It’s All in the Sauce (and that ain’t no joke!)

23 Apr

One of the things that I have figured out how to make is meat sauce.  Not just any meat sauce but a good meat sauce.  One with lots of flavor, a thick consistency, and very delicious.  Now a few years ago if you asked me what kind of sauce I used when we ate pasta, I would have replied “whatever is on sale”.  Mostly because I could never find one that we all agreed that we liked.  At that time, the Hubs was taking a nutrition class.  He had to analyse his diet for a week.  It turns out we eat pretty good.  The one thing that was high was his salt intake.  We found that odd because we don’t use a lot of salt.  When he took a closer look, it was the jarred sauce that was throwing his numbers off.  

The idea of not eating meat sauce was never an option.  Spaghetti and meat sauce is staple meal in our house.  It is a meal that can easily be deconstructed to meet everyone’s needs.  It can be served in separate piles to the Ninja Hooligan to keep his foods separate.  If I keep the meat chunky, the Princess Hooligan will actually pick the meat out, wipe the sauce off of it, and then eat it.  The Hubs could have is more meat and less noodle and, well, I could do the opposite.

We decided to make this a challenge.  How could we still eat spaghetti & meat sauce on a regular basis and decrease the salt?  I have to say that we have come up with a pretty good homemade version.  Now, it is truly an art not a science.  We have no formal measurements and it never actually turns out the same way twice, but we love it and if fun to make.  

Our Meat Sauce Process:

In a skillet, add some olive oil and sweat some garlic (I like 5 cloves, the Hubs likes 1, we settled on 3) some onion, and any other veggies we have in the fridge (peppers, carrots, squash, zuchinni) and mash it up really good with a potato masher. —Thank you Jessica Seinfeld & Jamie Oliver for this idea!

Next add the ground meat.  We use beef.  I will post on another day what cuts we use and how we get our beef.  We choose not to use turkey because it typically has the same amount of fat if not more than beef.  Cook until brown.  Again, I use my potato masher on about half of it to get it nice and fine.  I leave the rest chunky so somebody will have pieces to pick out and wipe off before consuming.  Drain any residual fat.

I then mix in to the skillet a large can of crushed tomatoes, a can of tomato sauce, and a liberal amount of Italian seasoning, black pepper, and a dash of sea salt.   If I have any white wine or stock I also add it hear to give it some additional flavors.   I think Rachel Ray calls this adding depth?

I then let it simmer uncovered and wait for it to thicken up.  Tasting frequently for quality assurance, of course.

Over the years we have also created a list of things I am not allowed to add to the sauce:

  • ketchup- just because Alton Brown does it doesn’t mean it is actually a good idea
  • red wine- it makes a nasty color and the hooligans won’t eat it
  • mushrooms- makes it watery

I am sure there will be more things I will end up adding to the list, especially if other in the family realize how much veg I am adding to the sauce.  I have also seen or read quite a few recipes that involve simmering the sauce first and then adding the browned meat.  I have a hard enough time keeping up with the dishes as it is so I try to use as few pots and pans as possible for a meal.

Do you make your own sauce?  If so, please share your recipes and idea.  I am always looking for ways to alter it.


3 Responses to “It’s All in the Sauce (and that ain’t no joke!)”

  1. Nat April 24, 2012 at 9:57 AM #

    Sounds awesome. I’m with you on the no-red-wine bit. To me, red wine is only good on a several-hour sauce and even then only a little bit. If you’re going to try white wine, add it before the tomatoes and let it cook off for a minute or 2.

    You have to saute mushrooms for a while to get the moisture out, which is probably inconvenient for a weeknight sauce. This could be solved by using canned mushrooms, but not sure if your eaters would like them (your brother doesn’t).

    I recently discovered via a new marinara recipe that if you add the dried spices to the vegetables while they are sauteing, it punches up the flavor. My go-to recipe is a 30-min meatless tomato sauce (also using crushed tomatoes). I only make it for myself because, as you know, your brother won’t eat it.

    • Home Ec Reject April 24, 2012 at 10:15 AM #

      I will have to try adding the dried spices to the vegetables next time. Who knows, maybe going to town on them with the potato masher will add more flavor. Thanks for the tip.

  2. Patti Torrens April 24, 2012 at 2:46 PM #

    When I make sauce (no meat) I brown some onion, add fresh chopped tomatoes and fresh herbs from the garden . cook for maybe one hour then use my imersion blender on it. No need to peel or seed fresh tomatoes. Depending on the tomatoes I may add a dash of sugar, salt and several twists of the peppermil. The sugar cuts the acidity and salt brings out the flavor.

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