When I was a child we ate only very basic foods. There really wasn't much out of the simple or the ordinary on our dinner table. Meat and potatoes . . . vegetables. A chicken a couple of times a year, turkey at Christmas, ham at Easter. The only vegetables we had were carrots, swede, peas , green beans . . . sometimes my mom would shake it up a bit and we might have a tin of corn, or mixed vegetables.
Usually they were tinned vegetables, except for the carrots and the swede. What is it about lima beans? You know . . . they were always in the mixed vegetables. Nobody likes them, but they're always there. I used to eat them first to get them out of the way.
When I was about fifteen or so, my mother discovered "Eye" talian spaghetti. A box of spaghetti cooked to death . . . and served with "Eye" talian spaghetti sauce. A pound of cheap beef mince fried and stirred into a tin of "Catelli" spaghetti sauce. It was not my favourite meal to be perfectly honest. (Sorry mom!) I couldn't stand the texture of the meat with the mushy pasta, and that sauce. UGH . . . When you know better you do better.
Once I got out on my own I started experimenting and trying my own thing. I think jarred pasta sauces these days are really quite good compared to that original sauce my mom used, but a good tomato/bolognese sauce is so easy to make from scratch, I would never use a jarred one, except in a pinch. From scratch is the best of all, and it is such a simple sauce to make.
This recipe that I am showing you today is the result of probably thirty or so years of my trial and testing of what worked for me and what didn't. An Italian purest would probably say it's not Italian. I am no purest. I only know what tastes good and this tastes mighty good. Trial and error.
This is how I used up some of that bottle of red wine which came in that Wine and Cheese Feast gift hamper from Hampergifts. They say you should never use a wine to cook with that you wouldn't drink. I don't drink wine, but I believe that to be true. In any case that bottle of wine went very well in this sauce.
The secret is to brown the meat, onions and garlic off and then add the wine and allow it to almost evaporate until adding the remaining ingredients. This really concentrates the essence of the wine into the flavour of the sauce and makes for a really delicious sauce indeed. Other than that I have experimented through the years with my own combination of herbs and spices and I do believe that this is one of the best bolognese sauces anyone could ever hope to eat. Authentic or not. It is beautiful. Simple.
*A Really Good Bolognese Sauce*
Makes 6 servings
Just the way I've always done it. Simple. Delicious. Easy. A hearty sauce that can be used on top of spaghetti, in lasagnas and bakes, or as the Toddster enjoys it, ladled over potatoes.
500g of extra lean ground beef mince (a generous pound)
1 TBS olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 green pepper, trimmed, seeded and finely chopped
3 fat cloves of garlic peeled and minced
225ml of good red wine
1 (400g) tin of chopped Italian tomatoes in juice (14 ounce)
1 (500g) carton of tomato passata (tomato sauce about 2 cups)
1 TBS tomato puree (tomato paste)
1 tsp good balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano flakes
2 tsp dried basil flakes
1 TBS parsley flakes
1 TBS sugar
pinch ground cloves
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 large bay leaf, broken in half
the rind of one wedge of Parmesan (never throw those away!)
(alternately you can use about 2 TBS of grated parmesan cheese)
pinch of hot pepper flakes (optional)
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and peppers. Cook, stirring for several minutes, until softened. Crumble in the ground beef and garlic. Dry scramble until the beef is no longer pink. Pour on the wine. Bring to the boil and then boil it until the wine has almost evaporated. Add the remaining ingredients, with the exception of the Parmesan. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a very low simmer. Set a cover on top, slightly ajar. Simmer over very low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally. If you think it is getting too thick you can thin it with a bit of beef stock if necessary. Add the cheese rind, or grated Parmesan. Cover again and cook for another half an hour. Prior to serving discard the rind and the bay leaf. The sauce is now ready to use as you wish.
Note: Any leftovers can be frozen in containers for up to six months. Just thaw and reheat as needed.
The Toddster had his ladled onto a pile of fluffy mash. There is just no accounting for taste I guess! In any case he was quite happy with it that way and I was happy with my nice bowl of pasta. You can't ask for much more than that!