Tim (watching as the boys gobble up their dinner): You boys do love your pasta.
Andrew (12): This is great.
Nicholas (8): Yes, I think it’s very good.
Andrew: Please can I have some seconds?
Nicholas: Me too, although it’s a bit burnt around the edges.
Andrew: Yes, I can see the burnt bits.
Tim: It adds some nice crunchy bits.
Maureen: Sorry about that. Having a lifetime experience of baked ziti behind me, I should know it’s going to take no more than 30 minutes to finish this dish off. Nigella says it might take much as 45 minutes. If you did that, it would be totally burnt.
Tim: Isn’t this just a baked spaghetti bolognese? But without the spaghetti?
Maureen: Sort of, though you do have to make a bechamel sauce. The other major difference is that while this is easy, it does take the better part of an afternoon. It took 2 and a half hours.
Nicholas: Wow! Two hours 30 minutes! That’s a long time.
Tim: You have to start this early in the afternoon if you want to have it for dinner then, don’t you?
Maureen: Yes, this is definitely a cold weekend dish. There’s no way you’d have the time to do it on a weeknight. Saying that, though, it is delicious. And to be fair to Nigella, she put this in the “Partytime” section of the book to feed a crowd of 16– I scaled it down– so maybe that’s when she intends it to be eaten too.
Andrew: I’m going for some more.
Tim: This might be a record.
Andrew: No, my record is fourths, probably with chicken parm.
Maureen: Should we have it again?
Cook’s Notes: While this does take a long time to cook, it doesn’t take a long time to prepare. You make the base of the meat sauce by bunging onions, carrots, pancetta, celery and garlic into the food processor. After frying it up, you add the minced beef, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, red wine and bay leaves. Then you leave it to cook for two hours. Like I said, the perfect dish to have simmering away on the stove on a cold winter’s day.