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Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Real deal spaghetti bolognese

Spaghetti bolognese

For many, many years (read: until 2 years ago), I thought the saying was "For all intensive purposes". Like the purposes were super intense and needed to be monitored in, say, a hospital. It wasn't until I read it in print one day and realised for all those years I'd been saying it wrong. Thankfully I never fully enunciate my words and speak at the speed of lightning, so hopefully no one noticed. And then I went and told the story...

I have countless examples where I thought I knew something to be an absolute truth. Like thinking CCs was just a clever brand name (and didn't stand for corn chips). Or when I totally believed my friend when he told me the words to Cold Chisel's Cheap Wine were "Cheap wine and a female goat." Uh huh. I'm that lady.

I visited Bologna about 4 years ago. I was alone and, like the rest of my European trip, had based my itinerary around all my favourite foods. Bouillabaisse in Marseille, curries in Brick Lane, bucatini amatriciana in Roma and jamon iberico in Spain. But my own personal food mecca? Emilia Romana in Italy. This place is home to parmigianno reggiano, balsamic vinegar, parma ham, tortellini in brodo, mortadella and, king of all dishes, spaghetti bolognese.

Spaghetti bolognese

Now. I didn't visit in the dead of winter. Not even autumn, when a meaty pasta would warm the cockles of your heart. No, I visited in the dead of summer. I say "dead" because all shops are closed and the temperature is out of this world. I almost melted into the pavement.

But I didn't travel thousands of kilometres to not try to most famous pasta dish in the world. I sweated my way through about 6 plates of the good stuff. And I didn't regret it for a single second. Ristorante Diana produced my favourite: an intensley meaty sauce with the most shocking inclusion: egg yolks. So salty, rich and downright delicious.

One similarity between all the Italian versions: they're way less soupy than our renditions. They have very few tomatoes and are a celebration of the meat. The few ingredients you do use really get to shine. Minced meat deserves its moment in the sun (figuratively, guys. Please don't write surprised your meat went rancid).

This recipe corrects our assumptions about what a great bolognese sauce is. It's all meat, with a little bit of tomato. You don't need onions or garlic. You don't need bacon or carrot or celery. Again, it's all about the meat. You can, however, use different kinds of meat, like pork or veal. I stuck with beef because of it's big flavours and the simplicity.

So there you go. The dish I'd been making for all of these years was tasty. Delicious even. But it wasn't a true spaghetti bolognese. Just like the Gucci t-shirt I wore all of grade 6 - cute, but not the real deal.


500g minced beef
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup water
salt and pepper

Spaghetti bolognese

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Saute the beef until all liquid has cooked off and the beef is browned. Chop the tomatoes and add to the beef along with the tomato paste and water. Season and simmer, covered, for around 45 minutes. Remove the lid for the last 10 minutes and reduce the liquid.

Serve over al dente spaghetti with parmigiano reggiano.

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