My go-to meal

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I think it’s important to have a fall-back meal. The meal that you always have the ingredients for on-hand. Inexpensive, filling, and versatile. For me, that meal is pasta with red sauce. I always have pasta–several different styles.  The same goes with canned tomatoes. I prefer to use crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and no-salt-added tomato sauce. What else do you need? Well, the mood and level of commitment you are feeling has a direct correlation to the outcome of your sauce. It can be good, solid sauce–or with a couple extra ingredients and a couple hours, you can take it to exceptional.

Henry and I have been putting off Christmas all week. We got our shopping done, put left the presents in piles on the floor. We got a tree, but didn’t decorate it. There’s a lot of pressure surrounding the holidays, especially for me, and putting off preparing and watching Food Network seemed like the better choice. Until the Food Network started airing Christmas specials. Then I couldn’t avoid Christmas any longer.

These were the circumstances from whence this pasta sauce was born. I don’t think I’ve ever typed the word “whence” before. Anyway, after trimming the tree, wrapping presents, and cleaning, I just didn’t feel like cooking.  But a pasta sauce, once you do the prep work, simmers and cooks itself. It’s basically a hands off endeavor if you do the prep. So here’s what I came up with:

Ingredients:

  • 1 20 (I think it was 20) ounce can of crushed tomatoes. I always make sure to get the least salty. Especially when you’re putting several cans of salted food into your sauce, there is no way you can control the flavor or salinity. So it’s super important to read the labels and get no-salt-added if you can.
  • 1 small can of tomato paste and 1 small can of no-salt-added tomato sauce.
  • 1 can of fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 cups of red wine
  • 1.5 pounds of browned hamburger
  • salt and pepper
  • oregano, basil, crushed red chili peppers
  • 1 cup or so of water
  • 1 tablespoon or so of sugar

Method: Brown the meat and drain it. Add the onions and garlic and spices and saute until the onions are soft and the garlic is fragrant.Add the tomato paste and cook for a few minutes.  This caramelizes the paste and gives a big depth of flavor. Add the tomato sauce and simmer briefly. Then add the wine and let that boil off.  Then add the rest of the tomato product, water, sugar, simmer for another five minutes and then adjust for salt.  I simmered this for two hours and let it deepen in color and reduce.

To go with the sauce, I boiled some whole wheat shells and made some garlic bread.  It was the perfect meal for a couple of Christmas procrastinators to eat while watching Scrubs.

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