Bolognese Sauce, Authenticity, and the Australian Women’s Weekly

April 20, 2012 § 1 Comment

I know the bolognese as we have it in Australian cookbooks is not a “real” Italian recipe, especially as far as mince meat is used. I also know that authenticity is a complex concept that, for many people, relies on the assumption that ideas (art, music, recipes, language) can reach their zenith, and we must then work from that place in our own efforts at creating or recreating.

This is clearly bollocks. Cooking, just like language, evolves. Sometimes to new and wonderful places, sometimes to KFC. So it goes.

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate authenticity in cooking. The increased availability of diverse produce in Australia has exponentially improved the quality of non-Western cooking (McKenzie’s curry powder is now only for egg sandwiches, right?) and will continue to do so.

But sometimes there are dishes that are perfect and comforting and aren’t authentic.

This is bolognese as the Australian Women’s Weekly had it when I was a kid. But much, much better. The more patient you are, the better this sauce will be.

Also, don’t put peas in your bolognese. That’s a terrible idea.

Serves at least 6.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 large celery stick, finely chopped
500 grams beef mince or 300 grams beef & 200 pork mince
1/4 cup red wine
1 bay leaf
A small handful of thyme (optional)
1 large bottle sugo (and plenty of water extra)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 cup brown lentils (optional)
Salt & Pepper
1 handful roughly chopped parsley

Chop all the vegetables finely. Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or cast iron pot, over the stove. Put the heat on to medium-high and after a minute add the onions, then the garlic. Stir while cooking until the onions become translucent. Add the chopped carrot and celery. Stir and allow to cook for 5 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pot.

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pot and allow to heat. Add about a third of the mince and brown it well by breaking it up with your spoon and keeping the heat high. Once the mince has browned add the rest of your mince and the 1/4 cup of red wine (I know, you haven’t browned all your mince, it’s ok, you don’t have to! You only have to brown some of your meat really well). Allow the wine to boil up for 10 seconds then turn the heat back to medium, add the vegetables, the bay leaf, the thyme (if you have it), the sugo, the tomato paste and some extra water, about 1/4 of a cup. At this stage, I like to add 1/3 cup of nutty brown lentils, if I have some. They’re good for you, they keep their shape well and they make the sauce go a little bit further, but they will make it less rich. It’s up to you. Generously grind black pepper into the sauce and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir and put the heat on low. Allow the sauce to simmer for at least half an hour (but anywhere up to 2 hours will only improve it), stirring occasionally. Add more water if the sauce looks like it’s drying out.

Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper accordingly. Add the parsley and allow it to cook for a minute before turning the heat off.

Serve with spaghetti and lots of grated parmesan.

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§ One Response to Bolognese Sauce, Authenticity, and the Australian Women’s Weekly

  • Addy says:

    speaking of women’s weekly-esque cooking, a friend of mine puts canned tomato soup into his bolognese sauce and while I initially snorted at how utterly bogan this seemed, it was the sauciest most delicious spagbol I’ve ever had. utterly inauthentic, but soooo tasty!

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