May 02, 2013

Spaghetti Bolognese - Now or Later

We have entered the parent care years.


3 parents. In their 80s. 2 of 3 in their right minds, but their bodies starting to show signs of wear. 1 of 3 in her wrong mind and wrong body.

Between the three of them we’re playing hard and fast against the brain, the heart, the lungs…trying drugs, trying bars and chairs, shoring up their lifestyles – keeping at least one well out of institutional care.

There’s a lot of adaptation that has to happen – for those dealing with their aging bodies, and for us – as we try to help as much as we can to keep everyone safe, and comfortable and as happy…well…as can be.

And yes, food is involved. Because life is a lot easier if you don't have to worry about dinner so much - or if someone makes it a tad easier for you...

So I'm going to share some of the recipes I have found that work...won't share the ones that don't...and if you could share some ideas too that would be fantastic.

I found myself holding a 500 gram packet of ground beef – grass fed, organic…and there was no way that was going to wait around in the fridge until I finally chucked it in frustration with myself. Yes…that happens.

I needed a recipe that would work now and later – something that could go in the freezer for my Mum to do a quick thaw and chomp. I asked her about shepherd’s pie, cottage pie, chili con carne…but when I said spaghetti Bolognese…her eyes lit up.

So I looked up a bunch of recipes…because you know how you think you know how to make something, but really you find the group brain core dumping ground a much better place for ideas? And the web didn’t disappoint…

Except in one sense – why do the British need to call spaghetti Bolognese ‘spag bol’? 


I found this recipe on the BBC Good Food site. And it was interesting.

So, here is my interpretation of the recipe.

4 slices bacon, diced
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
(the recipe also calls for a chili pepper, diced, but I didn’t have one)
1 lb ground beef, I used extra lean
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 – 28 oz can plum tomatoes
6 or so fresh cherry tomatoes
Fresh or 1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried oregano, or more to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 glass red wine
Beef stock (as much as necessary for liquid)
2 bay leaves
Fresh basil leaves, some for cooking, reserve some for serving

Put a glug of olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan, heat to medium and fry the bacon until brown and crispy. Lower the heat a little and add the onions, garlic – let them soften a little (but not brown) and then add the celery, carrots. Add the rosemary and stir the mixture letting it soften for 8-10 minutes. Add the ground beef and break apart in the pan. Let it brown thoroughly. Stir in the tomato paste for a couple of minutes. Add the canned tomatoes and the wine. Stir in the oregano and basil, salt and pepper. Slice the cherry tomatoes and toss in. Stir. Bring everything to a simmer – and if you need to, this is when you can add some beef stock. Then lower the heat, cover partially, and let simmer for 1 hour 15 minutes. Stir occasionally, making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
The recipe calls for 75g of grated parmesan to be added once it's cooked – however I didn’t have any – and didn’t miss it. I also did a quick taste test as I do with tomato sauces at the end…and added a teaspoon of sugar to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes. Then I chopped up some more fresh basil and added it to the sauce right before serving it – with some as garnish too. Brightens the taste immediately. Serve with spaghetti.
I portioned out the sauce I needed for dinner, then split the remainder among a few food containers, let it cool, then threw it in the freezer. It will easily thaw in the microwave or in a pot on the stove. And it is one of those meals that tastes better the next day…

Mum was happy. And still has some in her freezer for another day.