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Ah, Spaghetti Bolognese night – the favourite night of the week, right? Spaghetti Bolognese is more than just a quick and easy meal to make. It’s a meal that’s firmly ingrained in the upbringing of any and all South Africans. What makes this dish so well-loved in the country? And what makes you have such a hankering for it, even while living in a new country with new customs and dishes to try? Okay, it’s delicious – that’s why! But let’s find out more about one of South Africa’s dinnertime favourites.

What is Spaghetti Bolognese and Where Does it Come From?

While Spaghetti Bolognese is a firm South African favourite, it hails from much further away. In fact, it comes from Italy. However, we know it as “Spaghetti Bolognese”, but the original dish doesn’t include spaghetti at all. Traditional Italian Bolognese is actually a slow cooker Spaghetti Bolognese. The original version consists of Tagliatelle served with a saucy ragù, which is a meat-based sauce that has been cooked for many hours on low heat, in a tomato base. Nowadays, and especially in South Africa, Spaghetti Bolognese is a spaghetti pasta dish served topped with either ground beef or plant-based mince, cooked quickly in a tomato base sauce and seasoned with herbs. While a far cry from the original dish, it’s still every bit as delicious. 

It is believed that the dish is called Spaghetti Bolognese because it originates from Bologna, a city in Italy. However, on doing investigations, uncovering the exact origins and history of the dish prove difficult. The earliest document including a recipe of Bolognese sauce is found in Imola (near Bologna) in an 1891 cookbook called “Pellegrino Artusi’s Cookbook”. Even so, this recipe is only similar to a “traditional Bolognese sauce”. Interesting, isn’t it? It seems that Spaghetti Bolognese is quite a mysterious dish indeed!

Here’s a Favourite Spaghetti Bolognese Recipe

Now that you have a better idea of where Spaghetti Bolognese might come from, there’s only one thing left to do… and that’s to whip up a Spaghetti Bolognese of your own. You are probably dying to taste an old firm favourite and maybe spoil your new friends and colleagues to taste of it yourself. If you are a bit rusty on how to make the dish, there’s a great Spaghetti Bolognese recipe below for you to try out.

Spaghetti Bolognese recipe ingredients

  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 finely chopped white onion
  • 1 grated carrot
  • 500g of beef mince or plant-based mince
  • ½ cup of dry red wine (Nederburg Baronne is great for this!)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 800g of canned whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil or regular cooking oil
  • 2 teaspoons of white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon of dry mixed herbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 400g of spaghetti 
  • Parmesan cheese powder for serving

Spaghetti Bolognese cooking method

Now that you have all of the essential ingredients, it’s time to cook it all up and ensure it’s served to perfection. Follow these steps:

  • Cook your pasta according to the packet instructions while cooking the pasta sauce. Strain and set aside. 
  • Heat your 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan or skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions and garlic, being careful not to let the garlic stick and burn to the bottom of the pan. Frying should take around 3 minutes or until the onion is starting to brown ever so slightly.
  • Add your chosen mince product to the pan and turn up the heat to high. You need the mince to sizzle! Break up the mince as you fry it until nice and brown. When the mince is almost golden brown, you can add the grated carrot. 
  • Add the grated carrot to the mince and onion fry-up and let it fry for a minute or 2 until it is soft.
  • Add your red wine to the pan and allow it to simmer into the mince for around 1 minute. Continuously stir the mixture to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking and stirring until you can no longer smell the alcohol. Once the alcohol has cooked off the mixture, it’s time to take the next step.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan (except the salt and pepper) and bring to simmer while stirring slowly. When the mixture is simmering, turn the heat down to low. Cook for a further 20 minutes without the lid on, to allow the excess liquid to cook off and to allow all the flavours to “mix in”.
  • If the mixture gets too thick, add a bit of water to it and stir it in. Stir occasionally to ensure that the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. 
  • Taste the sauce before adding salt and pepper so that you can determine just how much is “just right”. And that’s it – you’re done!

Now that you have your sauce ready, all that is left to do is serve it over your cooked spaghetti and thoroughly enjoy it. You can sprinkle a teaspoon of parmesan cheese powder on top to taste (for vegan option: use nutritional yeast flakes). Prepare for that mm-mm-mm moment as you feast on your home-made Spag Bol! It was your favourite…but soon it will be everybody’s favourite – if you choose to share it that is!

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