Bolognese, pasta bake, gnocchi: three of my most nostalgic, cozy comfort foods. When the three are combined? Pure heaven. This is not fine dining, this is not “healthy eating” and this is certainly not a speedy supper but it is a great example of food’s ability to warm your body and warm your soul.
A few notes on this recipe. Part of the appeal of comfort food is the enjoyment than comes from making it: in order to create a really delicious bolognese one should let it simmer away for a reasonable amount of time so please do not rush this stage. It may elongate the time spent cooking/ waiting for food but this is part of the experience and is infinitely worth it. For those who do not know gnocchi is an Italian potato dumpling that is cooked in a similar way to pasta (boiled for a few minutes) and fulfills a similar role in a dish. I suggest trying gnocchi if you have not already but it can be easily substituted for penne or rigatoni if you wish.
Serves 4 – 6
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 10 minutes
- 1 onion, peeled and very finely diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 large carrot, peeled and very finely diced
- 1 stick of celery, peeled and very finely diced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 400 g good quality mince meat
- 1/2 tsp chili flakes
- 3 tsp oregano
- 1 large bunch of basil
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 400 g tin of plum tomatoes
- 400 ml water
- 1 beef stock cube
- 1 tsp sugar
- salt and pepper
- 450 g gnocchi
- 250 g mozzarella
- In a large casserole dish or saucepan heat the olive oil on a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery to the pan and fry it for 10 minutes until soft. Remove the vegetables from the pan and set to one side.
- Pour the mince meat into the pan and use the back of a spoon to break the mince up a little. Season with the chili flakes, 1 tsp of oregano and salt and pepper. Fry for 5 minutes until browned and then add the vegetables back into the pan.
- Crumble the stock cube into the pan alongside the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, sugar, remaining oregano and the water (swirl the water around the empty tin to remove residue tomato). Season generously with salt and pepper and stir in the basil leaves. Heat this on a high heat until it comes to the boil and then turn the heat right down to a simmer and leave it for 45 minutes to thicken. If after this time the sauce hasn’t thickened cook it for another 15 minutes or until it has.
- Meanwhile cook the gnocchi according to packet instructions and turn the grill onto 250 degrees C. Drain the gnocchi and stir it into the bolognese until evenly combined. Pour this into an oven proof dish, tear the mozzarella over the top and grate over a little parmesan if you wish. Place under the grill for 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted.
- Sprinkle over and excess chili flakes or basil leaves and serve.
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