I think that sometimes the simplest things done incredibly well make the biggest impact. That’s why I’m posting this bolognese. One simple trick turns ordinary mince into something extraordinary.
Bake your mince!
Don’t fry it. Bake it.
Sounds weird I know- I saw the idea in Tom Kerridge’s book but then when he explained it it made so much sense. Recipes always tell you to fry until the mince browned, but I never really get it that brown – and unless you fry it in batches it’s pretty hard to. That’s where the oven comes in- you can do about 1kg at a time, laid flat on a baking tray- there’s no need to add any oil and you end up with the most deliciously browned flavoursome mince.
Even if you prefer to use a jar of tomato sauce baking your mince takes it to another level. You’ll be amazed!
As per Tom Kerridge’s recipe I’ve baked and then simmered my mince with a blend of spices including star anise and clove but feel free to change these depending on what you like and want to eat the mince with. I’m planning on making another batch using lamb mince and Moroccan spices such as cinnamon and cardamom- perhaps I will add dried fruit at the end and wrap it in filo to make a pastille. But that’s for another day…
As with all mince/ bolognese/ ragu recipes this is incredibly versatile and I suggest you make a big batch and portion the leftovers up for the freezer for days when you want a yummy but speedy meal.
Adapted from Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes
500g beef mince
500g pork mince
5 star anise
3 tins of chopped tomatoes (1.2kg)
250g smoked bacon lardons or pancetta
3 onions, finely diced
3 sticks celery, finely diced
3 carrots, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, grated or minced
250ml red wine
120ml red wine vinegar
1tbsp light brown sugar (or caster/ granulated)
5 bay leaves, slightly ripped
2tbsp dried oregano
800ml beef stock
- Preheat the oven to 190C
- Spread the mince out on a large baking tray and add the star anise and cloves* (only bake the mince on one level of the oven- don’t be tempted to use two as the lower mince won’t brown so well).
- Bake the mince for 15 mins, then take it out and stir, breaking up any chunks. Place back in the oven for another 40 mins taking it out every 10 mins to give it a stir and break up the remaining chunks. You want the mince to be a dark brown all over. Don’t worry about it being crispy (this is a good thing!) as it will soften during the simmering.
- When the mince has around 15mins to go heat a little oil in a pan over a medium heat and add the bacon. Cook it until has browned nicely then turn the temperature down a little and add the onion, carrots, celery and a large pinch of salt. Cook with the lid on the pan, stirring every now and then, until softened – this will take about 10mins.
- Add the wine and vinegar into the pan with the vegetables along with the sugar, bay leaves and oregano. Turn the heat up to bring the liquid to a boil, turn it down again to medium and simmer until the amount of liquid has halved.
- Add the baked mince to the pan, leaving any excess fat behind. Then add the tomatoes and stock. Again turn the heat up to bring it to a boil and then back down to simmer. Simmer for 1.5/ 2hrs by which point the mince should is coated in a rich sauce and the flavours mingled. Add a splash of water and put a lid on if it gets too dry. Season to taste.
- Use immediately or store in the fridge/ freezer. The flavour will in fact develop if it is cooked the day before it is needed.
If eating with spaghetti/ pasta
75-100g dried pasta per person**
- Cook the pasta in salted boiling water for two mins less than it says on the packet, reserve a ladleful of cooking water (about 200ml) and drain.
- Return the pasta to the pan with the mince and around 50ml of the water. Cook over a medium eat for a couple of mins, adding more of the reserved water if it is looking at all dry, so that the mince clings to the pasta.
- Serve with plenty of Parmesan and black pepper.
* If you have spice bags or some muslin you can wrap the spices up to save you searching for them later
**I prefer to use tagliatelle as there is more pasta for the sauce to cling on to
This will keep well in the fridge for a few days (the flavour will actually improve) or the freezer for a couple of months.