, , , , ,

I get bored quite easily when it comes to food, mostly when I am the cook.  I typically look for ingredients unknown, flavours not found in your standard spice rack and combinations construed out of a weird anti-conformist trait I am not sure where I picked up. This said, occasionally the situation does arise where a certain combination of ingredients are left in the kitchen, and lack of time, energy or both prevents any further experimental recipe development taking place. If I have spaghetti, mince and tinned tomatoes sitting in the cupboard, then spaghetti bolognaise it will be… but luckily I also have a few other ingredients lying around transforming this family favourite into a dressed up, smoky, creamy version of its former self, almost more like a lasagna bolognaise (which I am sure will have any true-blooded italian chef tearing his hair out ). So slightly corrupted or not, my version still uses all the classic ingredients combined with a few new ones to create a deliciously rich variation of the original, and I will say in my defense, I have never claimed to be a purist.

Non-conformist Lasagna Bolognaise (serves 4) :

1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 small carrots, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 tsp butter and a dash of olive oil
2 tsp smoked paprika (very important for yummy smoky flavour!)
1 tsp mustard powder
1 to 2 sticks fresh rosemary (depending on size)
4 tsp brown sugar
600g minced meat
150 ml cream
50g tomato paste
410g chopped peeled tomatoes
1 pack spaghetti (500g)
salt and pepper
Gruyere cheese (100g), grated

Sautée the Onions in a splash of olive oil and butter. Add the sugar and cook till soft and glassy. Next, add the garlic and smoked paprika – cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
Add the carrots, celery and mince. Brown and season with salt and pepper and 1 tsp mustard powder.

Cut the rosemary in 2 or 3 pieces and add to the browned mince together with150ml of cream. Simmer for about 15 mins. Add the tomato paste and chopped peeled tomatoes. Lower the heat and simmer for a further 30 minutes.

In the meantime cook the pasta until al dente. Serve a portion of pasta onto each plate with some of the bolognaise sauce on top. Sprinkle with grated Gruyere cheese.

Notes on cooking the best pasta (the purist way):

Forget exact cooking times. Forget measuring out salt or olive oil by the tablespoon. There are really just two main tricks to keep in mind when cooking any kind of pasta.

Cook pasta in a large amount of boiling water. An ample amount of water will dilute the starches coming off the pasta and prevent it from becoming gummy and mushy once cooked. For a box of pasta, use at least a 5.5 liters of water.

Salt the water heavily. And we mean heavily! For a 6 liter pot, throw in a healthy handful (or more) of kosher salt. You want pasta water “salty like the sea.”

The salt doesn’t do anything in terms of cooking the pasta; it’s there entirely for flavor. The salt gets absorbed into the pasta during cooking, seasoning from the inside out and ultimately giving you a tastier final dish.

Trust us on this one. Salting your pasta water (heavily) makes a huge difference!

Aside from these two tips, remember to taste your pasta frequently to check on its cooking. Drain the pasta right before it’s cooked to where you like it. The only time you should rinse pasta after draining is when you are going to use the pasta in a cold dish, or when we are not going to sauce and serve it immediately. If the pasta is going to be used later, or in a in a salad, rinse it under cold water to stop the cooking process, and drain well. Dont toss it in olive oil. This is a common misconception, but the olive oil actually makes the pasta slippery, with the result that the sauce can’t cling to the pasta, but slides off.

The other way, the method used by restaurant chefs and Italians:

When you cook pasta you should always undercook it by one or two minutes.
You should remove some (a cup or so) of the pasta water before draining it. Once drained, you should add the pasta to the sauce, and not the other way around, with a few splashes of the pasta water that you put aside.
You sould incorporate the sauce into the pasta and allow it to cook on a low heat for the remaining pasta cooking time. The pasta will absorb all the sauce then and cook to perfection as pasta tends to swell up in the last remaining minutes. Add more cooking water if needed. Finish the pasta with a little bit of olive oil, butter, or both,” says Andrew Carmellini of New York City’s Locanda Verde. “In Italian it’s called mantecare, which means ‘to make creamy.’ ” He adds cold butter to the pasta and sauce in the pan, off the heat, to give it an unctuous texture.

Hope this helps. It certainly helped me!