When I began writing here the idea was to share my adventures as I learned to be a home cook. Bolognese sauce was exactly the kind of recipe I was not going to share. But here we are.
For me, cooking is so much more than just putting food on a plate. It feeds me in so many more ways. It offers an opportunity to express my creativity. It allows time for me to think and make sense of the changes that are happening in my life. Perhaps most importantly, it gives me the chance to teach my children the things that I feel are really essential, not only practical skills but also simple life lessons.
Recently, I have been teaching Lucia, who is thirteen, to make my bolognese sauce. It’s hardly a recipe which is perfect for the impression I am trying to make. I’m encouraging her to use her intuition to form a beautiful meal. To rely on her judgement for what is needed. To listen to her inner voice or her gut instinct in determining what steps to take next, what to add, what to leave alone.
Of course, much eye rolling would ensue if I came out and told her how important in life it is to listen deeply and honour yourself so I’m teaching her those skills in a practical way. She will know how much salt to add to her sauce and if it requires a pinch of sugar or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar which is wonderful, but I am hopeful that later in life, when she is making decisions, she will be able to draw on these skills and remain true to herself. To listen to her intuition and proceed with confidence. To trust her gut instinct and do what is best for her.
I have to say, my bolognese sauce is pretty spectacular. It is certainly not true to its origins as a meaty ragu and it wouldn’t be found on the menu of a rustic Italian trattoria but it works for my family. I hope yours loves it too.
- 500g of good quality minced beef, pork or a combination of both
- 2 zuccini
- 2 carrots
- 2 sticks of celery
- 1 onion
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- 150g button mushrooms
- a small sweet potato (optional)
- 750mls tomato passata
- 2 tins of chopped or crushed tomatoes
- 1 - 2 cups home made beef stock (or any stock you have)
- Fresh herbs such as rosemary, sage, oregano, bay leaf, thyme and parsley or alternatively you could use a tablespoon of mixed dried italian herbs
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- Use a food processor to finely chop, but not puree, all of your vegetables and garlic. Set aside.
- Heat some olive oil in a large, heavy based pot on the stove top. Add your minced meat, season well and and fry it until it is quite well browned.
- Add the vegetables to the meat in the pot and stir well to combine. Cook over a medium heat for around five minutes.
- Add the passata, tinned tomatoes and stock to the pot. If using fresh herbs, I like to tie them in a kitchen string which means they impart their flavour to the sauce but the woody bits can be removed easily before serving. Add the herbs too.
- Add enough water to cover the sause and bring to a rapid simmer before turning the heat to low and allowing the sauce to bubble away for s long as possible, at least two hours but more like three or four, stirring occasionally.
- Before serving, taste your sauce and add more slat if necessary. Use your own judgement and if the sauce tastes 'sharp' soften it with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
- Remove the herbs and add in a good handful of chopped fresh parsley.
- Serve hot with the pasta of your choice, our favourites are spaghetti, gnocchi or rigatoni.
If you love slow cooking, you might like to try my slow chicken soup, another firm family favourite.