Mac n cheese has to be one of my favourite comfort foods, and when you add a hearty bolognese sauce into the mix, it becomes just that much more comforting.
Don’t you agree?
I never use a recipe when making a bolognese and just cook by instinct. I sometimes add celery and carrot, and other times I add bacon. I often use oregano as a herb, and generally like to include tomato paste to intensify the tomato flavour. Its always a case of a bit of this, a splash of that, and whatever herb I have lying around.
Here I decided to make it a bit differently to what I normally do, and I also wrote the recipe down. I happened to have parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme on hand, so decided to go with all of these. Why not? They wrote a song about them, so they must be good together.
Rosemary is not what I would typically add, but my mom used to use it in her bolognese, so this recipe brought back memories of her which kinda made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Because I live alone I didn’t eat the whole thing and froze off a few portions for later consumption. The later consumption has already taken place (I did this a while ago), and was so thrilled to have written the recipe down. It is a dish I will definitely want to make again. Exactly like I did it here.
*A note on the herbs for this: I used a small bunch of parsley (the most out of the 4) , about 5 sage leaves, 4 – 5 sprigs of thyme, 2 small sprigs of rosemary (leaves removed). Apologies for no precise measurement here, you will have to wing it. I chopped them all up fairly finely.
* A note on the meat cooking: here I followed a little technique I picked up from Gordon Ramsay on his ‘Ultimate Cooking Course’ – which is to fry the meat further than you would normally, until all the liquid has cooked off and the meat starts to caramelise. The browning that happens to the meat is called the Maillard reaction and is when the protein in the meat changes to sugar compounds and in the process a load of different flavour is created. It makes so much sense to me to make sure the mince gets to this stage, so when you add all the other sauce components, they build on the base flavour. I have taken to adding miso paste to a lot of my savoury and meaty recipes, it adds so much umamui and depth. As its fairly flavour neutral, it amplifies the other flavours in the dish.
Recipe | serves 4
- 350 – 400g – short pasta noodles like macaroni or rigatoni – cooked to al dente
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 star anise pod
- splash of olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic crushed
- 500 g of beef mince
- 1/2 cup (125ml) red wine – and maybe a splash more
- 1 tin of tomatoes
- 1 T miso paste
- 2 t sugar
- parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme – all chopped
- pinch of dried chilli flakes.
- 50g butter
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) flour)
- milk – about 2 1/2 – 3 cups
- 1 t Dijon mustard
- a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- salt and pepper (I prefer white pepper here)
- 3/4 of a cup of breadcrumbs fried in about 50g of butter until golden. Add a few thyme leaves (optional)
- 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese for the top
Fry the onions and star anise in the olive oil until soft over a low temp until (This is a Heston Blumenthal thing which I have taken to doing, it makes the onions taste better).
Remove the star anise, add the garlic and the mince and turn up the heat. Fry this until the meat has caramelised (see note above recipe on this).
Add the wine and and deglaze the pan and allow the liquid to cook off.
Add the rest of the ingredients and allow them to bubble away for a min of 45 minutes, but longer if possible. I love to cook my bolognese for ages over a low heat, adding a splash of wine later of if it looks to be drying out a bit. I cook it for some of the time with the lid on to retain the moisture, and some of the time with it off to thicken it. You could also consider getting very cheffy and placing a cartouche over the sauce (this is a paper lid, cut to the size of your pot, that helps to retain moisture in the food).
Make the bechamel by melting the butter in a small put and then add the flour to form a roux. Cook this for a bit until it is stiff. Add the milk bit by bit, continuing to whisk all the time until the sauce has thickened and does not thicken any further. Add the mustard, nutmeg and seasoning. I always make sure the bechamel tastes just right on its own to ensure its ready, before adding it to a dish.
Mix the cooked pasta with the bolognese sauce and add about 2/3 of the bechamel sauce and mix evenly. Empty this into an appropriately sized oven dish. Spread the remaining bechamel sauce over the top, sprinkle the crumb garnish and Parmesan cheese, and bake in an oven that has been pre heated to 180C for 25 minutes until golden and bubbling.
A good hearty meal like this needs a hearty red wine to go with it, and after tasting the recently launched De Wetshof Thibault, this is one I could highly recommend.
De Wetshof is one of my favourite wine producers in South Africa and are well known for their beautiful Chardonnays. They are committed to site-specific vineyard management and wine making, and the Thibault is made from two of these specific blocks, Merlot block 8, and Cabernet Sauvignon block 11. Its kind of like raising each child in their own special way, nurturing their specific needs, which can only have a better result.
The grapes are picked in the cool mornings to capture their fruitiness, and this wine is robust, elegant and typical of a Bordeaux style blend. I absolutely love it.
This is a little look at the special lunch.
I look forward to connecting with you again in the future.
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