For a long time, tackling Bolognese felt like a daunting prospect. Not because of the cookery involved, and certainly not because of any doubt as to its worth – I mean who would genuinely take exception to a plate of Spaghetti Bolognese? It is surely one of the most beloved comfort foods throughout most households. And therein lies the problem. Spaghetti Bolognese, Spag Bol, Meat Sauce, Ragu – it means many things to many people, most of which involve fond and fiercely-defended memories.
Our version uses Beef Cheek to create a wonderfully rich and decadent version of this classic dish. Exemplifying Bolognese to be enjoyed as we see it – a comforting treat for an equivalent occasion.
When writing this recipe we discovered we have some pretty strong opinions on Spag Bol. These can be found HERE
2 Large Beef Cheeks, approx 900g
2 Onions, finely diced
1 Large Carrot, finely diced
2 Stalks of Celery, finely diced
100g Smoked Pancetta, diced
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
3 tsp Tomato Concentrate
2 x 400g Tin of Peeled Plum Tomatoes
250ml White Wine
500ml Chicken Stock,
3 tsp Dried Oregano
2–3 Bay Leaves
25g Plain Flour
1 Large Bunch of Basil,
1 Small Bunch of Parsley, roughly chopped
Generous Pinch of Salt & Pepper
Pasta – we used Pappardelle
1. Preheat the oven to 160Cº.
2. Place a large, casserole pan over low heat and add the diced pancetta into the pan, gradually increasing the heat to high as the fat renders out of the pancetta. Once sizzling and the pancetta is starting to crisp, remove from the pan.
3. Divide each beef cheek into 3 equal-sized pieces. Season the flour generously with salt and pepper and then dredge the beef cheek pieces in the flour until evenly coated.
4. Add an extra lug of olive oil to the pan, along with the pancetta fat and return to high heat. Next, add the beef cheek pieces to the pan and brown on all sides. You may need to work in batches to do this. Once browned, remove from the pan.
5. Add in the onion, carrot and celery into the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes until starting to colour. Then, add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with a splash of the white wine, scraping off any fond at the bottom of the pan, before adding the tomato concentrate to the pan, along with the plum tomatoes, oregano, milk and the remaining wine, mixing together to combine.
6. Return the beef cheek pieces and pancetta to the pot, and top up with chicken stock until just covering the pieces of beef cheek. You may need to add more or less chicken stock than specified depending on the size of your pan. Add a large bunch of basil and the bay leaves to the pan, cover with a lid and transfer to the oven with a lid and cook for 3½ – 4 hours until the meat is tender and almost falling apart.
TIP – You may want to turn the beef cheek pieces over halfway through cooking, stirring the sauce as you go to ensure nothing is catching.
7. Once cooked and very tender, remove the pan from the oven and discard the basil and bay leaves. Using two forks, break down the beef cheeks, lightly shredding the meat as you go and re-incorporate it into the tomato sauce. To finish, add some fresh chopped basil and the chopped parsley and serve with Pasta or Polenta.
TIP – If serving with pasta, add the bolognese to the pasta little by little, loosening with pasta water as you go, until the sauce just coats the pasta.