I LOVE spaghetti. Other pasta don’t do it as much. There’s something about spaghetti. It’s strandy, it’s round, it’s nostalgic. Just like it. Sure I like penne and fettucine and farfalle as much as the next girl but for all the dried pasta I like spaghetti the most. Maybe that’s why it’s popular.
One of the most important ingredients for meat sauce that is the most overlooked, I think, is a nice smoky bacon. And definitely fresh herbs. Sure you can have dried herbs any day of the week but when you add a bit of fresh herbs to it, everything just becomes more special.
This is a recipe that makes me for about 6-8 serves and the sauce freezes really well. I usually just freeze the sauce as soon as it cools and when I want to use it I defrost it by leaving it in the fridge for a few hours. It is generally safe to refreeze something you’ve defrosted in the fridge but I don’t recommend doing it this more than twice. I try to use one batch of meat sauce within a couple of weeks. I’m not too sure it will be safe for longer than that.
Anyway, finely chop a brown onion, two sticks of celery, four cloves of garlic and two strips of streaky smoked bacon (I find that good bacon is so flavourful you don’t need much). Put a frying pan on medium-high heat for a minute or so and toss in the chopped bacon and watch it sizzle (this bit is always fun). After the bacon is nicely browned and the fat rendered, turn the heat down and add the chopped onion and celery. You should allow the onion and celery to sweat over low heat for at least five minutes. You shouldn’t really need to add extra oil.
While the soffritto is cooking, in a separate frying pan and over high heat, cook your mince in batches. Generally if you are using a non-stick frying pan, you don’t really need to add oil here either as the mince usually have a bit of fat it in anyway. You don’t want to overcrowd the pan with minced meat so it ends up steaming in its own juice. You want even high heat so the mince browns. I did 200 grams of mince in two batches. Add the cooked mince to the soffrito and add garlic and about one tablespoon full of fresh thyme leaves. I use thyme today but oregano, basil, sage or rosemary are always good too. One or a combination of fresh herbs really brings out the flavour.
Once you’ve added the meat and herbs, turn the heat up slightly and add a bottle of your favourite pasta sauce. I use Leggo’s Stir Through – Char grilled Vegetables. You can easily use a can of Italian tomatoes here. I use jarred pasta sauce because I really like this one. Good jarred pasta sauce is a bit of a rarity, I have to say. I generally don’t like them. But I am much impressed by the Leggo’s Stir Through range. If you can’t get them where you live either use your favourite pasta sauce (if you have one) or put in a can of tomatoes now. I then add two tablespoon of tomato paste and a bit of water. Bring the sauce to boil and then turn to the heat down to simmer for about 10 minutes.
A note: if you use canned tomatoes instead of ready made pasta sauce, you’ll have to simmer it for much longer to get that good stewy taste. I recommend leaving it to simmer for about 20 minutes longer (half an hour total). You will also have to season the sauce with a bit of salt and pepper. I would also add a little glug of extra virgin olive oil for flavour as well. I would also add a bit of red wine with the meat and soffrito and cook out the alcohol before adding the canned tomatoes (sorry to be going back a step here).
While the sauce is simmering, cook your spaghetti according to the packet instructions less two minutes. This way your spaghetti is slightly undercooked. Drain the pasta but leave a little bit of the cooking water. Add about a ladlefull of meat sauce per person to a saucepan and add the pasta. Toss together to combine over medium heat for a minute. If you find it to be slightly too wet still, just let it rest for a few minutes before serving.
Grate some nice parmesan cheese over the pasa and serve with green salad and a glass of red. Voila!