My family started making spaghetti Bolognese on the fire during camping trips in Botswana and Namibia when I was a teenager. The secret to a great Bolognese sauce is to simmer it over low coals for quite a while. When camping in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the problem with cooking something that smells this good, simmering and releasing flavours, is that a pride of lions might smell it as well and pay your camp a visit, as happened to us one evening. We ate in the car that night. Feeds 6.
- 2 tots olive oil
- 1 onion (finely chopped)
- 1 carrot (grated)
- 1 celery stick (finely chopped)
- 2 garlic cloves (crushed and chopped)
- ½ tot mixed dried herbs (or 1 tot finely chopped fresh herbs like basil, thyme and parsley)
- ½ cup red wine
- 1 tin red kidney beans (drained)
- 1 tin black beans (drained)
- 2 tins tomatoes
- 2 tots tomato paste
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½ tot lemon juice
- salt (to taste)
- ground black pepper (to taste)
- 500 g pasta (like tagliatelle or spaghetti)
- Parmesan cheese (or Cheddar cheese, shaved or grated, to serve)
- Heat oil in a potjie over a medium-hot fire. Add the onion, carrot and celery, and gently fry for 5–10 minutes until the onion is soft and shiny but not brown.
- Add the garlic and herbs to the pot and fry for 2 minutes.
- Pour in the wine and stir well. Use your spoon to scrape and loosen any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Cook until the wine is almost completely reduced.
- Now add the beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir well and bring to a simmer over low heat. Put the lid on the pot and simmer for 1 hour, stirring every 10–15 minutes to ensure that the sauce doesn’t cook dry and burn. You need low heat and a gentle simmer – exactly the opposite of braaing steak. If the pot runs dry, add a bit of water.
- After 1 hour of cooking, add salt and pepper to taste; take off the lid and simmer uncovered while you cook the pasta in salted water in a separate pot.
- When the pasta is cooked and you’re happy with the Bolognese sauce, serve as you see fit. I usually see fit with a bit of shaved Parmesan or grated aged white Cheddar.
Pasta, like spaghetti and tagliatelle, takes about 7–8 minutes in plenty of rapidly boiling salted water to become al dente, which means ‘just cooked with a slight bite to it’. For 500 g of pasta you need about 5 litres of water and ½ tot of salt. Don’t overcook pasta or it will become a soggy mess. When it’s done, drain the water off and immediately drizzle the pasta with olive oil to stop it sticking to itself.
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