Italian Cuisine Week starts on Monday, a celebration of all that is good about food from this country.
According to a survey, Spaghetti Bolognese is the UK’s favourite Italian dish, which is no great surprise.
Do you remember the scene in Goodfellas (still one of the best films ever made in my view) where Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta, gets sent to a prison for ‘wiseguys’ and he outlines how to make the perfect tomato sauce?
You see one of the Mafia ‘Dons’ using a razor blade to slice garlic very thinly and Henry says it’s the pork that gives the sauce the flavour.
It’s a great scene which just adds to ages old argument, how do you make the perfect Ragu/Bolognese sauce?
As Henry says, do you add pork, or do you stick just to beef? If you are using beef should it be steak, or mince? Do you include veal? Do you use tinned or fresh tomatoes or tomato puree? What pasta should you use? How long should the sauce cook for?
Well, at the risk of having a hit put out on me by the Sicilian mafia (I won’t use this blog to share my friend’s encounter with these Goodfellas when they were on holiday there a few years ago) here’s how I do it, and it’s actually taken from the Bolognese Cooking Academy in Bologna (obviously!) which declared it as the official recipe – so if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.
One of the most important things is not to use spaghetti. Why not, it’s in the name I hear you ask?
Well, here’s why. In Italy the Bolognese version of Ragù (a term used to indicate any meat sauce cooked over low heat for many hours) contains tomatoes and is only served with tagliatelle, tortellini or gnocchi, and never with spaghetti – unless you are eating in a restaurant only for tourists.
This is because these thicker pastas are more able to hold the chunky sauce.
So, after all these years eating spaghetti with your Bolognese, it’s time to stop because you are doing it wrong. Capice?
Before I go full Godfather, here’s the recipe for Italian Cuisine Week.
- 400g of fresh tagliatelle
- 300g of minced beef – The recommended cut is skirt but any good quality mince will do.
- 150g unsmoked pancetta
- 50g carrot — finely chopped or minced
- 50g celery — finely chopped or minced
- 50g onion — finely chopped or minced
- 30g tomato purée
- 1/2 glass red or white wine
- 180 ml fresh milk
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Fry the pancetta gently in a little olive oil until it starts to release its fat. Add the vegetables and fry until the onions are transparent, stirring from time to time.
- Add the beef and cook until it is lightly browned.
- Add the tomato puree and the wine and mix well.
- Add the milk, little by little until it is completely absorbed.
- Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook very slowly for 3 to 4 hours.
- Serve with Fettuccine or Tagliatelle (NOT Spaghetti!)
- Serve with Parmesan cheese on the side.