MY Spaghetti Bolognese

I know – this is a real old chestnut, to be found in almost any recipe book you care to name. But I think that’s exactly why it’s a good one to have in your repertoire, because (nearly) everyone loves it, it's easy to make, and it’s a scrumptious classic. I actually have two different spaghetti bolognese recipes - this is a healthier one, with plenty of veg (and a bit of bacon as well as mince), just to keep the flavours fresh and exciting.

500g beef mince
50g or so lardons, or chopped bacon
4 large tomatoes
200g passata
1 large onion
1 large carrot
1 fat stick of celery
A couple of cloves of garlic
A glass of red wine
A good dollop of tomato puree
Salt & black pepper
Olive oil
Dried rosemary and/or oregano
Dried spaghetti, to serve

Serves 4, cook spaghetti accordingly.

To start with, peel & finely chop your onion, top & tail your carrots and celery and chop those too (I never bother to peel the carrot, but you can if you like) and crush a couple of cloves of garlic. Get all those vegetables sizzling in a drizzle of olive oil, and add a good sprinkling of rosemary and oregano. While the vegetables are softening, slice the fresh tomatoes and put those to one side. Once the onions have started to turn golden, add the mince and the lardons – you can use ordinary bacon, of course, but I recently discovered lardons for cooking and I think they’re fantastic. The chunky cut gives them a lovely meatiness, whereas thin-cut bacon does sometimes disappear in a sauce, and the extra bit of fattiness adds a wonderful flavour.

Keep stirring the pan as the mince and bacon cook, and then once they’ve browned, add the glass of red wine – it’s important to add it at the frying stage, rather than just pouring it into the sauce later on, because then the alcohol burns off and leaves a lovely flavour without any bitterness. Once that’s largely disappeared, add your fresh tomatoes, let them sizzle for a minute, and then pour in the passata (which is a lovely smooth, sieved tomato mix – but you can also use tinned chopped tomatoes if you like) and the tomato puree, season well, and leave the sauce to simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes or so. If you can, leave the sauce for longer – it’ll just keep getting better, so if you want to start making this early and then just leave it to bubble until you’re ready to eat, that will only improve it.

Finally, have a good taste of the sauce and add anything else you think it needs – now might be the time to add a teaspoon of sugar, if the tomatoes have made it a bit sour. Leave the sauce to bubble while you get the spaghetti cooking, and then serve up a bowlful with a generous helping of grated cheddar and a glass of red wine. Cin cin!