When I saw the #WeekdaySupper theme for February was “red”, it didn’t take me long for me to think of a meat sauce with nice red tomatoes. I love to get creative with pasta and have it with sauces of many flavors and colors, but there’s nothing like a good hearty meat sauce. The catch: traditional Italian meat sauce relies on long simmering time to impart deep flavors. The #WeekdaySupper solution: combining quality tomatoes and beef along with a few additional flavor boosting ingredients.
Sure, there’s nothing like tomatoes off the vine in August. The next best thing in the midst of a snowy New England winter is a can of tomatoes packed with basil that gives you a whiff of summer when you open it! I like whole canned tomatoes for a long-simmering sauce, but for the weekday version, crushed tomatoes deliver flavor faster. I’m partial to San Marzano tomatoes, and have also used the 365 Organic Crushed Tomatoes from Whole Foods with good results. Combine those good tomatoes with some quality ground beef*–don’t go leaner than 85%, you need some fat content for flavor–and you have the foundation of a super-tasty sauce! The ingredient list is a bit long for a weekday meal, but most of the items are pantry items you can quickly add to the sauce in about 15 minutes of active cooking time.
|a little whiff of summer in a can!|
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 of a medium carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 or 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb or so 85% lean ground beef
1/2 tsp of garlic powder
salt to taste
1/2 cup chicken or beef stock (red wine can also work)
healthy pinch red pepper flakes
28 oz can crushed Tomatoes with basil
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp dried basil (use a full tsp or a bit more if you use tomatoes without basil added)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp aged balsamic vinegar
1 lb. short pasta shape–I used whole wheat elbows
Grated Parmesan cheese to serve at the table
Heat the olive oil in a medium pan. Add the onions, cook on medium heat until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, cook another few minutes, then stir in the garlic. Cook for another minute or so, then add the ground beef.
Break up the beef with a sturdy spoon, then sprinkle in the garlic powder and salt to taste. Stir the beef to combine with the onion mixture. Cook the beef until it is browned, stirring occasionally. This will take 5 minutes or so. Stir in the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.
After the broth has been mostly absorbed, stir in the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes have been mixed in well with the beef and onion mixture, stir in the rosemary, dried basil and tomato paste. For this quick cooking sauce, keep it going at a pretty vigorous simmer on medium heat. Stir in the balsamic vinegar about 5 minutes before you intend to serve the sauce.
Start boiling the water for pasta around the time you add the tomatoes, this will give the sauce about 20 minutes of simmering time. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. When the pasta is almost ready, reserve about 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Then drain the pasta, and gradually add the cooked pasta to the sauce, stirring it in as you go with a bit of the reserved water.
I like to serve the pasta with a green salad, such as this Tuscan Inspired Arugula Salad. Some folks like to eat salad first, but I prefer to have the pasta with the salad. So I plate the pasta to leave plenty of room for those good leafy greens, and serve. Pour a glass of your favorite Italian red wine and you’ve got a great meal!
Make sure to check out this week’s other easy #WeekdaySupper recipes!
Monday- Pescetarian Journal – Slow Cooker Kidney Bean Curry
Tuesday – The Dinner-Mom – Chicken Marbella
Thursday – Shockingly Delicious – French Bread Hawaiian Pizza
Friday – Yours And Mine Are Ours – Margherita Pizza with Cauliflower Crust
*Cooking Chat notes: Our approach to meat here is to limit the amount of meat we consume, which allows us to afford good quality when we do have it. I generally get my meat at Whole Foods, as I appreciate their standards of quality. I’m looking to stay away from animals raised with growth hormones, and prefer grass fed when possible.
I make a lot of meat sauce here, especially in the winter. I posted an earlier version of this recipe here, The #WeekdaySupper post gave me a chance to update the recipe with a shortened cooking time and a few other tweaks.