Penne Bolognese: In less than 30 minutes!

In less than 30 minutes? Pasta bolognese? Yes it’s possible! The most important step before cooking is to prepare all your ingredients – “Mise en place”, a French term – which means “everything in its place”. You won’t have to worry about not preparing your vegetables, or taking meat out of the fridge.

Yes, bolognese sauce can be done in less than 30 minutes. I would say it’s a little like Nigella Express. With the right ingredients and proper steps, you don’t have to slave over the stove for hours and hours. There are many variety of meat sauces but of course the authentic one comes straight from Italy. Italian chefs have shown the proper way and the original recipe for the bolognese sauce and I wouldn’t dare to offend them!

My recipe is catered for convenience and families that would want a quick but really delicious meal.

Ingredients:

  • 600 – 800g of minced beef
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • 2 large red onions (or yellow, whichever you prefer), finely chopped
  • 3 – 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, grated
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 2 – 3 pieces of anchovy fillets
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bottle of Prego® Traditional Pasta Sauce
  • 1 can of tinned tomatoes, reuse to add one can of freshly boiled water
  • Pasta of your choice (I used penne here. Traditionally, tagliatelle is used.)
  1. An important point to take note of when cooking minced beef, a tip I learnt from great chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White, is to never put your mince in a cold pan. ALWAYS make sure your pan is really hot before adding your oil and adding the mince just before the oil starts to smoke. Also, try to use a deep-based pan for the mince.
  2. When you’ve done that, let the heat come back up and then start stirring the mince to break it up. Let all the water evaporate so that you can start searing/browning the meat.
  3. Once the meat is browned (take note of the crackling sound in the pan). Add the cumin powder, chilli powder and cayenne pepper. Season with salt and black pepper to taste and mix everything together.
  4. Add the finely chopped onions, crushed garlic, grated carrots, and continue mixing.
  5. Empty the bottle of tomato sauce as well as the tinned tomatoes, and also a can of freshly boiled water.
  6. After stirring for a couple of minutes, add the cherry tomatoes last. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
  7. By now, you should already have a pot of salted boiling water to prep your pasta. The cooking time should be approximately 2-3 minutes less than the instructions on the packet (I will explain later).
  8. Drain the pasta when done, not before saving a cup of pasta water, and pour it into the bolognese sauce. Mix well!
  9. When the pasta is cooked to your liking, al dente or more than that, serve it from the pan or in a glass dish.
  10. Garnish with sprigs of coriander leaves/cilantro and julienned chilli.

[Notes]

A deep-based pan is important as you will be handling a substantial amount of liquid as well. For this recipe I used a wok as it IS deep and quite big as well. It is important to get it really hot as you don’t want to boil the meat. You want to caramelize the meat – gives it extra flavour.

Pasta choice is entirely up to you. I chose penne because the meat sauce can get trapped inside the holes thus making every bite a pleasure!

When cooking the pasta, you must know that there will be additional cooking time in the bolognese sauce. If the instructions on the packet says 11 minutes, and you cook it for that long, your pasta will be overcooked and might turn soggy. That is why you cook it 2-3 minutes less than the original so the pasta will be just nice when the dish is completed.

It is also not a crime to use pre-made sauces from the supermarket. They add so much flavour within a short time. However, to balance it out, I add a can of tinned tomatoes, some water, and occasionally a teaspoon of sugar to make it gentler on the palate.

In this recipe, I have added 2-3 pieces of finely chopped anchovies as it gives the dish a greater depth. People might hate anchovies, but after chopping them and simmering, they just melt away, leaving no trace. At. All.

Give this a try, and I would really, really appreciate any comments! Comments about the recipes, food, or even ways to improve my blog!

 

Tuna pasta in a jiffy

The photo’s not exactly a “food post worthy” photo but this IS home cooking.

This would probably be the easiest pasta recipe I’ve ever done because the ingredients are:

  1. A can of tuna (Ayam Brand Chilli Tuna – Singapore; Sainsbury’s Mackerel in Spicy Tomato Sauce – UK). I’m quoting Sainsbury’s because I’ve used that many times.
  2. An onion (white or red, it’s up to you). If 1 onion is too much, just use half an onion.
  3. A clove of garlic (this is optional)
  4. EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
  5. Salt and pepper to taste

The amazing thing is that most of these ingredients are pretty much found in every home and the recipe is very flexible. Not every home has tuna/mackerel in a can but it is not too difficult to get one.

Try it! 🙂

 

Baked Pasta? Mac & Cheese?

Many, if not all, recipes for Mac & Cheese include starting off with a roux which is essentially flour and butter and it is aimed at cooking off the flour to make a paste after which milk is added, followed by cheese of your choice (forgive me if I’m wrong, as this is typed on whatever I can remember). 

So this is my way of making Mac & Cheese, without having bechamel sauce or starting off with a roux. 

  
It is a flexible recipe as you can adjust different components (or even add!) to suit your liking.

I started off by frying some onions with chillis and garlic over a medium heat, until the onions are almost transparent. There are a variety of powders I added at this point: cumin, cayenne pepper, chilli and smoked paprika. At the same time, cook the pasta of your choice in salted boiling water.

Next I added diced chicken thighs along with a little salt and pepper after about 2-3 minutes (or until the chicken is cooked). The aim of seasoning here is to build it up in layers so as to avoid dumping sizable amount of salt or pepper to ruin the whole dish. 

Your pasta should be almost cooked at this point and it is where you take out about a cup of pasta water and leave it on the side. Drain the pasta, add it to the chicken and fry it for 2-3 minutes until the pasta is al dente.

Add the pasta water (it will dilute the pasta and chicken so season accordingly) and cook it for a while till you see a mild reduction in the sauce. 

Pour it into a small tray like the one I used or you could use a bigger tray if you have more pasta. 

This is where the fun part starts. Slice up two mozzarella balls and layer it on top of the pasta and grate some Parmesan cheese over it. And finally, bake it at about 200 degrees for about 10-15 minutes or until the surface turns golden-brown. 

Like I mentioned earlier, this recipe can be altered to your liking! If you like pancetta or chorizo, add it at the start to release the oils. I used fusilli here but you can use any other kinds of pasta. Change the cheese if you like to a stronger or a milder one! Have fun!