Saturday, July 3, 2010

Bolognese Booster

2 weeks has gone by since my last post but do not despair, I have been eating, cooking and formulating my posts in my head during that time. There are a couple of reasons for the lack of postings in recent days; my family was visiting from the UK and my laptop broke for a few days. The combo of which made it rather challenging to update my blog.

My first recipe to blog about is a dish I have been making for years and I think I am finally approaching perfection on it although I am always looking for ways to improve on that. I made the dish for my mum and aunt when we got home from the airport after they flew in. They were jetlagged, tired, hungry and the weather here was decidedly non-summery. The dish in questions is an Italian classic, spaghetti bolognese. In general this is a meaty, tomatoey, herby sauce served over spaghetti pasta. The first variation I make is using rice pasta as I am wheat intolerant. Rice pastas have improved a lot in the past few years to the point where my unsuspecting guests rarely can even tell if I neglect to mention the substitution. Here is the recipe as I made it that night:

Sal's Spaghetti

500g ground beef (I use regular or lean, preferably organic. I don't use extra lean as it is not flavourful enough)
1 can brown or green lentils, drained
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
2 tbsp olive oil/canola oil, divided
2 portabello mushrooms, diced
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp tomato paste or ketchup
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped
1-2 tsp dried italian herbs
salt and fresh ground pepper
fresh basil, chopped

put some hot water on to boil as you prepare the meat sauce. Prepare pasta as directed on package.
In a large heavy based skillet or frying pan, heat pan and add beef. Brown beef and add Worcestershire sauce after 1-2 mins. Cook until no longer pink. Remove from pan.
Add 1 tbsp oil to pan and when heated, add onions and cook for 5-10 mins until tender and browned. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
In a separate pan, add tbsp oil and then add mushrooms. Cook for 1 -2 mins then add balsamic vinegar and pinch of salt. reduce heat and cook for 5- 10 mins until mushrooms are soft and have absorbed vinegar.
Add beef into pan with onions and garlic and also add in mushrooms. Stir until combined and then add crushed tomato, lentils, tomato paste and sundried tomatoes.
Stir well and simmer for 10 minutes. Add salt, pepper and dried herbs. At end of cooking, add fresh basil as desired.
Serve over cooked pasta and add fresh grated parmesan cheese on top and finish with fresh ground black pepper.

I find the lentils add a smoothness and cohesion to the sauce and almost make it "meatier". The sundried tomatoes add a deeper flavour. You can also add red wine to the sauce for more complexity if you are willing to part with some of the red stuff!
and of course, the sauce always tastes better 24 hours later after the flavours have melded to the max.
DISCLAIMER: all measurements are approximate, just throw in a bit of this, a bit of that and taste, taste, taste all the way along!


  1. Great to see you back here Sally! And I have an unsolicited idea for you about your blog (for my own selfish reasons): what if you made a sidebar of topics so that it would be easier for us to index/access your recipes?

  2. sounds great! How do I do that???