Bolognese – everyone makes it, everyone loves it. Some (traditionally) use milk, some use diced beef, ragu style. Here’s my version that I’ve tweaked over many years.
The inclusion of spinach and the mix of beef and pork I learned from the Italian mother of a good friend of mine in high-school. The use of a soffrito is a more recent addition I picked up from Slow-Cooking by Joanne Glynn (a book bought on a whim because of the title which has grown on me over time and now is my go-to book for a range of classic Western European dishes. All the recipes I’ve cooked from it have turned out to be the very best versions I’ve had). The dried chilli and oregano I owe to Jamie Oliver from his tomato sauce for meatballs (from his first book The Naked Chef). Mushrooms are something I’ve always added. All these ingredients add depth of flavour and that’s what we’re all after in such a dish.
I don’t claim that this is a particularly authentic version but it’s certainly rich and full of flavour and what I associate with the word Bolognese (and it seems to go down extremely well). It seems to me that Australians, for better or worse, really own this dish in all its gory and inauthentic glory, so I say make it the way you like it – just make it for the love of good food.
1-2 Tbl olive oil
500g beef mince
300g pork mince
1 large onion, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
1 stick of celery, finely diced
2-4 rashers of the best smoked bacon you can find (I use shortcut Schulz Bacon from the Barossa), chopped
pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
800g tinned tomatoes
1 Tbl tomato paste
1/2 cup white or red wine (I used to use red but I’ve switched to white as I prefer it not to colour the sauce)
1 dried or 2 fresh bay leaves
500g swiss brown mushrooms, thickly sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g pack of frozen chopped spinach (or half a large bunch of fresh spinach, washed and chopped)
In a large frypan that can accommodate the entire dish with all it’s liquid (and one that has a lid) add a little oil and fry mince in batches over a high heat, cooking until all moisture has cooked off and the meat is brown and crumbly, set aside. In same pan add some more oil and fry chopped bacon, onion, carrot, celery and garlic on a low-medium heat until very soft and bacon is golden, adding the chilli and oregano along the way.
Return the mince to the pan, add the tomatoes, paste, wine and bay leaves and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and leave to cook for about an hour and a half (but watch the liquid level – you can put the lid on if it looks like it might dry out or you can add a little beef stock). Taste and season. Sometimes the tomatoes (it’s their pips according to Jamie Oliver) can have a slightly bitter flavour that doesn’t mellow with the cooking – if this is the case add a pinch of sugar.
Add spinach and mushrooms and cook for another 20 minutes (these will initially add more liquid so you want to do this with the lid off). Taste again and adjust seasoning as necessary.
Serve with pasta of your choice (I use Weich’s Barossa Valley Egg Noodles – the best shop bought dried pasta I’ve had) and grate over some pecorino if desired. Eat with a robust Barossa red.