As Felicity Cloake has written (in her excellent series ‘How to make a perfect…’): “To write on spag bol is to wade into a mire of controversy thicker and darker than any ragu that ever came out of nonna’s kitchen.” There is no definitive recipe for bolognese sauce and many of the ‘authentic’ elements (pork, chicken liver, white wine, milk or cream, not too much tomato) do not feature in our family’s version. I am making absolutely no claims about authenticity here, just recording what we like to eat.
Serves 6, with plenty to spare
Small carton diced pancetta
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 fat cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 sticks celery, diced
500g beef mince
Small bottle (187ml) red wine
1 carton passata
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tsp each of sugar and salt
1 heaped tsp each dried basil and dried oregano
2 bay leaves
Pre-heat the oven to 160C / 140C (fan).
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the pancetta and fry for a minute or so until the fat is rendered. Add all the chopped vegetables and cook, stirring regularly, for about 8 minutes on a low-ish heat until everything is softened. Raise the heat and add the beef mince. Break this up as you stir it in and cook until all the mince has changed colour.
Pour in the wine, boil briefly, then add all the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a simmer, cover and put in the oven for 1½ to 2 hours. It will cook fine over a very low heat on the stove too – just make sure you stir from time to time.