I think good old spaghetti Bolognese gets something of a bad name. It may not be hugely glamorous, but it does make a good, easy (and if other families are like mine) incredibly popular family meal.
It’s a great dish to teach kids, you can enjoy it with spaghetti or other pasta ‘as is’ for a quick and easy anytime meal, or use it as the base for a more elaborate dish like lasagne when time or inclination allow.
You can make a very basic version or a more elaborate version – the choice is yours.
For 6–8 servings:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
750–800g lean minced beef
2 x 400g can diced tomatoes in juice
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tsp each dried basil and thyme
salt and black pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large frypan or pot. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened.
Break the beef into golfball-sized pieces and add it to the onion mixture. Cook stirring to break up any lumps, until the beef has lost its pink colour.
Add the tomatoes (and juice), the tomato paste and herbs. Heat the mixture to boiling, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10–15 minutes.
(If you are going to serve it over spaghetti you can cook 100g per person during this time.)
If you want to add some extra vegetables, add any or all of the following: 1 medium carrot, finely diced, 1–2 sticks celery, finely chopped, 1/2 red or green pepper, deseeded and diced, to the pot or pan after the onions have softened and cook for 2–3 minutes longer before adding the beef.
Make a double mixture and freeze or refrigerate half the mixture for later use.
Lasagne has become a firm family favourite. Although the individual steps are simple, it does take a while to put together then cook, so it’s a great weekend dish.
For 6-8 servings:
1 x recipe Basic Beef Bolognese Sauce
2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups milk
1 cup grated tasty cheese
about 250g lasagne sheets
pinch of ground paprika
Prepare the beef sauce as described in steps 1–3 above. While the sauce simmers, prepare the cheese sauce.
Melt the butter in a medium-sized pot. As soon as the butter is melted stir in the flour and cook for 2–3 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid browning. Add the salt, then the grated nutmeg, and begin adding the milk, half a cup at a time. Stir briskly to break up any lumps, and allow the sauce to thicken and boil between each addition.
When all the milk has been added and the sauce has thickened, remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese.
To assemble the lasagne, lightly oil a shallow 20x30x5cm ovenproof casserole or lasagne dish. Spread a quarter of the beef mixture in the dish and cover with a layer of lasagne sheets. Repeat to make four layers, finishing with a layer of lasagne. Pour the cheese sauce over the top and sprinkle with the grated Parmesan and paprika, if using.
Bake at 175°C for 40 minutes. Serve with salad/s of your choice and plain or garlic bread.
Photography: Lindsay Keats