As most of you know by now, I'm a pasta-holic.
I love pasta with everything from traditional red sauces to butter or olive oil with a little garlic and freshly grated parmegiano reggiano. And my addiction doesn't stop there... Oh, no. Not by a long shot. I love cold pasta just as much. I sorta can't believe that I'm gonna out myself like this, but it wouldn't be a stretch to find me standing in front of the fridge at 2 AM, with a fork in one hand and a big old bowl of macaroni salad in the other. Um, don't any of you out there be judging me, now. Uh-huh. You know who you are. At least macaroni salad has vegetables in it. (well... mine does, anyway) That's gotta be healthier than that tub of Duncan Hines fudge frosting, any day! Ha! ;~)
Anywhooo, I don't always have a quart of my homemade Sunday Gravy in the freezer, but I still get cravings for pasta with an Italian style tomato based sauce every now and then. So, when the need for a little fix of red sauce arises, I head to the freezer and pantry, grab the ingredients needed and I whip up a quick marinara or meat sauce. Today, I'm gonna share my Thick and Hearty Meat Sauce recipe, but for those of you who aren't big fans of meat sauces, I'll be posting the hubber's totally amazing marinara sauce recipe, some time in the not too distant future. ....it really is amazing.
Thick and Hearty Meat Sauce (for pasta)
- 1 Lb Meatloaf/Meatball Mix
- 1 28oz Can Crushed Tomatoes
- 1 14oz Can Diced Tomatoes
- 1 Med Green Bell Pepper, chopped
- 1 Med Yellow Onion, chopped
- 2-3 Cloves Fresh Garlic, minced
- 1/4 Cup Dry White Wine or Dry Vermouth
- 1/2 Tsp each Dried Oregano and Dried Basil
- 1 Tsp each Onion Powder and Garlic Powder
- Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Black Pepper
- Light Olive Oil
- Your favorite hearty pasta. (No wimpy spaghetti or angel hair with this sauce)
Roughly chop the bell peppers and onions and mince the garlic. If I have any carrots on hand, I'll add them in to give the sauce a touch of sweetness, but I chop them smaller than the onions and peppers. I'd recommend a fine dice, because they take a bit longer to cook and this isn't a long simmering sauce. As you can see, I didn't have any carrots this time. :~)
On occasion, I use ground beef alone if it's all I have on hand, but the meatloaf/meatball mix is so much better in this sauce. As far as I know, most major grocery stores carry some version of it, either in the meat case or at the butcher counter. It's usually a combination of beef, veal and pork, but you'll sometimes see a mix of just beef and pork, or just pork and veal. If you're dead set against veal, you can also substitute ground turkey. Try to find a 3 meat version if you can, but a 2 meat combo will work. If push comes to shove, you can also buy the three ground meats separately.
I try not to use vegetable oils anymore for a couple of reasons. 1) I prefer the slightly higher smoking point and the health benefits of olive oils. I save my good extra virgin olive oil as a "finishing oil" on pasta dishes, roasted vegetables and caprese salads, for example. 2) It's much too expensive and in many cases, too heavy for sauteing meat or making vinaigrette.
Plus, there's been a lot of bad press about vegetable oils and shortening lately. The short of it is that most vegetable and nut oils are chemically extracted (with things like petroleum solvent!!), they're hydrogenated (also chemically) and the seeds that they come from, are usually from genetically modified crops. Now, I'm not usually one to jump onto my soapbox here on the blog, but this is serious stuff and it's seriously affecting people's health.
In a large skillet, saute the green pepper and onion in a little light olive oil. When they're just starting to soften and become a little translucent, add in the minced garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
Add in the white wine or vermouth and bring it to a brisk simmer. Cook this until the liquid is reduced by 2/3 and slightly syrupy. (you can substitute beef or chicken stock if you wish to avoid the alcohol, but do keep in mind that when used in cooking, the alcohol itself evaporates during the reduction and leaves only the yummy flavor behind)
Remove the pepper, onion and garlic mixture to a small bowl and set it aside.
In the same pan, add the ground meat and cook over medium to medium high heat, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks.
You can cook this long enough to brown the meat if you'd like - it will definitely add flavor, but to be honest, I didn't feel like taking the extra time that night and well... we were hungry. lol
Add the peppers, onions and garlic back to the pan and stir well to combine.
Add in the can of crushed tomatoes and the can of diced tomatoes (with their liquid) and season with the oregano, basil, onion powder, garlic powder and salt and pepper. Give it a good stir to incorporate the seasoning.
Partially cover the pan and let the sauce cook over low heat for about 20 to 30 minutes, until it's nice and thick and the flavors have all married well. Taste for seasoning and add a bit more of anything you think is lacking, if needed. I added a pinch more salt to mine at this point.
While the sauce is simmering, start your pasta water. When it comes to a boil, salt the water liberally and add your pasta. Cook according to the package directions. As I stated up above in the recipe section, please don't use a skinny old pasta like spaghetti with this sauce. You really need a nice hearty noodle, like fettuccine (which is what I used here) tagliatelle, or my favorite pasta, EVER... pappardelle! Oh, how I love that stuff. It's actually a good thing that I have a hard time finding it in our local grocery stores, or I'd probably be cooking up a batch every night of the week! A hearty cut pasta like rigatoni or campanelle would work well, too.
|Mmmmm, mmmmm. We're talkin' serious comfort food....|
Serve your meat sauce over the pasta with a bit of freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese and...
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