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Spaghetti Bolognese

Ragu is the true name for the bolognese sauce that is served with lasagna verdi rather than spaghetti in it’s home town of Bologna and traditionally includes chicken livers, bacon, carrot and celery.  This recipe is fairly traditional for a British bolognese sauce but the addition of sun-dried tomatoes and a jar of marinated mushrooms give it a distinctive taste and a really rich flavour.

It’s an ideal recipe to make in advance if you’re cooking for a large number of people and tastes even better the day after it is prepared.   Any leftovers freeze well and also make a great filling for an oven baked jacket potato, scattered with plenty of grated cheese.

Serves 6-8

2 tbsp olive oil or 2 tbsp sun dried tomato oil from the jar

6 rashers smoked streaky bacon, chopped

2 large onions, chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 large glasses red wine

2 tins chopped tomatoes

1 kg lean minced beef

2 bay leaves, fresh or dried

1 jar (290g) antipasti marinated mushrooms, drained

12 -14 sun-dried tomato halves, in oil

1 tsp dried oregano or small handful fresh leaves, chopped

1 tsp dried thyme or small handful fresh leaves chopped

drizzle balsamic vinegar

salt and freshly ground black pepper

good handful fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces

800g-1kg dried spaghetti

lots of freshly grated parmesan cheese, to serve

Heat the oil in a large heavy based saucepan and fry the bacon until golden over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, frying until its softened. Increase the heat and add the minced beef.  Fry it until it has browned, breaking down any chunks of meat with a wooden spoon. Pour in the wine and boil until it has reduced in volume by about a third.  Reduce the temperature and stir in the tomatoes, drained mushrooms, bay leaves, oregano, thyme and balsamic vinegar.

Either blitz the sun dried tomatoes in a small blender with a little of the oil to loosen, or just finely chop before adding to the pan. Season well with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and simmer the bolognese over a gentle heat for 1 – 1½ hours until it’s rich and thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in the basil and add any extra seasoning if necessary.

Remove from the heat to ‘settle’ whilst you cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water (for the time stated on the packet). Drain and divide between warmed plates. Scatter a little parmesan over the spaghetti before adding a good ladle full of the bolognese sauce, finishing with a scattering of more cheese and a twist of black pepper.

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