For an amazing, rustic, homemade meal, there is nothing better than spaghetti with meat sauce. More properly called bolognese, meat sauce is a hearty, delicious topping for any type of pasta. It goes especially well with spaghetti or tagliatelle.
History of Bolognese
The first recipe for bolognese seen in history was published during the 18th century in a town near Bologna, Italy. It was published by Pellegrino Artusi, in a recipe he called “maccheroni alla bolognese.” His recipe only loosely resembles our current idea of bolognese but it quite obvious that this is where modern bolognese got its start. His recipe called for veal, pancetta, onions, butter, and carrots. He instructed cooks to finely mince all of the ingredients and cook them all together until the meat was browned. Cooks were then instructed to cover the ingredients with broth and finish with some cream.
Perhaps the largest change to bolognese since its inception was the addition of tomatoes. We also now typically use ground beef as opposed to minced veal. The Italian Academy of Cuisine has stated that a true bolognese must use beef, unsmoked pancetta, onions, celery, carrots, tomato puree, dry white wine, milk, meat broth, and salt and pepper. Of course, as with all recipes, cooks worldwide continue to play with different ingredients and make their own variations. Americans also tend to prefer spaghetti as opposed to the Italian-preferred tagliatelle. As it turns out, spaghetti is considered more traditional than tagliatelle, even though tagliatelle is a more suitable pasta shape to serve with bolognese in terms of texture.
Spaghetti ala Bolognese
While many Italians feel that spaghetti ala bolognese is inauthentic, it does resemble a dish known as Neapolitan ragu very closely. It is typically served with a higher sauce per pasta ratio than other Italian dishes. Another difference is that the sauce is served on top of the pasta, as opposed to mixed in, as is traditional in Italian dishes. Like other Italian dishes, it is served with a topping of grated parmesan cheese.
Surprisingly, it is very uncommon to find spaghetti ala bolognese anywhere in Italy. It is commonly served in North America, Northern and Western Europe, New Zealand, and Australia. This is probably a result of Italian immigration in the 20th century. It is likely that this was the time that local cuisine combined with Italian cuisine. Bolognese sauce is also found in lasagna, along with a bechamel sauce.
If you are ready to make your own spaghetti with meat sauce, here’s a recipe that you are sure to enjoy:
- 1 pound of ground beef, preferably lean
- 1 cup of chopped onions
- 29 ounces of diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
- 6 ounces of tomato paste
- 8 ounces of mushrooms
- ½ teaspoon of oregano
- ¼ teaspoon of basil
- ½ teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1 chopped bell pepper
- 1 pound of spaghetti
- In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, brown your ground beef, along with the chopped onion. Medium heat is best for this.
- Once the beef is fully browned, add in your tomatoes, tomato paste, mushrooms, and any seasonings. The amounts listed above are just suggestions; feel free to adjust them to your tastes.
- After covering the pot, allow the mixture to simmer for at least 45 minutes, or until the acidity of the tomatoes starts to dissipate.
- After 45 minutes, add your chopped green pepper. Allow it to simmer again for at least 15 minutes, or until the green peppers have softened.
- While you are waiting for the sauce to finish, bring a large pot of water, with a tablespoon of salt, to a boil.
- Add your pasta and cook according to the directions on the package.
- Drain your pasta.
- Put your cooked pasta in a bowl and top with your homemade bolognese and some freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Kicking it Up
If you want to make your sauce differently than the standard recipe, there are many things you can change. Try adding red pepper flakes if you like a little bit of heat. If you prefer, you can also use fresh garlic instead of garlic powder. Simply add minced garlic to the mixture after the meat has browned and let it cook for a few minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients. If you want to go the traditional route, use tagliatelle instead of spaghetti. If you opt for tagliatelle, it is recommended that you stir the sauce into the pasta before you serve it.