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This is the time of year where freshly grown tomatoes are abundant. This past weekend, we stopped at a roadside market and bought 5 of them. One was quickly sliced and eaten, but I used two of them to make a spaghetti meat sauce for the delicious meal pictured below.



Spaghetti Meat Sauce

Ingredients:

1/2 lb ground meat (hamburger, turkey, chicken, or even pork are all fine choices--if using a ground poultry meat, add 2 tb olive oil)

2 ripe tomatoes, diced

8 oz mushrooms, sliced finely (I prefer baby bella, but button mushrooms are fine. If you hate mushrooms, you can omit them)

2-4 tb minced garlic (depending on how many vampires you want to keep at bay)

2 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried thyme*

5 sage leaves*

1 3-inch long sprig of rosemary*

4 basil leaves*

2 tsp onion powder OR half of one onion, diced (I hate the texture of onion but love the flavor)

2 tsp garlic salt

1 tsp pepper

1 jar Prego traditional tomato sauce (or the equivalent of any other brand, but make sure it's a traditional sauce or marinara, NOT a vodka sauce)

1/4 cup red wine

NOTE:

The herbs with * after them can be mixed up a little--if you're missing one, sub more of another that you prefer. Or you can substitute 2 tbs italian seasoning if you don't have any of them. If you don't have the fresh herb, you can sub 1 tsp of the dried version.

If you're using plain tomato sauce instead of sauce from a jar, double these herbs.


The first step is to cook the meat. Turn the stove to medium high, and dump the meat in. With ground hamburger or pork, you shouldn't need to add any olive oil, but you probably will with ground chicken or turkey. In these pictures, I used ground turkey, and I can promise that there was zero taste difference between turkey and the hamburger versions.

When more of the meat seems cooked than not cooked, that's when I add most of the ingredients--the garlic, all the herbs, the garlic salt and the pepper. However, if you are the sort that rinses the fat out of the meat (as often done with hamburger meat), wait until after you've rinsed it to add the herbs. Once the above ingredients are incorporated and the garlic is giving off that wonderful garlic smell, add the sliced mushrooms (again, if you hate mushrooms, just leave them out). Your pan should look something like this:



Now you get to add the fresh diced tomatoes. Don't worry--if it's not fresh tomato season, you can just substitute a 14.5 oz can of petite diced tomatoes here. But in the picture below, you can see how luscious and red the fresh tomatoes are. I didn't even touch up the color in the photo!



Mix the tomatoes in with the meat and let them simmer for a couple of minutes, just long enough to get them hot. Add the jar of sauce, and stir this in. You're almost done at this point.

If you appreciate the depth that wine can bring to almost any sauce, then now it's time for a large spash of red wine. Most red wines will do-- for cooking, I gravitate towards Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot because they're cheap and easy to find, and because I'm not ready to sacrifice my French wine collection of Burgundies, Bordeaux, and Anjous to cooking when cheaper wines work just as well. Some people would argue you should only use the best wine when you're cooking, but I've tried both approaches and there's no discernable difference. Those people probably don't have a normal grocery budget either.

If you're not like me and don't drink wine, then you'll be forced to leave it out and miss out on the added flavor--you should add 1/4 water or beef broth to make up for the lost liquid.



Now all you need to do is let this simmer, covered, on medium low for about 20 minutes (longer is better, but you will need to add some water or beef broth to keep the sauce from drying out). When you're about to serve, do a taste test--you may want to add more salt or pepper depending on your preferences.

Serve over the pasta of your choice (I used angel hair) and garnish with the cheese of your choice. I used sharp cheddar in the picture, but parmesan, provolone, or mozzarella are all equally good. This amount of meat sauce should serve 5-6. Finally, a spaghetti sauce recipe that doesn't leave you tons of leftover sauce to use up!

April 2014

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