Spaghetti Bolognaise


I mention in the Introduction that 50 years ago the Commonsense Cookbook was considered [at least by parents of that time] to be invaluable to any young bloke leaving home [and Mum's cooking] to live in a flat or whatever.

Well things changed as the classic Local Chinese Restaurant [essentially the only form of eating out apart from a "mixed grill" at the local Greek MilkBar] seemed to "throw a rib" to new and exciting restaurants, starting with Italian, closely followed by Indian and so on .....

Anecdotal Mutterings

I was introduced to Spaghetti Bolognaise at age 19 in 1964 by my then girlfriend's mum, who was into all these new taste experiences at the time, and the recipe below is essentially the same as what she gave me at the time, albeit it was not till 1969 I got to start my own cooking career, as I went from home to National Service up to end of 1968.

By early 1970's a Bloke's chances in love began to be gauged with just how good he was at making a Spag Bol when the question came up - "my place as yours" and she would say "yours as long as you can cook".  There was a Michael Caine movie back then where he, as the super spy, tells his girlfriend to get out of the kitchen and into the bedroom as it was the only place she was "any good".

Strange thing is that when we first travelled/traveled TO Italy etc in 1970 we found that the "real" thing generally did not contain any meat, and a futile hunt for a "butcher shop" to buy a pound of mince soon explained why.

The Essentials

The start point is onions [the brown ones] and cutting them up [fairly small] and getting tears in the eyes is all part of the ritual of a Spag Bol, but I guess the frozen chopped ones are nearly as good.

In a medium size saucepan throw in a good swig of Olive Oil, and remember that the "virgin question" has more to do with the matters at hand and not the quality of the oil, but extra virgin if you must.  However some of the thicker Spanish Olive Oils can be a bit overpowering so best to go for a lighter Italian one.  Use a wooden spoon to constantly stir the onions over high heat until they go sort of brown.

A pound of mince [500 g] is about right for 2 people and beef is used mostly, although I actually prefer lamb mince IF it is available.  The mince is mixed with the onions and the work of the wooden spoon now increases.  It is important to not allow the mince to "cake" as it goes from red to brown, so you must keep turning, prodding and thumping it until the prods do not reveal any more red bits.

Then carefully pour off most of the liquid by holding the lid of the saucepan slightly off centre so as not to lose any bits of the meat.  I use a Balti Dish to catch the liquid which is a mixture of the Olive Oil and oil/fat seared out of the mince.  And here is other reason for lamb, ie rather than dispose of the liquid [which is "so bad for your health"] I put it into the fridge and after a few hours one is left with a crust of lovely dripping to have on toast AND the dripping from lamb is far better than from beef IMHO.

So why save your health by pouring it off and then using it on toast?  Don't worry about it - you only live once.  But also you don't want the meal to be too oily, hence the next step of searing the remaining meat and onions on high heat for a minute or so until you smell that lovely nutty aroma [also better with lamb], then turn off the heat.  In fact for a really nutty experience try Macadamia Oil instead of Olive Oil.

Now for the saucy bit, and traditionally it is a big blob of tomato paste, thinned out with wine.  But for more bulk a can of Woolies Italian Diced Tomatoes works wonders, maybe still with a bit of tomato paste.  For the wine, the purists say to use the same wine you will be drinking with the meal but with the quality of cask wine [or Bowlers Run at $2.50 a bottle] I would rather keep a more expensive wine for drinking.

The traditional recipe says a pinch of Cayenne Pepper and chop up 2 cloves of garlic [and of course salt to taste] but do as you please here and I think Oregano adds to the Italian flavour [and Basil also has a case to be heard].  So with all that added, stir it all up with the mince and onions and maybe add a little water or more wine if too thick while bringing it back to the boil.  Then reduce to low heat for say 20 minutes, after which it should look like this.
The long spaghetti that also came to Oz back in the 1960s replaced our notion that spaghetti was that short, soft muck that came in tins with tomato sauce, as if a baked bean in disguise.  It became a snobbish thing at dinner parties [as for chop sticks proficiency] to be able to twirl just the right amount around a fork and transfer to the mouth without splattering sauce over fellow dinner guests.  I am sure you know how to cook spaghetti by now IF you can find it on the shelves, ie you will search through umpteen varieties of spaghetti and pasta shapes but just plain spaghetti [of good quality] is the way to go IMHO.

Traditionally Parmesan Cheese is provided at the table to be sprinkled over the meal and once again you can use the ready grated in a shaker or a grind as you go device - up to you.

So that is the basic Spag Bol and with the help of a cheeky little Shiraz [HINT - show you are not a wine newbie by using silent "z"] any Bloke should be able to woo his Olive Oil - be she an "extra special virgin" or not.

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