July 29, 2007
Pasta With Meat Sauce
Some weeknights when I drag myself home, I am hungry enough to eat the first person in sight, but my fridge is empty, and only my pantry is stocked. If my little one and I discuss the options for dinner, it always ends up in pasta. Pasta is wholesome (mix regular white and whole wheat pasta and it's no worse than rotis or rice!!)and can be made and ate with minimum fuss. No grinding, no coconut, no rolling of rotis, no seasoning..A one pot dish.
Normally the sauce is made before hand and ready in the freezer or fridge on the weekend itself. Or I start with a jar of the simplest pasta sauce and customize it. It all depends on how much time there is before dinner. If I have 20 minutes, and pasta sauce ready, that's all it takes to prepare the entire dish. Making a good sauce is not difficult at all but needs a half hour (at least) or more(up to 1 2/2 hrs)which you may not have all the time.
A note on ready made pasta sauce:If you are buying pasta sauce, look for the one with the least amount of sodium (10% or less),and least amount of ingredients on the label. The lower the ingredients, the purer is the product. Go for one which says natural or organic and has no meat, no mushrooms, and no cream in it..all those add hardly any flavor and adds tonnes of calories. Try Trader Joe's Organic Marinara Pasta Sauce or Roasted Garlic Sauce which is the closest to home-made and has no aftertaste of preservatives.
Growing up, pasta was Bambino's macaroni and mom made tomato sauce. Then I saw the whole world of pasta shapes and names and recipes here and calling all of them macaroni seemed silly. It's like thinking all Indians look alike. Now the elbow macaroni is reserved for Mac N Cheese. I used to just buy by the shapes as the names eluded me..(just the faces stayed after the introduction)..but now over time, I got to know a couple of the common pastas..(some of them are our constant companions ):))Penne, Bowtie, Fusilli, Cavatappi, Rigatoni...and they are mostly welcome in my house any day.
Any shape which has ridges in it would work well with this chunky sauce.
For those who want to make the Meat Sauce from scratch:Serves 4
Olive oil -2 or 3 tbsp
Onion- 1 medium sized one
Celery stalk- 2
Lean minced Beef or veal-1/2 lb (1/4 Kg)
Ripe Red Tomatoes-4 medium ones or 1 lb (1/2 kg)
Salt - 3/4 tsp or to taste
Milk- 1/2 cup
Dried Parsley-1/4 tsp
Dried Thyme- 1/4 tsp (optional)
Fresh parsley- 1 handful
Black Pepper-1/4 tsp
Olive oil- 1 or 2 tbsp
Fresh Parsley-one handful
Parmesan Cheese- grated 1/4 cup
1. Chop the vegetables into small even sized dices. Wash the meat and let it drain. Chop the garlic or mince it. Chop the parsley finely after washing. Chop the tomatoes and puree them. If you have the time, cook them in boiling water for 5 minutes and when cool, remove the skin before pureeing. Else use 2 tbsp tomato paste and 1 can (16 ounce)of the whole or crushed tomatoes.
2. Heat the oil in a large deep heavy pot or nonstick deep pan. Saute the onions, celery, carrot, and garlic over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the meat and cook over moderately high heat, stirring and breaking up lumps, until no longer pink, about 6 minutes.
3. Stir in tomato paste, milk, 1 cup water and spices/herbs and gently simmer, covered, until sauce is thickened, 1/2 hr to an hour.(Keep checking to see if the sauce has thickened too much or not. Add water or meat broth if it sticks too much.) The sauce is ready when you see flecks of oil rising to the top of the sauce. Add salt, fresh parsley and pepper and remove from heat.
Sauce may be made 2 days ahead and cooled, uncovered, before chilling, covered. Frozen, it keeps for 1 month.
4. Making sauce from bottled pasta sauce: Heat 1 tbsp olive oil, add 2 cloves garlic and when it sizzles, add the meat and let it cook for about 6-7 minutes. Keep stirring to distribute the heat and when it starts looking brown, it is cooked. Optionally, add 1 cup chopped carrots and red/yellow peppers. Add the whole bottle of pasta sauce, 1 cup milk (or 1/2 cup half and half) and let it simmer for as much time as you have..15 minutes to 1 hr. The milk cuts the acidity of the ready made pasta sauce and makes it creamier. If you are using low fat milk, you will need more to get the same effect. 2-3 tbsp of grated Parmesan cheese can be added to the sauce for flavor at the end.
5. Making Pasta: Bring a big pot half full of water to a boil. Add salt and pasta. Cook for 8-11 minutes(or according to the package directions) till the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite. Drain the pasta. Toss the pasta with the oil to avoid it from getting too sticky. Some people like the sauce soaked into the pasta and some like it separate. So as per taste, either add it to the meat sauce just before serving or add it to the pot/pan and let it simmer on low heat for about 5-10 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with fresh finely chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.
Kalyn's Yummy Garden Tomato Sauce
Nabeela's Penne Strascicate
Another Favorite: Nabeela's Bell Pepper Pasta.. It uses roasted peppers pureed into a sauce and its an excellent way to get veggies in at the same time.