Updated: Mar 7, 2019
Monday, 23 May 2016
Last week, in Florence we had lunch in Il Borro Bistro, a small restaurant close to Ponte Vecchio. The menu arrived and John chose Spaghetti Bolognese. This is his "fail-safe" meal of choice. When abroad choose Spaghetti Bolognese - you know what you'll get, a proper meal. I'm convinced he's world expert on the dish now.
Spag.Bog along with Pizza must be the most vandalised of Italian meals, encouraged these days as a fast, midweek meal - just open a jar of Dolmio Sauce, mix with minced beef and hey presto, a meal on the table in half an hour! John's meal last week was nothing like that. No sloppy tomato sauce here, just enough meat to coat the spaghetti and the flavour wasn't really beefy. It was so good. Naturally, in the interests of research, my fork had strayed across the table.
Discussing it with our waiter (a dead ringer for Inspector Montalbano), I discovered it was a mixture of beef and pork that reminded me of a recipe I used years ago that mixed different meats. I have since discovered Spaghetti Bolognese was first recorded in a cookbook by Pellegrino Artusi (such a delicious name - just rolls off the tongue) in 1891 as ragu alla bolognese, being a sauce of vegetables and meats lovingly and lengthily sweated and sauteed, then braised with a little wine, perhaps some cream added and guess what? No garlic - who'd have thought! Mr & Mrs Dolmio have a lot to answer for.
Today I searched out my old recipe and cooked it, with a few tweaks. Not wanting to cause any heart attacks, I left out the 1/2 pt of double cream. The recipe serves four, so in my eternal quest for time saving, I doubled up the quantity in order to freeze half for later. I served it up to husband and son but made the error of putting it all out on the table, allowing them to help themselves. Big mistake!
There is more to time management than meets the eye, or in this case the mouth, as they almost demolished the lot. But since it was accompanied by suitably appreciative noises, I overlooked the gluttony. So they'd never read the bit about Italians eating plenty of pasta with a little meat, what matter? At least I knew my version was comparable to the Il Borro dish.
The proof of the pudding or in this case pasta is in the eating, so here is the recipe (with my tweaks) that comes from a super book, published in the seventies, by Ursel and Derek Norman called Pasta! Pasta!
Serves 4 or 2 greedy (and appreciative) - men!
40g butter 100ml white wine 4 rashers unsmoked bacon, chopped 500ml good beef stock 1 large onion 3 tablespoons tomato puree 1 medium carrot, finely chopped 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1 stalk celery, finely chopped a little grated nutmeg 2 tablespoons olive oil salt and pepper to taste 200g minced beef 400g spaghetti 200g minced pork grated Parmesan cheese
1) Melt the butter with a little oil in a frying pan and saute the chopped bacon, onion, celery and carrot. Cook uncovered, stirring frequently, for about 10mins. Set aside until needed. 2) Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan and brown the meats, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is brown and crumbly. Pour off the accumulated fat using the saucepan lid. 3) Return to the hob and stir in the wine. Cook over a high heat until most of the wine has evaporated. 4) Stir in the tomato puree, followed by the beef stock, oregano, nutmeg and the reserved vegetables and bacon. Season to taste. 5) Simmer, partially covered over a low heat until the mixture has reduced to a thick sauce, about 40-60mins. 6) Cook spaghetti in plenty of boiling water until al dente and drain. 7) Serve the pasta on hot plates with a little of the sauce spooned on top. (Important if you are hoping to have left-overs! - see above) Serve with plenty of grated Parmesan cheese.