If you fancy a little home cooking as the semester gets into full swing, then this Bolognese is the perfect recipe to follow. This delicious meat sauce originates from the city Bologna, Italy, from which it gets it name. It is a simple and easy take on a classic Italian dish and can be adapted in many ways in order to create other tastes like chilli-con-carne and lasagne.

The key to a good Bolognese is patience – when preparing the ingredients, cooking, and letting the sauce simmer for as long as possible.  This recipe may seem complex at first, but it can be broken down into simple steps which anyone can follow.
If you are an inexperienced cook or someone who finds timing tricky, you  may find it easier to start with a ‘mise en place’ (a culinary term which just means having all your ingredients prepped and ready to go before you start cooking). But for those of you out there that are more confident in your cooking ability, you can save some time by chopping and measuring as you go.

Time: 30 minutes of cooking, plus 45 minutes of simmering. Makes 4-5 portions, depending how saucy you like your pasta…

INGREDIENTS

For the sauce:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 large or 2 small white onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 carrots
  • 500g minced beef
  • 2 cans chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree (optional)
  • ½ tsp dry thyme
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • 1 tsp dry basil
  • 2 tsp acid (this can be lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, wine vinegar or a combination)
  • salt/pepper

If you want to be extra fancy:

  • 175 ml red wine (or just use a single-serving mini bottle of wine)

To serve:

  • 70g dry pasta per person
  • Parmesan, parmigiana reggiano or any other Italian hard cheese

METHOD

  1. Peel and dice the onion and carrots. This means cutting it into cubes by cutting it in half lengthways, then into strips, then across the other way. For this recipe, make the squares 0.5cm or less across.  Don’t cut the onion halves all the way down to the root – this holds it together making it easier to cut.  The picture below shows you how the vegetables should look.

  1. Cut the garlic into the smallest pieces you can, or use a garlic press.
  2. Heat the oil in a big saucepan over a low heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt, which draws out water and helps to stop them burning. Be extra careful if using a low quality pan, as food will burn more easily.  Cook them until they look translucent, like the picture below.  This takes approximately 3 minutes.

  1. Add the carrot and cook until it has softened slightly, this takes around 4 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for one minute.
  3. Add the beef, turn the heat up to medium and use your wooden spoon or spatula to break it into little pieces and stir it around as it cooks. Make sure any juices that come out get evaporated away.  If your beef is very fatty, you may want to spoon out some of the fat when it melts out.
  4. Add the red wine, if using. Cook until it is mostly evaporated away, it will look like the picture below.
  5. Add the canned tomatoes. Half fill one of the empty cans with water to rinse it, and pour this in too. Add the tomato puree, herbs, acid, a pinch of salt and a big pinch of pepper. Stir it all together.
  6. Turn the heat up to high until it starts bubbling, then turn the heat down to medium-low.
  7. Let it simmer (this means it is cooking gently with small bubbles coming up to the surface) for as long as you like, but at least 45 minutes. 30 minutes in, taste it and see if you want to add anything – it may need more salt, pepper or acid depending on how you like it. Stir it every 15 minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn on to the bottom of the pan, and to check the consistency.  It should reduce a lot (meaning water evaporates out). Cook it until it has the thickness that you like.  The longer you simmer it, the better the flavour will be.  If it looks like it is getting too dry but you want to simmer it longer, just add more water.
  8. Cook the pasta in water with a big pinch of salt, until it is not quite cooked through. For example, if the package says it cooks in 10 minutes, cook it for 8 minutes.
  9. Drain the pasta, put it back in the pot where you cooked it and mix in a portion of sauce per person. Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce.
  10. Serve the pasta and sauce with the cheese grated over the top. Finally sit back and enjoy your culinary creation, maybe even spoil your flatmates with your new skills!