It’s been a cold, wet week at my farm. One of my favourite easy dinners in this sort of weather is home-cooked spaghetti bolognese. When we come in from the paddocks at the end of the day, all muddy and cold, there’s nothing better than a hot shower to warm back up, and then a bowl of spag bol in front of the fire, with a glass of red wine. It’s a great meal for feeding a crowd, or a cohort of hungry workers!
My grandmother taught me this recipe, and taught me that the secret is the slow cooking. I usually make the sauce during the day and simmer it for at least a couple of hours – the longer the better as it gives the bolognese sauce a divine, silky richness.
500g lean beef mince, 1 onion, 3 cloves of garlic, one stick of celery, 1/2 capsicum (bell pepper), 2 bay leaves, olive oil, 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs (oregano, basil, thyme, sage, rosemary and basil) *note – if you can’t get this blend use oregano, 1 cup of mushrooms, 2 x 400g tins of diced tomatoes, 1 empty tomato tin of water, 1 heaped teaspoon stock powder, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, 3 tablespoons tomato paste, 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, 1 cup of red wine.
500g of dried spaghetti, and some parmesan cheese to serve. This will give four hearty serves, or six moderate serves.
♥ The meat I’m using is our own organic beef, and the onion, garlic, celery, capsicum and parsley have all come from the vegetable garden. I’m also using some home-grown zucchini and field mushrooms from a neighbour instead of pasta for my own dinner! There is something very satisfying about eating food that has been sourced locally, or grown by us.
Finely chop the onion, garlic, capsicum (bell pepper), celery, mushrooms and parsley. Put a large heavy-bottomed saucepan on to low heat. Add a slug of olive oil and cook the garlic, onions, celery and capsicum until fragrant but not coloured. Add in the meat, turn the heat to medium and brown off the mince, breaking up any lumps with a wooden spoon. Season well with the herbs, salt and pepper.
Add in the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, stock powder, sugar, mushrooms, bay leaves, vinegar, water and wine. Stir well to combine. Bring to boil and then reduce to a simmer, and slow cook the sauce, stirring occasionally for two to three hours or until the sauce has reduced and thickened. Keep an eye on it, and if it looks like it is drying out, add a little more water or another slurp of wine!
To serve, cook your pasta until al dente. Drain and place a generous portion of meat on top of each plate or bowl of pasta. Grate or shave a little fresh parmesan cheese over the sauce. This meal goes well with a crisp green salad and some crusty bread. You may also like to drink the remainder of the red wine.
Low carb/gluten free option: Grill a large field mushroom per person. A few slices of zucchini (courgette) are also good.
Top with the Bolognese sauce, and some cheese, if desired.
I often cook a double batch of the bolognese sauce, as it freezes really well. The mince is delicious on toast for breakfast (or lunch), and is also good for stuffed baked potatoes. I sometimes substitute the mince for the beans in this easy recipe, so that it becomes Easy Italian Bake. Enjoy!