When was your first Spaghetti Bolognese? My first experience was when I was about 8 years old in Hong Kong, it was not an authentic one of course but it was the best one I had, after a few years that little restaurant was closed down and the ones I had afterwards were never as good. The main difference of the Hong Kong style Spaghetti Bolognese is that the Bolognese sauce is poured and covered all the spaghetti, sprinkled with a lot of parmesan cheese, (I think usually the Kraft Parmesan cheese is normally used), and then baked in the oven until the cheese is melt and the best is when the cheese topping become slightly crusted. People in Hong Kong like eating food served very hot, maybe that’s why we have adapted into a baked version.
Then my other milestone of spaghetti bolognese was when I was in boarding school and university. The one served in boarding school needless to say that it was disgusting, very oily and with cheap meat. The minced beef in UK smells awful, don’t know why. When I was living on my own during my university time, spaghetti bolognese was one of the easiest dish and most frequently made for dinner. At that time I used the bottled bolognese sauce, instead of minced beef, I used minced pork due to the beef smell which I could not tolerate no matter how much pepper I added, and I always add onion and mushrooms in my sauce.
So since then after all these years, I have not made any spaghetti bolognese myself and very seldom I would order it in the restaurant. Most of the time, I found them too meaty and same as Peter, I actually have proposed to have spaghetti bolognese when we go skiing, he always complained that this is too meaty.
So eventually, I have decided to made this bolognese sauce at home from scratch. I thought this is just a very typical pasta dish and to my surprise there is so much story behind it and that I have made a lot of mistakes compared to a real Bolognese sauce. For example, an authentic Bolognese sauce does not contain any herbs, spices, garlic, not much real tomatoes. Most importantly, Bolognese sauce is supposed to go with Tagliatelle but NOT spaghetti and that the sauce needs to be simmer for at least 2 hours minimum and that milk is added to the sauce to break down the fibres of the meat to make it more tender, the meat in the past was tougher. It was said that in the past 3-4 hours cooking time was required because aged meat was used, now we have better quality meat and the cooking time can be shortened. This used to be a pheasant dish, and the housewives can leave this cooking on the woodstove and go back to work in the field and when they finished working, the large amount of sauce can be used to feed the whole big family.
Despite the fact that the authentic Bolognese sauce hardly contains much tomatoes but we love tomatoes at home and love to incorporate more fresh ingredients into the sauce, one may concern that the sauce may be too watery but if you simmer the sauce without the lid or half covered, this will be fine. Afterall we cook according to our personal taste right? I also added some finely chopped mushrooms to make the sauce smoother in texture.
We have all enjoyed this ragu Bolognese very much and it has also made Peter changed his view to a meaty pasta sauce. This portion serves more than one meal, you can freeze the left to enjoy another day.
- 100g pancetta, cut into small pieces
- 250g good quality minced lean beef
- 250g good quality minced lean pork
- 100g carrot, finely chopped
- 100g celery, finely chopped
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 500g, 1 pack of of tomato purée (or canned peeled tomatoes, briefly pulsed)
- 30g concentrated tomato paste
- 4 fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 100g fresh mushrooms, cut into small pieces
- 1 cup fresh milk
- 1 small glass white or red wine (approx. 120 ml)
- 1 cup beef stock
- 3 bay leaves
- salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (some finely grated and some coarsely grated)
- Using a large pan or Dutch oven, cook the pancetta at medium high heat to render the fat for about 2 minutes. Add a little bit of olive oil if your pancetta are not very fatty.
- Add in the chopped celery, keep stirring until coated with fat, keep for another 2 mins, then add in the chopped carrots, chopped onion, shallots and bay leaves, keep stirring the carrots and celery are softened and the onions become translucent.
- Turn the heat to high and add in the minced beef and minced pork, keep stirring until the meat are break into pieces, mixed with the pancetta and vegetables and until they are cooked.
- Pour in the wine in 3 parts, keep stirring to let the wine evaporates gradually.
- Add in the tomato puree, fresh chopped tomatoes and beef stock, mix well, bring to boil and then cover the lid and let it simmer for 2 hours minimum or best results for 4 hours.
- Keep stirring from time to time, about 45 minutes interval just to make sure no sticking or burning. In the last hour, add in the chopped mushrooms and gradually add the milk in portions.
- Cook until the sauce is thickened and not too much liquid left but also not to let the sauce become too dry, otherwise may burn.
- When the sauce is ready, season with fresh ground pepper and with salt if necessary. For my case, I do not need to add any salt.
- Cook the tagliatelle as instructed to al dente, drain and toss with some extra virgin olive oil and finely grated grana padana or parmesan.
- Serve the pasta on a hot plate and pour some ragù bolognese on top and sprinkle some coarsely grated grana padana or parmesan as desired.
- Next time I would marinate the meat similar to the chinese way simply with some corn flour and bit of cooking oil, I would think this will be able to make the meat even smoother.
- I have simmered the sauce for 4 hours and the result was really better than 2 hours that the meat is smoother.
- Alternatively, you can sauté the ragù Bolognese with the tagliatelle in a pan before serving. This will make the pasta stay hot for a bit longer I find. This will make the pasta stay hot for a bit longer I find.
- It is interesting to find out that it is not appropriate to decorate with basil leaves or chopped parsley or garlic bread on the side.
- Dianne from Discuss Cooking: Ragu Alla Bolognese: Authentic Bolognese Sauce
- Ragù alla Bolognese: authentic and evocative flavour of Italy
- Tagliatelle al ragù alla Bolognese: the dictionary
- Tagliatelle with Bolognese ragù sauce, Tagliatelle al Ragù alla Bolognese: An authentic recipe by Mario Caramella, GVCI President
- Spaghetti Bolognaise, not the “real thing” but it can be good
Hong Kong style Baked Spaghetti Bolognese (港式焗肉醬意粉)
Just a week later, I used the same ragù bolognese and made the Hong Kong style Baked Spaghetti Bolognese. It was awesome and it tasted very close to the one I ate at Miramar hotel, the best one I had in the past (another long-lost taste rediscovered). The magic was simply the baked parmesan cheese crust on top which made the dish taste different to when we sprinkled the parmesan on top when served. One ragù, two variations, I asked Peter which one he liked more, he said that was very hard, he liked them both! That was very nice of him to say that indeed, he could accept to my Chinese taste : )
Method (baked version):
Preheat oven at 180ºC.
Mix the ragu with the cooked spaghetti.
Baking time: 15-20 mins (middle rack of oven) and then grill for 2-3 mins (top rack of oven)