One of the ultimate comfort foods, Spaghetti Bolognese is like an old reliable friend who shows up just when you need a big hug. Bolognese sauce, known as Ragù alla Bolognese in Italy, is a meat-based sauce originating from Bologna that is customarily served with tagliatelle or other flat pasta such as pappardelle or fettuccine. Genuine Italian ragù is a slowly cooked sauce that characteristically includes a soffritto of onion, celery and carrot, minced or finely chopped beef, pancetta and red wine. A small amount of tomato concentrate or tomatoes are added, and the dish is then gently simmered at length to produce a rich thick sauce. Outside of Italy, "Spag-Bol" as my husband calls it, consists of a meat sauce served on a bed of spaghetti topped with a sprinkling of grated Parmigiana cheese — maybe even with a loaf of warm garlic bread — and although it bears little resemblance to the traditional Italian ragù, few could argue that it isn't molto delizioso, especially with a loaf of Guy's Garlic Ciabatta on the side.
Guy's Spaghetti Bolognese with Beef & Mushrooms
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oli
1 1/2 lb lean ground beef
3 cups homemade tomato sauce, or good quality store-bought
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup red wine
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 lb spaghetti
1 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino
1 bunch parsley, chopped for garnish
In a large frying pan, melt the butter on medium-high heat and when it starts to sizzle, add the mushrooms and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes, then set aside. Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan set on medium-high and add the ground beef, stirring frequently until the meat is no longer pink and is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste, and stir thoroughly to combine. Turn the heat down to low, and add the mushrooms plus their liquid into the bolognese, then pour in the red wine and continue stirring until the mixture is the desired consistency. For a looser sauce, add some water or beef stock as necessary. Cover the sauce and continue cooking on low heat to meld the flavours, about another 30-60 minutes.
Set a large pot of water to boil over high heat, and when it comes to a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook according to the manufacturers instructions. When al dente or to taste, drain in a colander then return to the pot and combine with just enough bolognese sauce just to coat the noodles. To serve, arrange the semi-dressed pasta in warmed dinner bowls and top with a mound of additional sauce, as desired. Sprinkle some grated cheese on top and a garnish of chopped parsley and serve immediately, with additional parmigiana on the side for those who wish a little more.
Guy's Garlic Ciabatta
1 fresh ciabatta or baguette
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
In a small bowl, mash up the butter and minced garlic until it's well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add the chopped parsley. Cut the ciabatta in half length wise being careful not o cut all the way through — it should open like a book. Liberally spread the garlic butter on the inside of both 'halves', then wrap snuggly in aluminum foil. Place in a preheated oven set to 375°F and bake for 15-20 minutes. Just before serving, open the garlic bread up from it's foil package and allow it to cook open to the heat of the oven for another 5 minutes. To serve, close the bread back to it's original loaf shape and slice into 1-inch pieces. Place in a bread basket and serve with the pasta.