A good plate of bolognese should warm your heart, fill your belly and linger on your tastebuds.
I have a weird affection for this beefy plate of goodness. I order it at most Italian restaurants, simply because when a plate of bolognese is done well, it’s like coming home and slipping into the covers of a well slept in bed.
It’s easy to do this right, but difficult to do it well.
I’ve been making this dish since I started cooking. I’ve made it with pork, beef, chicken and even a mix of meats. I’ve made it with fresh local tomatoes, ruby red cherry ones and even expensive, imported Roma and heirloom varieties. I’ve made it with spaghetti, linguine, conchiglie and penne. I’ve probably made this a hundred times and never got it right.
Oh, I’ve come close alright. Sometimes it hits the almost right spot. Like when you extend your fingers up your back to scratch at an itch and it’s not exactly there, but you stop scratching at it anyway.
This is my closest attempt. A bowl full of shiny, glossy pasta coated in a creamy red sauce and dotted with spots of well crusted beef.
It’s not a traditional bolognese recipe. Oh no, definitely not. There are some spices in here that will make an Italian go WTF, but it gives the whole dish depth and dimension, which was something I’ve never been able to capture in a plate of my own.
I’ve chased this recipe for 5 years. I even have photos of many subpar attempts. I’m not completely happy with it yet. I can’t call it perfect. But…it’s close. And I have this weird feeling that the journey to perfection will be a relentless pursuit.
Ingredients (makes enough for 5-6 portions)
1/2 bottle of Passata
20g (small can) of tomato paste
2 yellow onions, finely diced
2 medium carrots, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
400g of minced beef
50g of bacon, diced
1 1/2 cup anchovy/beef stock (can be replaced with 2 stock cubes or 3 tablespoons of stock powder)
3/4 cup of heavy cream
Sugar to taste
Salt to taste
Pasta (I used spaghetti)
1 Cinnamon stick
1 Star Anise
2 dried chillis (leave whole)
2 dried bay leaves
- Fry bacon in a heavy bottomed saucepan until fat is rendered and moisture evaporates. It doesn’t have to crisp up. Remove and set aside.
- Add some olive oil to rendered bacon fat in the pan and put in your mince, flattening them as much as possible and don’t touch it. We want browning and a slight crust.
- Once the mince is crusty and brown, break it up and add in the bacon again.
- Add in chopped veggies and fry until onion is softened and translucent.
- Add in Passata and tomato paste. Mix well.
- Add in stock. If you’re using cubes or powder, add 1.5 cups of water.
- Once the mixture comes to a slow boil, add in spices, sugar and salt to taste. Simmer at low heat.
- Cook pasta in separate pot until only 3/4 way cooked through. At this time, scoop out sauce if you’re not using all of it and refrigerate. Add cream to the sauce you are using immediately. Remove spices.
- Remove pasta from pot and add to your sauce mixture. If the sauce is too thick, add 1/2 cup of pasta water to the saucepan.
- Stir constantly until pasta absorbs moisture in the pan and forms a glossy sheen.
- Plate and serve.
To use the rest of the sauce, heat up in a frying pan and stir in cream. If sauce mixture is dry, add in stock or some water. Cook pasta and follow steps 9-11 above.
There you have it. 5 years in the making. A plate of fusion, and fucking delicious bolognese.