Long, long back in the midsts of time, some shepherds or something outside Bologna or somewhere mashed up tomatoes and animal and ate them together with pasta, and thus a tradition was born.
I once studied under a wise old Italian chef1, who taught me that the monstrosity knocked together by British people under the name bolognese is nothing of the sort, and calling it that basically represents Britain not yet having got over being occupied by the Romans in the 1st Century2 AD.
Fuck that guy, though. Have you seen how long it takes to make a proper bolognese? They spend all day at it, stirring and poking and basically not watching any telly at all. This recipe is good enough for me and you.
What You Will Need
Onions – I’ve gone for one medium one and one small one, but you could use one big one, or three little ones, or half of one absolutely massive one, or even three medium ones and have a bit more onion in your sauce, it’s basically all fine.
Garlic bits – Two or three garlic bits. I understand these to be called cloves, though for a long time I thought the whole bulb was called a clove. This was because of the Game Boy game Super Mario Land 3: Super Wario Land (five Mario coins out of five)3.
At least two of the following:
- Passata – Passata is Italian for “tomatoes, but all mushed up in a tomato musher”. It is one of the kinds of red goo you get these days. Passata comes in a 500g thing most of the time.
- A can of chopped tomatoes – Chopped tomatoes is Italian for tomatoes that have been chopped up and put in a tin. Tinned tomatoes have normally been through the tomato musher at least once, unless you get plum tomatoes in which case they haven’t. Plum tomatoes are so called because normally you buy them only because you meant to buy chopped tomatoes and you only spot your mistake when you get home, which makes you feel a right plum.
- A bit of tomato puree – Tomato in its purest form, it has been through the tomato musher at least three times and is really tomatoey.
Mince – Mince is English for “sweets which freshen your breath4 “. Beef is best, but you can use pork to feel authentic. You want about 500g, fat content 15 – 20%. Ignore those packets of mince boasting about a low fat content, they’re basically ripping you off. Fat is the most delicious bit of food.
The scrag end of that bottle of wine you couldn’t be bothered to finish – I’ve gone fancy this time with port, but you can go for red or white or whatever else. It’s really only there to make you feel like you’re a proper chef.
Pasta – Pasta comes in two forms, lumps and stringy bits. Stringy bits like spaghetti, linguine, etc are a bloody waste of time. You have to work to get them all into the pan without snapping any, they’re a faff to serve up5, and then when you’re eating it you’re guaranteed to get sauce all down your shirt. Steer clear, and go for lumps instead. Swirly bits, pointy bits or shells, they’re all great. If you can find some shaped like dinosaurs, then all for the better. You should cook more pasta than you need, because I always do and I don’t see why anyone else should get it right.
Flavour bits – Flavour bits are the things that make the sauce taste more than just of beef and red. Classic flavour bits include herbs and that (rosemary is a great herb and that, and you could go for oregano, a bay leaf and that mysterious jar labelled “Italian herb mix”), salt, pepper, stock cubes, those weird stock jellies they do now, spice things or bits of sausage6.
Cooking time: Twenty minutes’ faff, one-to-two episodes of a high-quality drama’s cooking time.
Chop the onions and garlic bits into smaller bits.
Heat a bit of olive oil7 in a big pan on a medium-high heat. Throw in the oniongarlic bits. Cook them until soft, then add the mince. Fry until the meat is browned all over.
If you’re using wine, now is the time to throw it in there. Let it cook for a bit until it seems like it’s gone all syrupy and absorbed into the meat. This may or may not improve the flavour of the overall dish, I’m not really sure.
Add the mushed tomato products. At this point, your dish should be very red and bubbling, like a volcano from a kids’ film in the 80s. Turn down the heat.
Go watch your high quality drama product, poking the sauce occasionally. After episode one, the sauce will be ready. If you’re willing to wait for the end of episode two, it will be rich as all balls. Waiting any longer than that means you’ve got too much time on your hands and you should have gone for a fancier recipe in the first place.
Cook your pasta, serve, and enjoy with a massive cup of tea or something.
- Read it in the glossy magazine bit of a Sunday newspaper. ↩
- Paraphrasing8. ↩
- Remember when Nintendo used to call their game cartridges ‘game paks’? Aiming for the ‘edgy motherfucker’ market with their intentionally poor spelling, though I’m not sure they were after the proximity in spelling to a certain famous racist epithet. They’ve had form for this kind of not understanding English properly long before the Wii was on the scene. ↩
- Last joke of the form “is X for [insert silly thing here]” in the recipe, I promise. ↩
- Don’t you bloody dare tell me to use one of those spaghetti server things, they’re worse than a big spoon. ↩
- Well, I say sausage, I mean those crazy sausages you get in foreign parts. Not good British bangers, no indeed. ↩
- I didn’t tell you to have olive oil in your cupboard, because I’m not your mother. You have to take responsibility for yourself at some point. ↩
- But still basically true. Fuck those Jupiter-worshipping pricks, they cheated and we weren’t ready. We let them win. We all fought with one hand tied behind our backs. It rained a bit and all the blue paint ran into our eyes. Look, we won on the rematch, yeah? Enger-land, Enger-land, Enger-land. ↩