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.
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. It’s 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 from 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.
*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 umami and depth. As its fairly flavour neutral, it amplifies the other flavours in the dish.
Recipe | serves 4
Bolognese mac and cheese
- 350 - 400 g - 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.
- 50 g butter
- 1/3 cup 80 ml flour)
- milk - about 2 1/2 - 3 cups
- 2 tsp 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 the note above recipe on this).
- Add the wine 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 low heat, adding a splash of wine later 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 pot 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 preheated to 180C for 25 minutes until golden and bubbling.
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