FA Student Foodie: the ultimate spag-bol

By Fleur Feeney |

I’m quite lucky that I’ve been raised in a family of excellent cooks, eating together every day and sharing a meal that’s been made with care (I know you’re reading this Mum). I care about food, I care about staying healthy, and taking the time out of my day to put together something that I enjoy making, and eating, and this is especially true at uni. Instead of my mother, it’s me standing over the hob, and instead of my biological family, it’s my little family of flat mates chatting over various plates of dinner in front of Celebs Go Dating. 

My mission is to convince everyone that cooking doesn’t have to be a chore. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be easy, it can be student budget-friendly. For me, it’s not an ordeal – I delight in standing over the stove, inhaling the smell of garlic frying, and stirring until my muscles unclench and my shoulders relax. It’s my therapy. Imagine, from a couple of cheap ingredients, you can create something wonderful with just your own two hands, and you get to eat it afterwards! Besides, we all need to cook, so why not relish in making something that will fuel your tired body, something that will wake up your taste buds or help you through a tough day of essay writing?

So, bearing this gushy introduction in mind, there’s no better recipe to start with than spaghetti bolognese.

Ah, spag bol. This is a dish that originated in Italy but has long since become a go-to British crowd-pleaser. Everyone has their own way of making it, quick or slow, meat or veggie, even if it’s just opening a jar of Dolmio sauce, here’s mine. My parents have been tinkering with this recipe for years, and I’ve done my fair share of swaps and what-not since being at uni – perhaps being a little bit more cheap and cheerful, but ultimately just as good. This is a dinner that I *could* make half asleep, and reminds me most of home.

So, here we go. This recipe serves 4 hungry people. 

You will need

Frylight or cheap olive oil

1 white onion 

3ish cloves of garlic 

Half a pack of mushrooms

500g packet of reduced fat mince

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

1 carton of tomato passata

A small squeeze of tomato passata, OR a tbsp tomato ketchup

A generous glug of red wine OR a red wine stock pot (if you’re feeling fancy)


400g spaghetti OR tagliatelle


Heat up a large saucepan and spray enough Frylight (or slosh in some oil) to cover the surface area. While you’re doing this, finely chop your garlic and onion. Then throw this into the pan, turn down the heat and let it all sizzle and golden brown slowly. 

Chop up half a pack of mushrooms, and add into the pan too, letting them shrink and soften. This will look like a lot of mushrooms, but mushrooms shrink quite considerably so it’s really not too much, but feel free to adjust to your taste. 

Tip in your mince, and turn the heat up slightly. Toss it around with a wooden spoon and make sure it’s all cooked through. (Breaking up the mince is particularly fun if you’ve had a stressful day and need to let it rip a little.) 

Once your mince looks pretty brown, throw in a tin of chopped tomatoes followed by a carton of passata. Choose either the chopped tomato tin or the carton and fill about halfway with water, slosh about to get the last of the tomatoey goodness and add to the pan. Then stir.

It should look pretty watery simmering away by now, but don’t worry, it’s going to reduce down to a nice thick sauce in a bit. 

At this point, pop in a red wine stock pot (it gives you the taste of red wine without the calories, if you care about that kind of thing). Alternatively, you could slosh in some cheap red wine. Whatever you choose, stir it in and watch the sauce bubble for a second.

Turn the heat down low and leave to simmer for absolutely ages. Check on it every so often and give it a stir to prevent sauce sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add some oregano or basil if you like that sort of thing (I do.)

If you want the sauce to thicken a bit quicker, wack up the heat to boil off the excess liquid and keep stirring to make sure it doesn’t burn. Turn it down a bit if it looks like it might explode, though. 

There’s no exact science to this, you just have to trust your eyes and your tongue as to when it’s ready. Taste it as often as you like. About ten minutes before you want to eat, chuck some spaghetti in a pan of boiling water and add a little salt. When the bol to your spag is nice and reduced and thick and saucy, take it off the heat and give it a final stir about. 

Drain your pasta and serve generously with plenty of sauce and plenty of cheese on top. 

When I’m at home, my mum makes this with tagliatelle which quite frankly, is much better than Asda Smart Price spaghetti, so if you’re feeling particularly boujee, do that. The trick here is to tip your tagliatelle straight into the pan of sauce and stir it all up, serving in small mounds of saucy pasta. But if you’d rather only spend 20p on a packet of spaghetti, stick to that, stirring it in the same way or just dolloping sauce on top. Either way it’s pasta, you’ll be fine. 

The quantities of this recipe could serve four hungry people, so share with your flatmates, eat it for lunch the next day, or divide the sauce up into containers and stick in the freezer for another night. When you want to eat it, leave it in the fridge overnight to defrost, or if you forget just pop it on the kitchen side in the morning. (if you doubly forget you can wack it in the microwave for a couple of minutes on the defrost setting.)

However you end up cooking it, the best way to eat bolognese is on a wednesday and preferably with family, though your flatmates or even the cast of The Office will do just fine.