Spaghetti Bolognese, or spaghetti with meat sauce, has long been a favourite in our house. However my recipe has evolved a huge amount over the past few years. When I was growing up, spaghetti with meat sauce involved a sauce in which tomatoes were a recognisable, integral and well-loved part. Then I met my husband I found that in his family, meat sauce for spaghetti bore more resemblance to beef gravy than anything else and contained few, if any, tomatoes. In an attempt to fit in, and to please him, I amended my family recipe to suit his, and began to dread serving what was once one of my favourite dishes. Everyone else loved it, but I missed my tomatoes. The only way I could sneak them in was to use a prepared jarred sauce, and I worried that they might not be the healthiest choice.
But in the last few months, after literally years of trying, I have finally found a way to make this dish in a way that means we all enjoy it, and without a jar of spaghetti sauce in sight. In fact, whenever I serve this version to guests, I always get asked for the recipe. As for my husband, he says he not only loves it, but he prefers it to the version he was used to. And if you are thinking he is just trying to make me feel good, let me tell you, when it comes to food, my husband speaks his mind!
This recipe loves the addition of fresh herbs if you have them. Last time I was cooking this I slipped a couple whole sprigs of thyme in while the sauce was simmering and removed them before serving. It was a fantastic (although purely optional) addition.
To serve four to five people you need:-
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 pound of ground beef (pasture raised if possible)
3 to 4 cups of homemade tomato sauce or jarred passsata (sieved tomatoes), organic if possible
1 beef stock cube
1 to 2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
3 to 4 tablespoons basil pesto
1 pound spaghetti
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve (optional)
Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat and sauté the onion until it begins to soften and become translucent. Add the ground beef and brown, stirring to break up any large chunks.
Crumble the stock cube over the beef and stir through. (I know stock cubes are not good for you, but just the one cube really works here.) Add the tomato sauce or passata, oregano, bay leaf and any other herbs. Stir through, reduce the heat, and simmer for at least twenty minutes (up to forty minutes is fine).
Remove the bay leaf, and any other whole herbs you may have added (like the sprigs of thyme I suggested). Stir in the pesto. Taste for seasoning and add salt and/or pepper if you feel the sauce needs it. Simmer again while you cook the spaghetti in boiling, salted water according to package directions.
Drain the spaghetti and serve with the sauce. Garnish with the Parmesan cheese, if using.