Nabakov presents: Spag Bol al Dante

compleat bachelor fare archive

Ah Spaghetti Bolognaise! The bachelor’s friend, muse and destroyer of waistlines. Here I offer a hot new take on an old favourite. All measures are calculated for two people of firm appetite with enough left over to fill a few jaffles on a hungover late winter morning.

This one’s a bit tricky though as it involves not one (1) but two (2) hotplates. You’ll need all your project management skills here.


  • First catch, kill and grind up your cow. If this proves problematic, simply purchase 500 grams or so of lean beef mince from your local boucherie or supermarché (You can tell I’ve been watching ‘Hot Fuzz’ again.)
  • One bottle of robust and reasonably priced red wine, preferably a burgundy. OK, Shiraz if you must, you metrosexual you.
  • One muxtape of good narcocorrido interspiced with lashings of Nina Rota and Enio Morricone. And a cheap greenish cheroot.
  • Enough olive oil to grease your arm up so it can slide through the bars to reach the keys of the guard slumbering under his sombrero. Virgin, extra virgin, cold pressed, whatever, they all look the same to me over a jaffle and hot buttered rum and coffee the next day.
  • A tablespoon of salt.
  • Two bloody big white onions. T. Rex eyeball size at least. Chop, chop.
  • A couple of cloves of garlic (for the purists). I find a level tablespoon of pre-pulverised garlic from a jar quite adequate.
  • 500 grams of straightforward no frills spaghetti.
  • One 500 gram bottle of not trying to be too clever pasta sauce.
  • One of those cute little tubs of Leggos tomato paste.
  • Enough honey to fill an eggcup. Or a baby T.Rex eyesocket.
  • Two majorly brimming tablespoons of quality medium-hot chilli paste (definitely not chilli powder) up to 200,000 Scoville Units max. Unless of course you’re one of those really macho bachelors who enjoys singing along to Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire” the next day in a v. small room with excellent acoustics. In which case you should be aware that the Scoville scale goes up to 18,000,000 units. For those that wish to be pre-cremated.
  • 300 grams of canned and drained red kidney beans. The starch cuts the chilli heat.
  • Some black pepper, oregano and other herbs if the fancy takes you.


  • Click muxtape on and light cheroot.
  • Boil at least two litres of water (with the salt) in a saucepan that now should have been scrubbed clean of that mashed potatoes disaster.
  • Check wine to make sure it isn’t corked. Are you sure? Check again. Better safe than sorry. Cheers.
  • Dollop the olive oil in a frying pan on full heat, chuck in the crunched up onion and garlic and sweat the buggers for about five minutes, stirring now and then. You wanna see some browning here but not too much. About three days into your holiday suntan should do it.
  • The water’s boiling? Good. Add the spaghetti and poke it into submission below the waterline.
  • Add the mince to the frying pan and smodge it around until the pink turns to a brownish-grey. Then turn down the heat to around half what it was before, do a kidney beans air strike and keep stirring from time to time.
  • Quick, check if the spag has reached al dente status. It has? Good! Turn the heat down to the barest whisper of a hint of a suggestion of a smidgeon of a soupcon of calorific energy. A handy tip here. Remove cheroot from mouth before leaning over the steaming saucepan. The gasper gets soggy and the ash discolours the water.
  • Double-check that the wine hasn’t suddenly become corked.
  • Empty the bottle of pasta sauce into the frying pan and encourage it to blend with the brooding mince, kidney beans, onions and garlic.
  • Into the empty pasta sauce jar, insert the tomato paste, honey, chilli paste, various herbs as you see fit and a good glass of the wine. Add a dash of hot water, put the lid back on, shake into a foaming frenzy and pour the resultant concoction into the frying pan.
  • If all goes well, you should now be eyeballing a steaming bubbling aromatic red swamp. Turn the heat down to the barest simmer to cook the water out. What you’re aiming for here is the river Phlegethon as limned in Dante’s seventh circle of hell.
  • Once it gets nice and gluggy, kill the heat and frantically bustle around for a colander to drain the spag. However do not attempt a la Jack Lemmon in “The Apartment” to use a tennis racket for this purpose – as I once did to impress a date. She was impressed. Not so much the Elwood Tennis Club a few days later when I ventured onto the court with a Dunlop Power Plus now strung to a soggy 20 pounds and smelling strongly of garlic.
  • Anyway, now have some more wine to wash away that memory and celebrate the fact we should be about done now.


Find two reasonably unchipped plates and insert spag underneath sauce, leaving behind enough for next day brunch jaffles.

Perhaps a sprinkle of Parmesan and a sprig of greenery perched on top if you’re into that whole presentation thang.

A nice salad, some garlic bread, another bottle of red and a Billy Wilder DVD makes a nice accompaniment. Chased down by a joint, a couple of cognacs and a substantial slab of gourmet chocolate.


