The second of a new weekly column showing how you can cook simple, healthier alternatives to high-fat, high-calorie restaurant and fast-food favourites.
Lose that, eat this: spaghetti bolognese
The health warnings that say we should reduce the amount of red meat in our diets are becoming increasingly frequent. Studies have shown that with excessive consumption of red meat come higher risks of bowel cancer and heart disease, and the current advice is that it should be eaten no more than three times a week.
Of course, some sources of red meat are worse for you than others: a beef sausage or a burger from a fast-food restaurant is likely to contain a lot more fat than a lean steak - which is, after all, high in protein, iron and various minerals. When planning a dish that uses mince, it's therefore a very good idea to select a piece of steak that has very little fat or marbling (sirloin is a good option) and ask the butcher to mince it for you. That way you can control exactly what goes into your meal. Spaghetti bolognese makes for great comfort food. This recipe uses less meat than is traditional and is bulked out with plenty of vegetables, making it a more nutritious option. By simmering the bolognese for a long time over a low heat with plenty of fresh herbs, the sauce becomes extremely flavoursome and you won't notice that there is less mince than you may be used to.
Draining the meat of any excess fat after it has been browned is another good tip. And if you really can't eat spag bol without a sprinkling of cheese scattered over the top, then opt for a strongly flavoured variety; you need only a hint of finely grated parmesan to create an impact. Lastly, eat with a lightly dressed green salad, rather than hunks of bread oozing garlic butter.
Heat the oil in a saucepan over a high heat, add the mince and brown well. Transfer the meat to a colander suspended over a bowl, to allow the excess fat to drain off. Deglaze the pan with the balsamic vinegar and add tsp more oil if it seems too dry. Reduce the heat, then add the onion, garlic, rosemary, celery and carrot and sweat until the onion is soft and translucent (4-6 minutes). Season with salt and black pepper.
Increase the heat slightly and add the mushrooms and tomato purée, followed by the mince. After 2-3 minutes stir in the tomatoes, passata, bay leaf and fresh herbs and bring to the boil briefly. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for at least an hour, stirring from time to time. Cook the spaghetti according to the pack instructions and serve with the bolognese sauce.
Healthier spaghetti bolognese
2-2 teaspoons olive oil
150g sirloin steak, minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
75g mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon tomato purée
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
few sprigs thyme
few sprigs parsley
salt and black pepper
175g wholewheat spaghetti
An average 400g standard serving provides: