Sunday, September 1, 2013

Making Good Meat Sauce GREAT!!

Funny how Spaghetti seems like it is always on the favorites list for kids. The rich, sweet and savory tomato sauce with soft meat and then of course what kid doesn't like pasta?  Finish with a snow shower of Parmesan cheese and maybe a slice of garlic bread, molto bene!!!  

Well I have had this trick that I have been using for sometime now to pump up that meat sauce in the healthful way and not have the taste suffer in the least!  As a matter of fact I think it is quite the improvement. First of all, to make a really good meat sauce the first ingredient is time.  If you don't have at least 3 hours, don't bother!  I think that once you get all your layers in and going, it must simmer for a long time to soften the meat, develop the right flavors and reduce some to make a rich thick sauce.  Let me give you my recipe for a beautiful meat sauce.


2 tbsp oil
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
2 onions, diced
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs ground beef
1 lb ground veal
1 lb ground pork
1 cup milk
1 14 oz can of tomato paste
2 28 oz.  cans whole tomatoes, I like the Cento San Marzano tomatoes
1 + cups of chicken stock
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp pizza seasoning if you have it (just adds something)
1 tbsp sugar
3 bay leaves
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 bunch basil, chopped

Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed pot. I love my big Le Creuset pot . Add in carrots, celery, and half the onions.   Sprinkle a little pinch of salt and pepper, we are building flavors here. Saute for a couple minutes, just working on softening, then add the mushrooms and continue sauteing till everything is soft, we aren't looking for color.  This is the healthy veggies that we are sneaking in under the radar! 

Once softened, place in the blender and add the 2 cans of tomatoes, juices and all, and blend till smooth.  In the pot, if needed add a bit of oil, or to really keep it healthy a bit of the chicken stock and add the second half of the onions. Again a bit of salt to help that softening process. Cook for about 2 minutes then add the minced garlic all at medium high heat. Don't let your garlic burn, my rule of thumb is when you start smelling it, time to move on!  So now add all the meat and break it up with your wooden spoon or spatula. Continue cooking, moving it around often so as to evenly cook,  till the meat is completely browned. Now at this point you can pour off the accumulated fat. Personally this is not what I do, I feel like there is a lot of flavor that you can lose from the juices.  Add the cup of milk, stir well and reduce the heat to low. The milk contains lactic acid which serve to soften the meat even more. And heating at low allows the milk and juices you left to slowly absorb into the meat. Add the can of tomato paste and let it melt into the meat and cook into it a bit. 

Now you can add the blended tomato sauce, cup of chicken stock, and the spices, except for the basil.  Stir well to make sure everything is incorporated. Heat to bubbly and then turn down the heat to low, give one good stir and put the pot lid on, but with a corner exposed.  You don't want it covered, you are just trying to protect from splatter.  Simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally to make sure the sauce is not sticking to the bottom. you expect the sauce to thicken but if you think it is getting too thick, feel free to add some more chicken stock or water, 1/4 cup at a time. You don't want at watery sauce, it should be more of a gravy consistency.  
At the end (and I say at the end because it isn't till that point that all the flavors have had the opportunity to meld and develop fully) I taste and adjust my seasonings.  Tomatoes, even canned ones, can be sweeter or tarter at different times of the year so sometimes I will add an additional bit of tomato paste to pump up the tomatoey goodness, other times, it's salt and others, sugar is needed.  Once you are happy with the overall taste, toss in the fresh basil leaves and bring the heat up to medium so that the sauce will be at serving temperature and then serve over your favorite pasta, sprinkle with Parmesan and ENJOY!!!