Spag Bol

Apart from the cheese, there really wasn’t anything to dislike about this dish.

Spag Bol is comfort food at it’s very best. Regardless of who invented it, you can see how the World became transfixed with this flavour.

As I built up my ingredients there was no need to compare the taste to that of the Dolmio jar. From the smell alone I knew I was being faithful to the original and my mouth watered at the reassuring hit of nostalgia.

When I did finally compare, mine was better (naturally). I’m fairly sure I got the balance of ingredients right but it was obvious that my tomatoes and paste had a fresher flavour.

Both sauces were sweet, but Dolmio had more of a caramelly, dessert like flavour. My sauce would be better described as “fruity”. Although our sugar content was on par, mine would have been made up of mostly fructose and glucose from ripe tomatoes, whereas Dolmio presumably hit their sugar quota with the refined variety.

It’s worth pointing out just how good those tinned tomatoes are. I was left with a small quantity which I drank straight out of the can.

You can read more about the Cirio brand (admittedly, a paid piece in their own words). Their success is simple. Harvest the best quality tomatoes, at their peak, despite them “only” being destined for the tinning factory.

Hats off to the boffins at Dolmio too.

The tomatoes were great, but when the mix was combined with the added sugar, salt and citric acid it was a perfectly balanced “Tomatoes 2.0” flavour. An intense hit of tomato but stopping just on the right side of the confectioner’s cross-over. They’ve done a brilliant job in the lab to perfect that balance.

I take back my sarcastic tone for the added sugar.

When faced with criticism about the negative health impact of their sauces, Dolmio advised their punters to eat a maximum of one jar a week. Apparently this advice led to an annual lost revenue of £30m.

I would back Dolmio’s PR team when the press wants to make a song and dance about the sugar content. If you’re on the tomato train, there’s going to be sweetness! The added sugar didn’t seem too excessive to me as a front row observer.

I was also pleasantly surprised how much fresh basil I was encouraged to use. 1.5g is a lot for this quantity of sauce, and although Dolmio are probably using a poor quality or dried imposter, it was very noticeable in my version.

The only component that failed to live up to the memory was the cheddar cheese.

Once upon a time I recall going back for fourth, fifth and sixth helpings. This time I scraped as much off as I could so I could get my taste buds across the unadulterated meat and tomato mix.

I should also say that my spag bol preferences evolved over the years. There was a time when I could eat spag bol every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but that time faded away as I discovered a love of curry. Spag bol remained a stalwart, but became another mechanism to deliver spice.

A sprinkling of chilli flakes would have worked wonders here.

All in all though, it was a winner. I would wager that you could get the sauce preparation time down to 10 minutes given enough practice. No excuse to reach for the jar at the end of a long day, except to see Papa’s face for inspiration!

Wishing you a pleasant food coma.

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