Saturday, February 8, 2014

Zesty Meat Sauce for Spaghetti & Pasta

recipe for tomato beef sauce
Spaghetti with meat sauce is a popular, family-pleasing dinner that is always hearty and comforting, but it's also nourishing and healthy when you make the sauce from scratch rather than pouring it out of a jar. Sure, homemade meat sauce takes a bit more time than opening a jar of mass-produced supermarket sauce. But most of the time is merely simmering time rather than hands-on kitchen work, and the superb flavor and peace of mind from knowing what's in the sauce make it worth the time.

My homemade meat sauce is not just for spaghetti of course: Use with any type of pasta including lasagna or stuffed shells, or in casseroles or other baked dishes calling for a tomato meat sauce, or with low-carb alternatives to wheat pasta like spaghetti squash as shown in the photo on the left. I used naturally lean grass-fed organic beef in my sauce, but you can use regular ground beef (be sure to drain off excess fat after browning). Instead of ground beef, you could substitute ground venison or other game meats (e.g., bison or buffalo, elk), ground pork, or a combination of ground meats. For additional variety of flavor, I've suggested alternatives to regular canned tomatoes and tomato paste.

My recipe easily serves 8 or more, and the leftover sauce will keep in your refrigerator for a few days. I bet it will freeze, too, although I haven't tried that. If you're a home canner, make a large batch to can for later use.

2 or 3 Tbs olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb lean ground beef
1 28oz can diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted for richer, smoky flavor)
1/2 cup red wine
1 Tbs tomato paste, sun-dried tomato paste OR paprika paste
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp (or to taste) crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

recipe for tomato meat sauce
Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add onions and saute until tender and translucent. Add garlic and saute for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Add ground meat and cook, stirring, until browned. **Note: If using fattier meat that renders a lot of grease, carefully pour off the excess fat before continuing with the recipe so that you don't end up with a greasy sauce.

Stir in all remaining ingredients except parsley. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally and adjusting heat to keep at a gentle simmer, for at least 1 hour or until ready to serve, whichever is longer. As long as you keep the pot on a low, gentle simmer, the sauce can continue to cook for a few hours -- you can also partially or fully cover the pot with a lid and reduce heat to low to keep the sauce from scorching if it's going to sit for several hours. Don't forget to stir from time to time. Before serving, stir in the parsley and taste for balance, then adjust seasonings to taste if necessary. Makes about 7 or 8 cups of meat sauce.

Zestfully yours,

PS:  If you want to spice things up, use a straightforward medium to hot savory pepper sauce at the table. Good choices would be Tabasco Sauce, Texas Pete, Busha Browne's Pukka Sauce, or Scorned Woman Hot Sauce.

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