I do declare that if you start with something delicious like say, a nice beef ragu* alla bolognese and some fresh pasta sheets, and then combine previously mentioned delicious things with big fat layer of béchamel sauce and possibly bake the combination of said ingredients in a 180C oven for somewhere around the 30-40 minute mark, depending on how many layers of saucy pasta-y goodness you have. After required timespan has elapsed pull that bubbling tray of awesome from the oven (using a towel or your grandmas floral oven mits right now is good advice I shall give you free of charge), put your face in it and tell me you love me…
RAGU ALLA BOLOGNESE
Disclaimer. I don’t have a ragu recipe that I adhere to every time. I kinda just wing it with what I have on hand or what I’m loving at the time, which seems to work for me. This recipe is how I rolled on this particular occasion.
500-600g beef mince (there is no reason why you couldn’t replace some of the beef mince with pork mince or good Italian sausage. Something like pork and fennel…)
2 onions, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stick of celery, diced
4 cloves of garlic, brutalized with a knife
1 bunch of basil from the garden (before the caterpillars eat it all)
2 tins of crushed tomatoes… but I think I actually used 3…
Fresh pasta sheets
Béchamel sauce… white sauce… you can make that by now, yeah? Don’t forget a grating of fresh nutmeg now will you
Some stuff to serve it with
- Sweat off your vegetables and garlic in a good hit of olive oil. Once they are starting to soften and colour just a wee little bit remove them from the pan and set aside
- Get the pan back up to heat and add a little more oil. Fry the mince off, breaking it up with a spoon as you go so you don’t have big, freakish chunks of congealed mince in there. We are NOT making meatballs
- Once the mince is browning up and smelling delicious add the vegetable mix back into the pan
- Cook out for 5 minutes or until its starting to catch a little
- Deglaze with wine, or in this case a splash of balsamic vinegar
- Add the tomatoes and one tin of water
- Simmer on a low heat for a long time. Read the paper… watch Lord of the Rings… build a new cage for your pet carnie… it doesn’t matter what you do just give this thing a bit of time to cook
- Add the basil and turn that bad boy off
- Now make your béchamel, or if you are smart, you could possibly make it while you’re simmering your ragu
- Layer the ragu and pasta in an oven dish (3 layers will do. 4-5 layers are great. 9 layers is just bloody silly). Finish with a layer of béchamel sauce
- Bake at 180C for 30 or so minutes until the young, white robed virgin comes out brown and crusty (and believe me this is probably the only time in your life you’re actually going to be keen for that to happen)
- Douse it in olive oil and parmesan and consume with sides of your choice. Yeah, you choose
I may have also chucked a couple of anchovies in there because they are not too good for their home and this is clearly their home. I am also not even remotely afraid to chuck a cinnamon quill into a ragu as it adds a nice little hint of floral sweetness, just like your grandma’s undies drawer.
I would’ve liked to deglaze with a little wine but seeing as I seemed to have drunk all of that the night previous, I shall settle for some good balsamic vinegar. Don’t be afraid to use a little balsamic in instances such as these. A splash is good for your little acid hit, and won’t haunt you with flash backs years down the track.
It looks so pure and innocent.
The crusty old scar faced Keith Richards’s doppelgänger hooker you end up with… and doesn’t she look beautiful?
*You may notice that I am spelling ragu a little differently from my normal spelling; ragout. Well it is not because I am stupid, although that may be the answer to a lot of my other problems. It is because today we are doing ragu alla Bolognese – a saucy little Italian number, where as the ragout is French for fucking good stew. That’s all.
** And please don’t think you can only do this with pasta sheets. If all you have in the cupboard is penne or pretty little girly bow tie pasta use that instead. It works a treat. Granted, it is not lasagna but it is some damn tasty pasta bake with béchamel type shit.