Don't be tempted to skip the initial frying of the mince. It gets rid of the excess fat which makes it healthier and improves the taste
Time: about 25-30 minutes
Cost: £1-£1.50 a head
1 tbsp oil
400-500g beef mince
1 heaped tbsp concentrated tomato puree
1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled, crushed or finely chopped
1 level tsp oregano or Herbes de Provence
1 x 400g can whole or chopped tomatoes (whole tomatoes tend to be cheaper)
Salt and pepper
350-400g spaghetti or other pasta
Freshly grated Parmesan, Grana Padano or Cheddar to serve (optional)
Heat a frying pan over a moderately high heat for a minute or so. Add the oil, swirl round the pan then add half the mince spreading it around the pan. Fry until beginning to brown then turn it over with a wooden spoon or spatula. Keep frying until all the mince is browned (about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes) Tipping the pan away from you so the fat runs away, scoop out the mince onto a large plate and pour the fat that has accumulated in the pan into a cup or bowl to discard later. Replace the pan on the hob and repeat with the remaining mince, discarding the fat again at the end.
Turn down the heat a little and return all the meat to the pan without any further oil. Add the tomato paste, stir into the meat until it is well distributed, stirring it all the time. Add the garlic, herbs and the tinned tomatoes, breaking them up with a fork. Season with salt and pepper, bring to a simmer then turn the heat right down and leave to cook gently for about 15 minutes while you cook the spaghetti or other pasta. As you finish the pasta, spoon a couple of tablespoons of cooking water into the sauce then drain in a colandere or sieve. Divide the pasta between 3-4 plates, top with the sauce and sprinkle, if you like, with grated Parmesan, Grana Padano or cheddar. Good with a simple green salad.
* Pack sizes vary for mince so use whichever is the best deal, whether it’s 400g, 450g or 500g.
* If you're cooking for yourself you can easily take out a portion then cook and refrigerate two other portions for the following nights' meals
* Whole tinned tomatoes are usually cheaper than ready-chopped ones
* Grana Padano is a Parmesan-style cheese but generally cheaper than Parmesan