Traditional Spaghetti Bolognese | Weight Loss and Family Friendly
Spaghetti Bolognese: and you are in Italy! Although we eat a massive variety of food back home, people seem to struggle to imagine us eating anything different than pizza or spaghetti. Yes, we love our carbs, no doubt… but I hope that with time, the more I publish, the more you get to see the delicacies we enjoy all over the boot. This recipe is traditional, yet everyone likes to make it their own way… I can tell my mother’s Bolognese sauce’s smell with closed eyes. Yes, I can do the same with either my grammas’ (well, only one now…) — they are all completely different, yet they all taste like home. My Mom’s is tasty and healthy (a bit anemic my Aunt used to say… as she uses little tomato), while both my grandmothers like the richness of the sauce, almost making more of a ragout (or ragu’ in Italian) rather than a minced beef sauce. If I close my eyes, I’m there right now… dipping a slice of bread in the sauce on my empty plate!
How to make spaghetti Bolognese the traditional way can be a bit of a sticky point; there’s who likes to use mixed meat, who uses barely any tomato, who doesn’t like the soffritto (onion, carrot, celery) to start with… so, I’ll just break the news to you now: this Bolognese sauce recipe — the one I am sharing — is traditional to where I come from in Italy, uses healthy whole ingredients, is weight-loss friendly and is easy-peasy to follow. Here’s my traditional spaghetti Bolognese recipe… enjoy! ~~ Why not try it with this Fluffy Garlic Butter on a slice of bread? Toast it or follow the recipe within the link… yum! Oh, yum!
Traditional Spaghetti Bolognese
Spaghetti Bolognese: and you are in Italy!
- 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 Small Carrot
- 1 Onion (any colour)
- 1 Celery Stick
- 10 g Garlic
- 500 g Minced Beef 5% Fat
- ½ tsp Dry Parsley
- 15 g Tomato Puree
- 1 Tin Chopped Tomato in Juice (400g)
- ¼ tsp sugar
- Black Pepper and Salt to Taste
- 420 g Dry Spaghetti
- Peel the carrot and chop it in cubes of about 5mm in size; wash and slice the celery stick, the onion, and crush or mince the garlic, as preferred.
- In a large pan, which has a lid, put the olive oil and once warm add the garlic, onion, carrots, and celery; mix well and keep on a low-medium flame for a couple of minutes, then add salt and pepper to taste, mix again and put the lid on the pan. Allow the soffritto (or sofrito) to cook for about 5 minutes on a low flame, or until the onions and celery turn golden, the carrots start to soften and the rawness of the garlic has gone.
- Once this happens, put the flame to medium-high and, without the lid start adding the minced beef; try and break it down as much as possible, so you’ll be able to brown it properly. Once all the meat is added, mix the beef well and keep on stirring gently until all of it has browned.
- Once all the minced beef has browned, add the tomato puree and dry parsley and mix well again.
- At this point add the tin of chopped tomato plus 400ml of water, bring to the boil, then bring the flame down to low.
- Add the sugar, stir well once more, and put the lid back on the pan. Ideally, you will be simmering this for at least one hour on a low flame, during which time you will occasionally stir to ensure the sauce doesn’t dry up or stick (depending on how low your low-flame is).
- Remove the lid from the saucepan and allow to continue simmering to bring to the desired consistency.
- Once you are about 20 minutes away from the sauce being ready, put a large pan of water to boil and once the water boils, add the salt and spaghetti and mix well straight away.
- Cook the spaghetti for as long as it says on the package (this will mainly depend on the size of the spaghetti — more of this in notes).
- Once the spaghetti are al dente, drain them quickly, without over-draining them, and add them to the saucepot.
- Mix well the spaghetti and the sauce, divide into six plates and enjoy!
This healthy spaghetti recipe has quite a few ‘very Italian’ notes I’d like to share with you.
Starting from the base: many people (my brother springs to mind) do not like onions (or carrots and celery), so this base can be substituted with a vegetable stock cube. It is not the same — I’ll say it out straight away, but at least some stock will be adding the needed background flavor. If this is the route you’re going down (even if you do not have those ingredients and you are just simplifying it), after the oil, just add the garlic (if wanted), brown the meat, and then add the stock cube, then proceed as per recipe.
Beef Bolognese is the most famous Bolognese, but to add some different flavors, the minced beef can be mixed 50/50 with pork mince, or a sausage can be opened up and added to the mix. This will obviously increase the fat (and calories) of the recipe, but I think it is worth trying it, to taste the difference, perhaps for a special occasion!
I like to use chopped tomato — probably because I like that little bite the tomato has — or because it is lower in calories than passata, but if wanted this can be swapped with it. Passata is higher in calories because it has a ‘higher tomato component’, but it will make it creamier… so try it out both ways and choose your winner!
In regards to the dry parsley… as usual, if you have it, use fresh. Sometimes (because I’m rebelling to Italian tradition I guess?) I add other herbs for a change of flavor, like basil or rosemary. Try with caution, enjoy in full… the rosemary gives it that nice roast flavor… well, let me know what you brave to try!
We’re at the carbs: I like to use the very traditional spaghetti number 5, although, like clothing, also these sizes depend on the brand. The number represents the thickness of the spaghetti, with lower numbers (like the famous thin number three — also called spaghettini) being thinner and the higher (like number eight, known as spaghettoni) being thicker. I like the number 5 for this recipe and like to use very Italian brands, such as Barilla, but if you pop by an Italian shop, you’ll find many different ones, so be brave… give a different brand (or size) a go!
Do not boil the pasta with oil! This is a big NO-NO! After draining the pasta, the oil will remain and it will stop the sauce from sticking to the it… something you really want to avoid!
Another NO-NO is… chopping the spaghetti in half! Why, oh why! If the spaghetti were meant to be short, that’s how they would be sold! There’s an easy way to ‘fit’ the spaghetti in the pan without breaking them; once the water is boiling, take the spaghetti in your hand ‘twist them’ like sticks, and put them in the center of the pan. Once this is done, they should be spreading evenly around the pan, with the bottom half in the water and the top half out. The bottom half will quickly soften and from about 30 seconds to one minute, you should be able to fit the entire spaghetti inside the water, without breaking them.
Following up on my last note… don’t be scared of getting sloppy! Spaghetti Bolognese is love, when you are eating them you are a little bit Italian, so spread a little Parmesan on them and allow your nose to be whipped as you enjoy this fabulous dish!