but water would be OK if you don’t have any.
- Add 800 g of minced beef. Stir it in until it browns.
- Add salt, pepper and whatever herbs you favour — oregano works well. If you have some bay leaves, throw in four or five.
- Turn down the heat, cover the mixture, and leave it for half an hour.
- Add two tins of tomatoes, chopped finely, and a generous glass of red wine.
- Leave the lid off — you want some of the liquid to evaporate out — and simmer the mixture for and hour or two. Longer if you can, turning the heat down lower once you’ve got it to the consistency you want.
That’s it. As you can see from all the leave-it-to-simmer instructions, it takes four or five hours in total, but you only need to be actually cooking for maybe 20 minutes of that.
Once you’ve cooked it this way, you’ll never go back.