Friday, July 23, 2010

A bolognese/ragu based sauce for spaghetti (and baked rice the next day!)

Just like many people, bolognese sauce reminds me of being a kid, it's still the ultimate comfort food dinner for me. It instantly sends me back to being little, with my sister and 3 or 4 cousins, and mum and/or one of my aunts serving up steaming spaghetti loaded with sauce and cheese. Learning how to eat spaghetti with just a fork was like graduating, I remember the pride I felt when mum stopped cutting up the spaghetti because I'd learnt to twirl it deftly around my fork without dropping the pasta everywhere :)

Bolognese is also what started my cooking adventures apparently. At the age of 3, I was at my Aunt's house, and she was making bolognese. I looked at her in shock at one point, and started telling her that "my mummy makes it like this" and went on to explain what she was doing "wrong" and how she should make it. Needless to say she was very amused, and reminds me of this often hehehe...

The recipe I'm about to give is by no means a traditional bolognese. Apparently the original bolognese doesn't even have tomatoes or garlic in it, and uses heaps of milk and even funghi porcini! So I suppose a "ragu" or "meat based pasta sauce" is the better term.

The following recipe is my "summer" version of bolognese. In winter, I make a richer one, using at least a half pork half beef mixture, replacing diced carrot with bacon and putting more tomato paste in it, and generally end up using the leftovers for lasagne. This recipe is made using pork mince only (pork is far superior to beef in Malta, and i feel it makes a lighter sauce for summer), however I also quite often make it with a mixture of beef and pork, and when in Australia, where beef is fantastic, i just use beef.  

Generally, I end up using 1kg of mince, so that 4 people can have spaghetti bolognese, and there's still plenty leftover to make one of 2 Maltese baked dishes: Mqarrun il-forn (baked macaroni) or Ross il-forn (Baked rice). I am making baked rice with the leftovers.
This sauce (as do most other tomato based pasta sauces) freezes REALLY well. Just make sure the container is well sealed, and use within a couple of months.

Ok you will need:

2 large/3 medium onions, diced
2 carrots, diced (omit for a wintery sauce and replace with 6 slices of back bacon, chopped)
5 or 6 cloves garlic (more or less as you please)
1kg pork/pork'n'beef/beef mince***** (use good quality mince! as low in fat as possible. TRES IMPORTANT!)
Kunserva, 4 heaped tablespoons
Dash of red wine
Large tin of chopped tomatoes (polpa) (or 2 normal ones, or 1 bottle)
some dried "Italian" herbs (i used the French equivalent, which i prefer, herbes de provence)
Olive oil
salt, pepper, sugar

Cook the onions and carrots until golden on a medium heat in a large heavy saucepan. When they are golden and translucent, add the garlic and meat. keep stirring, breaking up the meat into bits with your wooden spoon... keep sautéing it until the meat is just not pink.

At this point, add the Kunserva, about 3 or 4 heaped tablespoons will do, stir this in and then add a dash of wine and 2 teaspoons of sugar.

As soon as the wine reduces a little, add the tomatoes and a sprinkling of herbs, decent about of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Wait until it starts bubbling, then reduce the heat (i change it to the burner with the lowest "low" flame possible at this point), cover and leave simmering slowly for at least an hour (i like to do it for 1 and a half hours!), stirring every 10 minutes or so to make sure the bottom doesn't burn.

If at any point it's looking a bit dry, add a ladle or so of water. Remember, if you want to add wine in the first 20 minutes or so it's cool, however every time you add a dash of wine, you'll need it to simmer for AT LEAST 20 minutes after. The taste of wine takes a while to really settle into the dish, you want it cooked well.

When it's done, switch off and leave on the stove to settle.

Spaghetti Bolognese:

For 4-6 people you will need:
A packet of spaghetti
sea salt (i like the rocks for cooking)
Half the above sauce
Freshly grated parmeggiano/pecorino to serve

Heat a large pot of water, and when boiling, add 1 tablespoon of seasalt.
Cook Spaghetti according to instructions, divide amongst pasta bowls, load up with sauce and serve sprinkled generously with cheese and pepper to taste.

Meal 2:
Ross il Forn (baked rice)
This is something we generally make a day or 2 after we make the sauce. it's really easy seeing as you mix everything in the baking dish and just bung it in the oven

For 4 people you will need:
Half the above sauce
2-3 eggs
1.5 cups of long grain rice(traditional is white regular long grain, but I much much prefer basmati, it makes the dish somewhat lighter and so tasty, and my favourite is Brown basmati!)
About a cup of grated cheese
pepper, salt

Place the rice into a decent sized deep baking dish (one like you'd use for making lasagne).
Put 3 cups of cold water, some salt and pepper, the sauce, the lightly beaten eggs and most of the cheese in same dish. Using a ladle or large spoon, mix around until it looks evenly combined. Be careful as the water will make this pretty messy!

Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly on the top, sprinkle with some more salt and pepper.

Open the oven door, ensuring that the oven tray is in the right place (anywhere in a fan forced oven, or in the middle in a regular oven)

CAREFULLY (it will spill otherwise) place the baking dish in the oven.

Close the door and switch the oven on 180C (325F) for regular ovens, 160C (300F) for fanforced. There is no need to preheat the oven for this one, but it won't hurt if you do of course!

Bake for around 45 minutes until nice and brownish golden on top, and until it stops wobbling in the middle. Just in case you're not sure whether the rice is cooked, just take it out of the oven and dip your fork into the dish, seeing as the meat normally settles on top (resulting in awesome layers when you serve it), make sure you get some rice from the bottom (the middle is best as it's the bit that takes longest to cook through). If it's not cooked, return to the oven for a few more minutes, maybe 10?

When it's done, leave at least 10 minutes before serving. :D
Technically, if you've got the sauce done already, baked rice only takes a few minutes to prepare, and then 45-1hr in the oven... it's a wonderfully easy meal when you feel like staying home and don't feel like cooking. Sometimes, I freeze bolognese in double portions so i can just take it out of the freezer, defrost it in the microwave and make baked rice/spag bol :) nom!

PICTURE OF RICE was not taken as it was devoured before I got a chance to remember! It was also my sister's wedding day and the bride, bridesmaids and parents of the bride (as well as the sister) were pretty starving! :)

*****We like large mince, not fine mince. The most important thing is that you use LEAN meat. It's going to simmer for 60-90 minutes

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for having this recipe up as a base for the bolognese sauce I made for three teenagers tonight as my friends are having a mini vacation in Malta, while I stayed behind to look after their kids on Gozo. I've been visiting from Canada, and we don't have the same types of tomato sauce/paste so I was looking online for recipes on how to use "kunserva" for a tomato sauce, and the basics of your recipe with what I had on hand worked perfectly and the kids enjoyed it.

    I also appreciated your points about how to make sure the wine is cooked for 20 minutes for the flavour to settle. This was a good tip as wine isn't often used in the sauce made for the kids. they noticed the taste as a little different to their parent's sauce, but enjoyed it all the same.

    Your blogged saved our dinner tonight. Many thanks and blessings.