Spaghetti bolognese – it’s an old standby, and as such has become one of the most used and abused recipes under creation. Outside of its hometown of Bologna in Italy, bolognese has become a catch-all name for any meat-and-tomato sauce quickly slapped together and served over pasta, which is almost invariably spaghetti.
But start investigating bolognese and you’ll find out some interesting things. In traditional Bolognese cooking, ragu alla bolognese is rarely served with spaghetti (usually it goes with tagliatelle); it contains very little tomato (eschewing the pound can or two of tommies that many people dump into the saucepan); there are no herbs in it (so rack off home with your shaker of dried oregano); and one of the key ingredients is time (not the herb – the stuff in your wristwatch).
Most surprisingly of all – to me, at least – the key to a lovely rich bolognese is a goodly portion of milk.
Until a little while ago I knew none of these things. A friend was over for dinner and wanted to make spaghetti bolognese. It’s a dish I usually steer clear of, simply because I don’t find mince doused in tinned tomatoes very appetising. I whipped out the Joy of Cooking (as much as you can whip out this tome without spraining your wrist) and we delved into the pages for a recipe.
It was an enlightening journey (jeez that sounds wanky). Despite the small amount of tomato puree involved, it still comes out a nice reddish-orange. Possibly the colour leaches out of the carrot.
I have now become a bolgnese purist. Lenny, on the other hand, thinks it is quite acceptable to mess with this classic, adding tinned tomatoes, herbs and even mushrooms.
But that’s not bolognese. It’s not.
Watch the video for further discussion and share your thoughts by leaving a comment.