Make sure that within 6-12 hours your water closet is stocked with an easy to hand aerosol air freshener.


23 thoughts on “Nabakov presents: Spag Bol al Dante

  1. Nice one, Nabakov.

    One good thing about having a small repertoire (thanks, online spellingchecker (wtf??)) is that one gets pretty good at making them, so that cooking need not be a forlorn tramp thru the supermarket looking for ingredients that aren’t beer, milk, bread, toilet paper (add other normal items here), followed by a shambles of chopping, stirring and drinking while trying to read the instruction book without smearing it with ‘food’.

    And good move adding the beans; getting past the first fart early in a relationship is good for all concerned.

  2. I’m struck dumb. It’s sort of a cross between Spag Bog, Chili Con Carne, and honey on toast isn’t it?

    I’m interested in the provenance of this recipe. I understand the Spaghetti-Chili fusion, but where did the honey come from?

  3. I must admit that I baulked at the beans. I think there’s some nutritional merit in adding them, but that’s just not the taste I associate with spag bol. I have had it with honey though, and it works.

    However I do applaud your thoughtful instructions as to the best time to light the cheroot and imbibe alcoholic substances.

  4. Pingback: What flavour Martini are you? « glass central canberra

  5. When cooking with tomatoes one always adds a bit of sugar. Or honey in this case. It cuts the acid of the tomatoes.

    Sharehouse SpagBol disasters: (1) Tuna works so sardines will. Fail.
    (2) A healthy pour of dried herbs that on sampling turns out to be dried mint. Fail. (But who the hell buys _dried_ mint in the first place?!)

  6. When I was a Brownie I used to go over to the Brown Owl’s house after meetings to be looked after until my mum could come and pick me up. Brown Owl (to this day I don’t know her real name) used to serve me sandwiches with sugar and tomato on them. I always thought it was strange, since I tasted sweetness I associated with sweets rather than any diminution of unduly high levels of acid. Even after my mother explained it to me.

    And, um, I’ve been known to buy dried mint for middle eastern inspired fare–along the lines of dried oregano, it’s better in some recipes, although obviously not in SpagBog (which I will continue to call it).

    Anyway, I was inspired, if not directly influenced, by this post to make my spaghetti bolognese myself last night. I didn’t add sugar or honey or kidney beans, and I used kangaroo, a dried chili, and a glass of cabernet merlot shiraz to make a bachelor girl’s version. Yum.

  7. “Tuna works so sardines will. Fail.”

    Oh, pukorama. That sounds even worse than the legendary Rabbit In a Wok from the Rowe St, North Fitzroy share- household circa 1982.

  8. “But who the hell buys _dried_ mint in the first place”

    People who want a cup of herbal tea, and people wanting to prepare certain meditterranean or middle eastern dishes. But no, not people making spag bol.

    Kirsty – kangaroo bolognese is teh yum, no? Just that little gamey edge, and it’s cheaper and healthier and better for the viroment. And more humane. What’s not to like?

    PC – please to be giving more information on the Wok Rabbit affair!

  9. I used to add a pinch of sugar to bologanise sauce along with wine and wahtnot until one day I ran out and substituted honey. Since then I’ve come to prefer it.

    I’d agree that golden syrup is going it a bit.

    And yep, kangaroo is a great meat and I’d certainly use it if anywhere nearby stocked it. But going out of your way for special ingredients defeats the whole purpose of true bachelor cooking.

    As St33v astutely observed, you want to be able to acquire and assembly all the components as quickly and efficiently as possible, especially if you’re drunk.

  10. In the Rowe St household circles (which rippled well outwards from the actual inmates), the phrase ‘Rabbit in a Wok’ came to signify any culinary disaster or horrid meal. 26 years later it can still make any of us smirk. I was privileged not to be present on the night in question, having been nought but a household hanger-on, but I’m told that bits of wokked rabbit will bounce as high as the table if you throw them at the floor at the correct angle.

  11. Love your work etc, but pedantry’s got the better of me on this one. Wot woz said at #2 and #3: Chili and beans make it chili con carne with noodles, not spag bol. Also, bolognaise is troppo francese: bolognese. Also also: beans are American, discovered well after Dante was dispatched to Beatrice.

  12. Pythagoras was referring to κύαμοσ (kuamos), the fava, or broad bean, which was first cultivated in Africa and SW Asia. The red kidney bean Nabs is referring to here is a variety of the common bean, which derives from the Americas, and was unknown to Europeans before Columbus.

  13. I love, love, LOVE this recipe! Ok, so I make it minus the beans, but the whole Chinese chilli-garlic sauce thing has changed my spaghetti life! And it’s such a beautiful rich red colour… I recently made Heston Blumenthal’s “perfect” spag bol (an 8 hour marathon), and it was good, but this is the perfect one for me!

  14. Pingback: My Favourite Spicy Bolognese Sauce « The Pesky Peppercorn

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