I’m sure many of you like me have a recipe that you’ve been making for years and over those years it has developed slowly into something that is a staple.


I was just cooking a ragu for lasagne and I got thinking of the changes I’ve made to it over the years, as I write this the smell is wafting up into the office. Most of these changes have come about by influences on my time spent with Italian flatmates in the UK and also my time in France surprisingly. The recipe for spaghetti bolognese is a time honoured traditional student recipe and everyone makes it at some point in their life. I was lucky to learn some Italian home cooking at university like “mamma used to make” and amongst those recipes was of course good old “spag bol”.

Having armed myself with a basic recipe I didn’t defer from it for many years. Little by little changes crept in such as adding a bay leaf  and then later some tarragon as well as the dried herbs. Tarragon? I hear you ask, it’s not exactly traditional, but I find the aniseedy hit just gives it that nice background flavour. The addition of tarragon came about when I spent time in France, the only mixed herbs I could buy in the local shop were herbes de provence, so when I was back in the UK I started with tarragon. I never used to slow cook it either, but with a good casserole pot (aka my trusty staub) I wouldn’t dream of cooking it for less than three hours these days. And yes, it does make all the difference.

There was also a time (possibly during the whole mad cow disease scare in the UK) when I cooked with turkey mince, but I still had to add an oxo cube to get the beefy flavour. Kinda defeated the object, I saw sense in the end.

So enough of my waffle and without further ado here’s my recipe.

Italian style ragu

400g minced shin beef or 250g minced shin beef and 150g pork shoulder mince

30g pancetta or smoked bacon diced
1 onion finely chopped
1 celery stalk finely chopped
1 carrot finely chopped
1 clove garlic finely chopped
10g finely chopped dried porcini
1 tin of tomatoes
50ml passata
100ml red wine
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 tablespoon dried herbs
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 bay leaf
Oil for frying
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 120 Celsius
Start by frying off the onions, carrots and celery until soft, then add the garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Place the veg to one side on a plate and then fry off the mince and and brown it, add the bacon in last.
Place the rest of the ingredients in the pan and add in the veg, stir to bring together.
Bring the mixture briefly to the boil to take the edge of the alcohol and then place in the oven for 3 hours.

This can be served with whatever pasta you fancy or used as a base for lasagne.


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