Yup, Spaghetti Bolognese, the staple of every New Zealand student flat. There is absolutely nothing more simple to make, as long as you have the ability to do two things: boil water, and not burn mince.

Everyone has their own favourite version of this recipe, and mine is fairly simple. With food prices becoming what they are, they last thing you want to do is start heading out for expensive or hard-to-find ingredients. So, we’ll use reasonable but not crazy expensive stuff.

You need mince, but try to go for premium. Yes, it is more expensive, but you save money on the heart-specialist bills. Mince is basically all the off-cuts they can’t sell as steaks or the like, and low-cost mince is mostly the excess fat. but use whatever you have to, cheap mince, lamb mince, no worries. Even better, you only need a couple of hundred grams for two people.

Otherwise, cheap tinned tomatoes, a red pepper in the summer and a green pepper in the winter. Some herbs, some pasta (any kind at all, I usually cook this recipe with penne), an onion, some garlic, and… if you marinate your own on the cheap like we do… whole olives.

The first thing to do is put on a pot of water. Make sure it is large enough to hold all the pasta, and let it get to boiling while you prepare the spag bowl sauce.

Next, put on your frying pan to a hot, but not cracking heat. Add a little olive oil, and get onto the ingredients.

Chop your onion as finely as you can, then add to the warming pan.

For this recipe I’m using some roasted garlic. I just popped it out of its skins, and added it whole to the onion. This isn’t essential. You can just add regular old raw, sliced garlic. Stir the pan, and heat until the onion begins to ‘glaze’. Do not let it burn. If your onion and garlic is starting to burn then the pan is too hot.

Once the onion has begun to glaze, meaning it becomes a little translucent, turn up the heat a little and add the mince. Stir and chop the mince with the wooden spoon until it’s in little lumps. Some people like the bigger lumps, so just go for whatever suits. The important thing is to make sure it’s not sweating too much out its juices now, or it will go chewy after you add the tomatoes (which is why I prefer it in small lumps).

Once the mince has browned then start to add the remainder of the sauce. I like to add chili (which you can only just make out), freshly ground black pepper (I use a mortar and pestal, big saving on pre-ground pepper there), and plain old iodised salt (New Zealanders need more iodine in their diets). Then add some capsicum you’ve chopped any way you like, but always chunky.

Next add the herbs, in this case some rosemary I pinched out of a garden (the stuff grows everywhere in Wellington), and some thyme. You can buy thyme in these $2 bags from the organic place on Wakefield Street. There’s too much for one recipe, but if you freeze the bag the herb will keep its flavour for months. Next add as many olives as you like.

You’re stirring in each of these layers of ingredient as you go, aeh? Next, add your tinned tomatoes. Some people use the flashiest tinned toms they can get. This is an obvious waste of money. Don’t pay someone else to put something in your food that you can easily do yourself…

The next thing is the question of tomato pastes. Some people insist on using it, but… it’s not really necessary. It’s good if you want to thicken the sauce, and especially if you want to sweeten it, but you shouldn’t have to.

Once all these ingredients are in, it should be fairly liquid. Let it heat up to a simmer, and then stir occasionally to make sure it isn’t sticking. If you’re using a heavy skillet like mine you can turn the heat down, and let it cook slowly.

You want it to cook slowly because as soon as the simmer has started you should put on the pasta. Usually by the time the pasta has finally cooked the sauce should have reduced enough, and be nice and ‘sticky’. You should be able to run the wooden spoon through the sauce, and not have a lot of liquid rush back into the trail. You’ll end up with a nice, rich-looking sauce.

Drag the pasta out of the pot. If it’s not cooked, no worries, just turn the heat on the sauce right down until the pasta is ready.

Whip the pasta out, drain in a colander, and put into your serving bowls.

The trick with pasta is always getting it al dente. This egg pasta I’ve been using isn’t actually all that good. It takes way too long to cook, and it pretty ordinary.

But, if you’re using fresh pasta, wait until the sauce is pretty much ready before you put the pasta in the water. It cooks in no time. You can slow down the sauce, but you cannot speed it up.

Finally, add the sauce, and garnish.

And then, serve! A little parmesan cheese is probably essential, and you use a lot less than the big, cheap, plasticky crap you can buy from Mainland. And enjoy.

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