Monday, 18 June 2012

No Fuss, Quick and Easy Spaghetti Bolognese

My wife, Mrs Ribeye, loves a good old spag bol, and this week she really deserves it.

Bless her, she's had to put up with my sudden fanatical interest in the Euro football tournament, including watching two matches a day (that's three hours!), followed by my endless worrying about whether England will make it through the group stages of the competition, into the knockout rounds.

I'm not always like this. In fact, apart from my youth, when I thought it would be fun for a couple of years to support my local team, Arsenal (it wasn't), I have found watching football a pointless task. Watching other people having fun for money? And people pay to see this?

But like religion, sometimes it's nice that other people make the effort to follow it, so that I don't have to. Take football. If there were no supporters, then I wouldn't have the Euros to enjoy; and religion: without it, I wouldn't have anything to blame for all the woe we humans pile onto each other in its various names and guises.

Anyway, I have all faith that England will beat (or at least draw) with Ukraine tomorrow night, to get through to the quarter-finals. If so, then Mrs Ribeye will have to put up with a bit more of my hand-wringing and obsessive newspaper-reading for signs of rival teams injuries, sending-offs and in-fighting; and to see whether Roy Hodgson will dare to play Wayne Rooney in a very positive 4-3-3 formation with Carroll and Welbeck (go on Roy, you know you want to).

By the end of this tournament, I couldn't care less about any of this of course - until the World Cup in 2014, which will mean a making Mrs Ribeye a lot of her favourite grub to compensate.

Which brings me onto this recipe.

Spaghetti bolognese is such an evocative dish. It's really just a hamburger stew with pasta, but for some reason, it is revered by my wife as the ultimate in 'comfort haute cuisine' fare (oh who am I kidding? I love it too). It's great in this incarnation, and even better when made into my Lasgana Pasta Bake.

To save a huge amount of time, I bought a bag of ready-made soffrito (chopped raw celery, carrot and onion) from Waitrose on the Edgware Road and simply combined all of the ingredients in the pan, without performing all of the regular stage preparation - browning the beef/softening the vegetables etc. The result is great, and because you've cut down on the work, you can spend more time swearing at the TV screen.

The ready-made soffrito cost 99p for a 400g, which is cheaper than buying the individual vegetables - which means that this recipe comes in at a very reasonable £2 per serving.

Serves 2-3


400g ready-made soffrito
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
400g ground beef
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
2 bay leaves
400g can of chopped plum tomatoes, plus half a can of water
Pinches of salt and black pepper
Fresh basil leaves, to serve
300-400g cooked spaghetti or linguine, to serve

Mix everything (not the pasta or the fresh basil) together in a saucepan and cook uncovered, on a moderate heat, until the sauce is thick and unctuous (approx 1 hour, maybe a little more), making sure you stir every now and then to prevent sticking. Sprinkle with the fresh basil leaves and serve with the pasta.

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