Make the sauce first. Place the lentils in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Drain.
Place the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan. Over medium heat fry the onions gently until softened. Add the meat and with the heat turned up brown it ---- keep it moving so it doesn’t stick and burn. Reduce the heat. Add the garlic, vegetables (including the tin of tomatoes, tomato puree and the lentils) and flavourings / seasoning. Stir to mix them. Simmer gently for about 30 mins, adding a little water (I prefer it to ready-made stock as you can control the amount of sugar and salt in your finished dish) if the mixture gets to dry to prevent it from burning.
To cook the spaghetti (or any shape of pasta) you will need a very large saucepan full of water. Add about a tsp of salt and bring to a rolling boil. Add the spaghetti and cook it according to the packet instructions. (I test it by breaking off little bits and tasting them). Drain in a colander. Tip the spaghetti back into its now-empty pan. Add the sauce (with the bayleaf removed). Toss the pasta and sauce together. Serve immediately.
NOTE: Traditional Italian Spaghetti Bolognese has a beef and tomato sauce, which in Italy was eaten with flat tagliatelle. This is not an Italian version of Bolognese. It is a flexible recipe and can be eaten with any shape of pasta, can be used to make lasagne or a pasta bake, or thinned down with water and turned into a tasty soup. For a vegetarian or vegan version just omit the minced beef and replace it with extra green lentils. A whole variety of pastas are now available, including those suitable for vegans (ie egg free), and gluten free. You can experiment with different mixtures of vegetables, meats and flavourings. Try adding chopped leeks, carrots, spinach or chopped fresh chilli / chilli flakes. It freezes well.
©Monica Askay - December 2018
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
6oz / 175g minced beef
3oz / 75g green lentils
1 bay leaf
1 x 8oz / 225g tin chopped tomatoes
3 sticks celery, chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 courgette, chopped small
2 tbsps olive oil
½ tsp dried mixed Italian herbs, or 1 sprig each fresh thyme, parsley, sage and rosemary chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
A pinch white sugar
A pinch salt
Freshly milled black pepper
1lb / 450g spaghetti