spaghetti bolognaise

my default use for beef mince used to be bolognaise* sauce but for the past year or so it has been chilli. however, this weekend i decided that i needed a plate of spaghetti bolognaise.

this is one of the first dishes that my mum taught my brother and i how to cook. over the years i’ve refined the recipe i use, something that most people do with this sort of staple dish (spaghetti bolognaise was top of the list for meals that british people can cook from memory, according to a survey last year). in fact what to put into the perfect spag bol is a debate that can go on for quite a while and always worth a look, if you are interested in new variations.

my version is quite simple – i don’t use the holy trinity of onion, carrot and celery, preferring to simply start with sliced garlic gently fried in olive oil. pancetta may or may not be added and then i brown the mince, trying to keep it quite chunky. once the meat is cooked i add a glug of red wine and a similar amount of milk, which helps tenderise the beef. a tin of tomatoes, a bay leaf, some fresh basil sprigs and seasonings are the remaining ingredients. this is gently simmered until the fat in the meat starts to show and the sauce has a rich-looking texture (you can cook this sauce over a very low heat for hours, adding more liquid as it dries, but i rarely bother). the herbs are removed and fresh basil added.

the next question is which pasta to serve it with - i grew up eating it with spaghetti but also like the bolognese traditional choice of tagliatelle. you'll see from the picture that i finish the dish with coarsely grated strong cheddar cheese, rather than parmesan. this is another childhood choice that i hark back to.

i'm sharing this with debbi does dinner who is hosting this week's presto pasta nights.

* the more appropriate italian spelling is bolognese but i’ve been bought up using the french version and can’t bring myself to change