Updated: Apr 1
Food plays a powerful role in human memory. The sensory experience of the taste, smell and texture of food can elicit deep memories of not just the place and setting of the meal, but also of the feelings and emotions that were experienced, often coinciding with feelings of love and nurturance.
My mum was never hugely passionate about cooking when I was younger. For her, getting a meal out each night for a family of six was a tiring chore and honestly, now that I have gotten older and have had to learn the ropes of meal planning, shopping and cooking night after night for only my partner and I, I am often left wondering how on earth she kept up with the consistency! While the passion wasn't strong, out of her loving care my often exhausted mum would rise to the challenge of cooking anyway and there were a few dishes of hers that I loved, albeit made with a few short cuts. I remember her trying to hide the bottles and packaging in the recycling bin before serving up, jokingly arguing to me that the meal was made completely from scratch while I was in tears laughing as I "dug up" the evidence. However, who was to blame her for trying to simplify a massive work load? One of my favourite meals of hers was her spaghetti bolognese that included beef mince, an onion, sauce from a jar, a few "secret ingredients" (I think sugar was one of them) and parmesan to top it off. Whenever it was served up, often on a cold Melbourne night, I remember the strong sense of comfort I felt as I twirled the spaghetti around my fork and ate with my family - a group of people who surely drove me crazy at times yet in their company I felt loved, cared for, safe and a sense of home. Now as a 30 something year old (I have honestly stopped counting, I prefer not to acknowledge how fast time is flying!), my sense of home has evolved to include my partner (aka future hubby), fur babies, and at the moment, another state! Catching the cooking bug from somewhere, I have since come up with my own, perhaps over elaborate, recipe for spag bol, yet whenever I sit down to a bowl topped with fresh parmesan all those childhood memories immediately come flooding back causing me to feel soothed, loved and nurtured.
My partner and I love to keep a kitchen herb garden filled with herbs such as rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley, marjoram and sage. Whenever I cook up a batch of spag bol I go running out to the garden to cut off a big handful of these fresh herbs to add to the sauce and I swear by them as my own "secret" ingredients. I strongly encourage anyone to keep a kitchen herb garden as they add such a delightful and tasteful boost to your cooking and can be quite expensive to buy separately. If that's not feasible, to help limit the cost of herbs perhaps use just oregano and/or thyme in addition to the rosemary. Alternatively you can replace them altogether with dried mixed or Italian herbs, although admittedly there is something extra special about the flavour of fresh herbs in this sauce.
500g beef mince
500ml passata sauce
5 button mushrooms, finely chopped
1 small head of broccoli, finely chopped
2 red onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, grated
1 zucchini, halved and each half sliced finely
2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
1 red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped (optional)
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 big handful of 2-3 mixed fresh garden herbs, washed, leaves removed from stems (e.g. parsley, oregano, marjoram and thyme)
4 anchovies, finely sliced
1 tbs of lemon juice
1 tsp of lemon zest
2 bay leaves
¼ cup of Kalamata olives, pips removed
Sea salt and cracked pepper, to season
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs of butter, grass fed
Chop and prepare vegetables
In a large pot, melt butter before adding garlic, rosemary, chilli (if using) and onion and saute until onion is transparent on medium to high heat.
Drizzle a little olive oil into the pot. Add beef mince, small amounts at a time and cook altogether on high heat until brown (5-10 minutes)
Add vegetables and cook until soften, stirring regularly
Add passata sauce, lemon juice, zest, anchovies, bay leaves, olives, herbs and sea salt and cracked pepper
Bring sauce to boil and then reduce to simmer gently for 20-25min, with lid ajar. While this is simmering, prepare spaghetti* according to the packet instructions
Serve up with freshly shaved parmesan (if desired) and a fresh salad
*As wheat doesn't seem to agree with me I often use San Remo's gluten free spaghetti which is made from legumes and delicious (please note that I am NOT an affiliate with them, I just enjoy their pasta). It cooks well if you are strict with the packet cooking instructions! If you're gluten intolerant or coeliac you may wish to give this one a try.