Monday, February 6, 2012

Italian Spaghetti Bolognese

My version

Spaghetto or Spaghetti is an Italian pasta. For those new to spaghetti - Unlike noodles, these are long, thin, strands made with semolina/flour and water.  Its cooking really requires attention, 'coz undercooked or overcooked spaghetti will not avail desired results. Spaghetti is traditionally served with crushed tomato based sauces with meat, infused with olive oil and herbs. It is also served with Bolognese sauce (a meat and tomato based sauce) or with Carbonara sauce (egg, meat, pepper and lots of cheese) or Alfredo sauce (a buttery, cheesy sauce).   

As a kid, each time I saw Spaghetti on supermarket shelves, I assumed it was noodles in another form or it was some kind of vermicelli, until one day, my dad's friend who was working at the American embassy gifted my mom and her friends with a few packets of different Italian pastas and frankly none of them knew how it was prepared. Well, that's when we referred to all the recipe cut-outs we had. But, it took a while to learn different variations of pasta preparations. I learnt a lot about pasta from a Food encyclopaedia that I have. There are over a hundred different varieties of pastas used worldwide and each of them have unique and suitable sauces or fillings to go with it. Learning the names of different pastas feels like opening a biology text and learning the names of microorganisms! ;) Good Lord! I really wonder why people have to make things seem so complicated.

Anyway, such a long introduction 'coz there are so many around who clarify which pasta is for what, and how it is prepared. There was a time when I wished I had someone to explain to me about various ingredients I had no idea about. For me, whatever little I know of Italian cooking is an influence of Chef Giorgio Locatelli's cookery books and shows, of course my all time favourite Jamie Oliver and cannot deny the influence of Rachael Ray's cookery too.

Ok, let's get back to cooking Italian Spaghetti Bolognese. Bolognese is simple to make and I use the same sauce base to make my Lasagne too.

Ingredients :

Minced meat (of your choice)

1 cup
Olive oil

As required

1 tablespoon
Garlic (finely chopped)

2-3 cloves
White Onion

1 no.
Carrots (optional)

2 nos.
Celery (optional)

1 medium stem
Freshly crushed black pepper

As required
Dried Oregano

1 teaspoon
Tomatoes *

2 large or 1 can
Tomato puree

1/2 cup
Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon
Grape juice**

3/4 cup
Fresh Basil

2-3 leaves
Fresh Parsley (finely chopped)

A handful

1/2 cup

to taste

As required

1 small pack

*You can use Italian Style Crushed tomatoes available in cans, or go the fresh way by literally cooking fresh tomatoes until it softens and add a dash of olive oil, basil and salt and simmer until the tomatoes loose its raw flavour. You can seed and skin the tomatoes or just use it the way it is. I'm too lazy to seed and skin.

**Grape juice is just a substitution to red wine. Well, I have no clue as to how red wine tastes, but, I suppose it should be something somewhere close to red grape juice. ;) 

***For that real Italian touch, please hunt for Parmigiano-Reggiano. If it's not available, at the most Parmesan cheese. No other substitutes work as good.

Preparation Method :

For the sauce -
In a skillet melt the butter and half the olive oil.
Throw in the crushed garlic and finely chopped onion. Allow the onions to sweat.

Finely chop or grate carrots and celery. Add them to the onions.

Add the crushed black pepper and the dried oregano.

Once the water in the veggies have all evaporated add some salt and the minced meat. and sauté and combine the meat and veggies together and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the tomatoes. In a saucepan, heat some olive oil and saute the tomato puree for 2 minutes on medium heat and add that to the meat and veggies.

Drizzle in the Worcestershire sauce and grape juice.

Combine everything and close with lid and simmer on low flame until the oil clears on top.

Add the milk and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Add the chopped parsley.

For Perfectly cooked Spaghetti -
In a large shallow pan, boil water and season with a generous amount of salt and drizzle in some olive oil.

When the water comes to a boil, gently immerse the pasta. As the bottom softens, with a tong gently twist in the whole pasta into the boiling water.

Cook on high for not more than 5 minutes. Check if it has cooked well through, yet it should be firm enough and make sure the long strands do not break. Then strain and rinse with some hot water.

Season with some salt and pepper and drizzle in some olive oil and serve onto a plate and top with the Bolognese sauce.

Garnish with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. If you do not want the cheese, you can skip the cheese, but no Italian dish is complete without some cheese. :)

Enjoy!! :)

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