Or, spicy spaghetti bolognese. I’m sure by now you’re sensing a theme. You are absolutely correct – I love spicy food. I love how it makes warmth spread through your entire body, I love how much more of a punch each bite delivers, I love how it makes you sweat in weird places (under the eyes, anybody? Anyone??).
You of course don’t have to make it as spicy, or spicy at all. But then I won’t eat it.
My mom used to make this for me and for my brothers. Hers wasn’t quite so spicy, but when my brother and I started making it for ourselves, we (surprisingly) upped the spicy factor. We’re just freaks like that. I consider myself extremely lucky that Mr. Graceful loves spicy food as much as I do, if not more.
My brother, who is very big on eating healthy, uses this sauce to sneak in a TON of vegetables (I will definitely use this tactic when I have kids). You can put pretty much anything in there, and as long as it’s diced small enough it will blend right in, unnoticed. Some suggestions are carrots, celery stalks, broccoli, mushrooms, spinach, zucchini… And the list goes on and on…
I do dip in and out of vegan phases, (especially post-holidays), so sometimes I make this dish vegan. It’s similar in flavor, but missing the beef taste – which works perfectly for me because I make it when I specifically do not want to eat or taste meat. I added the vegan variation at the bottom of this post. Keep in mind most pastas aren’t vegan, so use a vegan-friendly substitute.
Another word about the spices: I always keep a jar of Baharat and a jar of Garam Masala in my kitchen. They are both useful, especially in meat dishes, and add depth and flavor. Baharat is an Iraqi spice, and Garam Masala is an Indian one. Look for them in ethnic stores. If you don’t have either but still want to make this dish, you can recreate the experience by mixing ground cinnamon and ground cumin.
Spicy Spaghetti Bolognese:
Estimated Time: 15 minutes prep + 40 minutes cook
Kosher Classification: Meat (or Neutral, if made vegan)
500 grams dry spaghetti pasta (preferably whole wheat)
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
500 grams quality ground-beef (OR vegan mash)
2 medium onions
3 garlic cloves
2 ripe tomatoes
1 cup tomato paste
1+ tsp red chili flakes
1 Tbs. Baharat
1 Tbs. Garam Masala
1/2 tsp table salt
If you, like me, are particular about the temperature of food and how soon after preparation it is consumed, skip to the instructions of the sauce first and only make the pasta towards the end. Otherwise, begin by making the spaghetti.
Boil a big pot of water (most instructions call for one Liter for every 100 grams of pasta) with the oil and salt. When the water is boiling, add the spaghetti and push it into the water until it is completely submerged.
Cook pasta according to its instructions, usually between 12-17 minutes. Taste pasta strands to see if they are ready. After a certain cooking time, pasta’s glycemic index actually goes up, so we don’t want to over-cook it. We want it “al-dente”. Pasta that is “al-dente” will still be slightly firm (not hard!). If you wanna go really Italian here, you can throw single noodles on the wall and ceiling to see if they stick; if they do, it’s ready. I personally prefer to keep my walls clean if I can.
While you are waiting for the pasta to become al-dente, cut the vegetables and keep them in separate piles:
Dice the tomatoes and onions, and thinly slice the garlic.
The pasta is probably ready by now, so drain and rinse it.
Now for the main attraction: The Bolognese!
Heat a bit of oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook them until they yellow a bit and become clear-ish.
Add the garlic and stir, for no longer than 2 minutes as garlic this thin can burn fast!
Add the beef and break it up with your wooden spoon. You need to work pretty fast here because the meet chunks cook quickly on the outside and then become harder to break apart.
Add the spices and cook while stirring frequently, just until meat is no longer pink. (NOTE: if you are using Kosher meat, you will need less salt).
Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and between 1-2 cups of water, and stir until everything is mixed together.
The meat is ready by now, so all that’s left to do is cook the sauce half-covered between 15-30 minutes, depending on the consistency you want. The longer it cooks for, the more mushy and uniform it becomes. You may need to add water if you choose the longer-cooking-route, as liquid escapes in the form of steam.
Combine evenly with the pasta before serving, or serve pasta on individual plates and top each one with a generous serving of the sauce.
In A Nutshell:
- Chop the vegetables and keep in separate piles: The onions and tomatoes into small cubes, and the garlic into thin slices.
- In a large pot, boil enough water to cover pasta. Add the oil and salt. When the water is boiling, drown the pasta in them. Cook according to the directions on the package or until al-dente. Drain and rinse.
- Saute onion in a medium pot over medium heat with a bit of oil until pieces become clear. Add the garlic.
- Add the beef and break it up using a wooden spoon. Add spices and cook until meat is no longer pink.
- Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, and 1-2 cups water and stir.
- Cook half covered for 15-30 minutes, adding water as necessary, until desired consistency is reached. The longer you cook, the mushier it becomes.
- Serve over pasta.
Veganize me, Cap’n!
To make it vegan, prepare vegan mash by rinsing about 300 grams of azouki beans (or other bean of choice) and soaking overnight. Boil the beans in a pot, replacing the water with fresh water after every time it comes to a boil. When the beans are soft and slightly mushy, drain and rinse them. Let cool before running through a food processor until they are mashed but before the mixture turns pasty. Then continue with the recipe as is, using the vegan mash instead of the ground meat. The only difference is that you will not have to wait for it to cook, because it isn’t meat (duh). As I mentioned before, most pastas out there are not vegan, so if you are trying to abstain from eggs, use a vegan-friendly substitute, like rice or rice-noodles.