The majority of people seem to have a very strong opinion of what does and does not constitute Spaghetti alla Bolognese. While I was researching this dish I came across some very strong-worded comments, mainly focused on the relevance of authenticity, the use of garlic and the type of pasta used. Also it seems that every mother in the world is the creator of the ‘best’ spaghetti Bolognese ever made, unsurprisingly.
But why are people so fiercely defensive about the way they cook this relatively simple dish? The Italians, well I get their beef (pun-city), after all theirs is a cuisine that has been somewhat butchered by the world to the point where now true Italian cooking is decided by authenticity alone, which ultimately shits on the efforts of those without nonna’s cookbook as a guide. But on the other hand, us Brits with our Worcestershire sauce and Heinz tomato soup (GASP!), who gave us the right to have a dig at any recipe that calls for tagliatelle because that’s tradition? What we should be doing, instead of justifying our preferred methods and pasta type or denouncing someone else’s, is appreciate the fact that spaghetti Bolognese is universally known and loved – that’s quite an achievement. You don’t hear anyone in Brazil banging on about haggis, do you?
When I was little, Bolognese was always served with spaghetti, was never too saucy and was covered in snow-like flakes of parmesan. I remember eating it from my favourite bowl, my mum having chopped it up into scoopable forkfuls, mouth and cheeks stained orange, bib splattered accordingly. I never finished the meat if I had no pasta left to go with it, and I still don’t.
This is the Bolognese that I know and love, the one that tastes perfect to me and is not intended as a recipe to please all or dictate what’s right or wrong. I will concede that this won’t be as good as your mum’s version, as I have done when feeding this to my boyfriend, but if on the off chance you fancy trying something new then please find my kind of, but not so authentic recipe below. Garlic included.
Spaghetti alla Bolognese
80g pancetta lardons
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 large celery stalk, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
500g pork mince
500g beef mince
125ml red wine
200ml strong beef stock
1 x 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
4 tablespoons tomato paste
2 bay leaves
Fresh parmesan to serve
Fresh parsley to serve
500g spaghetti (or more traditionally, tagliatelle)
Fry off the pancetta with the butter for a few minutes, then add to the pan the celery, carrot and onion, followed shortly by the garlic. Cook for 10 minutes until softened.
Add the mince and the red wine and cook down for 15 minutes or until the alcohol has almost evaporated.
Add the beef stock, tomato paste, chopped tomatoes and bay leaves. Stir well then bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and leave uncovered for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you’re pressed for time you could probably get away with 60 minutes.
Season generously with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
Cook your pasta of choice until al dente, drain and toss with the sauce with a couple of tablespoons of the pasta’s cooking water.
Serve with chopped parsley and grated parmesan.