I love classic pastas dishes. There is something totally satisfying about an Italian pasta dish prepared in the traditional way. When I am in the kitchen preparing such a dish, I try to imagine I am in the midst of a large Italian family. The buzz of the ceiling fan, the background music of cheerful Italian pop, the shouts of the children playing soccer on the cobblestone streets outside, the full bodied aroma of a huge pot of freshly prepared pasta and sauce are all images and sounds that entice my imagination.
One of the most classical pasta dishes has got to be Spaghetti alla Bolognese. It also happens to be the most favorite pasta dish in our household. I like spending time over the bolognese, because after all if prepared with love and care this sauce is really unbeatable.
The bolognese sauce, also known as ragu, is basically a meat based sauce, which originates from the city of Bologna. It incorporates ground beef, chunky vegetables, pancetta, and tomato paste to give a thick delectable sauce. Traditionally, the bolognese was served with fresh flat pasta, similar to the tagliatelle, over the years however spaghetti became the popular pasta dish which was served with this sauce.
The best bolognese I have eaten was, surprisingly not in Italy! It was actually at the Sheraton in Doha, Qatar. The chef was a humorous Swiss guy. I literally grew up on the stuff, when I would dig into a huge plateful of pasta bolognese at least once a week. When I finally got around to training in the kitchen of the Sheraton at the age of 19, I was lucky enough that the Chef was still around. My first day with the chef was memorable. He had me cutting vegetables in the tiniest of cubes for the whole day. I was irritated because all I wanted to do was make that bolognese. The next day he winked at me and put a huge sack of onions and garlic in front of me. I have never cried and cursed so much in my life. On the fourth day, he finally took me under his wing and showed me how to make the prized bolognese.
I have worked on this recipe over the years. Not really changing very much, just a sprinkling here and a hint there. But as I write this recipe for you, I am looking at the old Sheraton Doha letterhead, where I wrote the recipe down that day during my lunch break. And as if it were a seal of approval, there is a huge stain of the bolognese at the bottom.
The bolognese ragu can be varied in several ways. If you do not like beef use ground chicken. Add a handful porcini mushrooms to the sauce for a wonderful earthy flavor. For a vegetarian ragu, I have used vegetarian “ground beef” crumbles made of soya protein. These can be found in almost any grocery or organic stores. Whatever is used the basic method of preparation remains the same. I guarantee you a thick ragu for your pasta that will have you licking the plates clean.
Monthly Mingle 21 - Appetizers & Hors'Doeuvres
The Monthly Mingle is traveling this month again. This time to sunny California at Mansi's Fun & Food. Mansi has chosen a great theme - Appetizers and Hors'Doeuvres. If you love entertaining then you cannot miss this mingle.
For this monthly mingle, we'd like you to share some fancy vegetarian appetizers. Cook something that's pretty to look at and tasty to bite in, something that looks good on a plate and is irresistible to your guests!
Here's how it works:
1. All entries must be vegetarian (no meat or seafood); eggs and cheese is allowed
2. It can be sweet or savoury, as long as it is petit and crudite, fitting to be an Hors'Doeuvres. Anything that is bite-sized or individual serving-size is acceptable.
3. Entries must be received by June 9th at the latest.
4. Email your
- your name
- your location
- the name of your blog and its url
- the name of your dish and a link to the relevant post
- a copy of the main photo of your dish 200px wide
5. Please include a link-back to Mansi's post and/or to this blog to encourage more readers to join in the fun.
6. Feel free to use the logo above
7. Older entries on blogs can be accepted only if they are republished in the month of May with a link-back to this announcement.
Printable version of recipe here.
2 onions, finely chopped
1 garlic, finely chopped
1 medium sized carrot, finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped
50g pancetta, finely chopped
3 springs each - thyme, oregano and basil, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
400g ground beef - not too lean or else the ragu will get too dry
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/8 liter stock - vegetable or beef
Salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
425 ml can of tomatoes
400g fresh pasta - spaghetti or tagliatelle
40g parmesan cheese, grated
In a large heavy pan heat the oil and sauté the ground beef, breaking up the beef with a spatula - approx. 5 minutes. Add the pancetta, onions, garlic and vegetables into the pan and continue to sauté for a further few minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
Mix in the tomato paste and cook for a minute. Pour in the stock and add the bay leaf, cloves, thyme and canned tomatoes including the juice. Bring everything to a rolling boil then reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Cook pasta according to the instructions on the packet.
Add the basil and oregano to the ragu, which should have nicely thickened by now.
Remove from heat. Put the pasta in a large bowl and pour the ragu over the pasta. Toss well. Serve in deep plates with a good sprinkling of parmesan cheese.
- Make a double portion of this ragu and use it to make a scrumptious lasagne.
- Buying pasta that is a bit rough will help the ragu to coat it well. Look out on the packet for pasta that is formed in copper forms. Pasta produced in such forms is the traditional way pasta is made. Pasta made in plastic forms produces a smoother pasta which causes the sauce to simply slide off.
Nothing could bring bigger smiles all around the dinner table. This sauce has a perfect balance of spices, herbs and vegetables. It's not too tomato-ey but rather chunky. It's perfect when you have a lot of friends around for game night. I normally make three to four different types of pastas to serve with this sauce for variety. Thanks Chef Z. for teaching me how to make this great ragu. I hope you all enjoy it as much as we do!
More pasta dishes on WFLH:
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