Ah, Spaghetti Bolognese. The quintessential student staple, and probably the dish most debated as to who’s got the best recipe. I know, because I’ve argued passionately myself. I’ve seen recipes with sun-ripened this, and Italian deli that. And don’t start me on the addition of carrots to the mix (sorry, that’s just wrong!).
Yes, this recipe is crassly simple; and yes, it’s probably a million miles from the original, “authentic” version (whatever that is); but I guarantee you’ll never taste a more comforting, versatile and utterly more-ish Bolognese recipe – ever.
It was given to me by a dear friend back in our (yes) student days, who went onto become a chef. So this is to Rick, wherever you are now you mad eejit.
(Apologies in advance to all you metric heads out there, but I’m a stubborn old crank and pounds and ounces are just easier.)
Spaghetti Bolognese (serves 6)
- 2 lbs minced beef (always worth paying a bit more for the good stuff)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- ½ lb mushrooms, sliced
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped (or less if you’re a vampire, but trust me, 6 is just great)
- ½ pint chicken stock (the real thing if you can get into the habit of making it and freezing it after a roast, but a stock-cube’s fine if you can’t)
- 3 standard tins (295g) Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup (now stupidly renamed Erin in Ireland and Batchelors in the UK)
- ½ can of beer (lager’s cool, don’t over-do the flavour)
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and black pepper
Pour a little olive oil in a large pot or casserole dish, then add and break-up the mince over a medium heat. Add the beer and leave it to brown, stirring as needed.
Separately in a wok, over a high heat, add some oil, then the onions, and cook for a minute or two. Then add the mushrooms and the garlic, and cook for 4-5 minutes, no more.
By now the mince should be pinky-brown which is perfect. Now add the cooked onions, mushrooms and garlic, along with the chicken stock and the tins of condensed soup.
Now mix the whole lot up and season with the black pepper, the salt (unless you’ve used a stock-cube in which case there’s no need, you’ve tons) and a couple of teaspoons of dried herbs if you’ve got them (one each of Oregano and Basil ideally).
Bring up to the point where the sauce starts bubbling, then simmer over a low heat for 20-25 mins, stirring regularly to make sure the bottom doesn’t stick. And you’re done!
This is great straight away, but it’s even better if you leave it for a day in the fridge.
Serve with pasta, garlic bread and grated Parmesan cheese, or anything else that grabs your fancy. It’s superb on a baked potato, and makes the perfect sauce for Lasagne – just halve the beer and the stock to keep it a bit thicker. In college, the local pizzeria had a Bolognese pizza called the Chin-Dripper, and I’ve tried that too (it’s amazing).
Now try it, and I challenge you to come back and tell me it’s not the best Bolognese you’ve ever tasted.