In case you haven’t noticed by now, I love to eat. I don’t mind cooking, either, as long as it’s pretty darn simple to make. Pasta sauce is one of those mythical things that invokes images of old Italian ladies bent over gigantic pots, chopping and stirring and cackling quietly under their breath for days while the contents quietly turn into magic. It’s not just tomatoes and water, honey, it’s an ingredient list a mile long and in a language so old modern man cannot hope to grasp it. So if you want sauce and aren’t Italian (or don’t have a loving Italian person nearby), you do like I do: you go to the store.
Well, not so fast, buster! I have a pasta sauce recipe that may not make you open a chain to compete with Olive Garden, but it’s fast and easy and (dare I say it?) semi-homemade without requiring a daft blond woman to dress up in silly garb to make it.
Ready? Set? COOK!
David’s “I can’t believe it’s not homemade” Pasta Sauce
- Pasta, about 500 g (1 lb), your choice (I like rotini or farfalle)
- One jar of store-bought pasta sauce, your preferred brand and style, 750 g (26 fl. oz)
- Ground beef, about 500 g (1 lb), 90 or 95% fat-free
- Mushrooms, about 500 g (1 lb) or so, your preference
- Onion, medium, yellow or white
- Garlic, four or five medium cloves, to taste
- Vine-ripe tomatoes, three medium (or more, to taste)
- Olive oil, about 56 g (4 Tbsp)
- Unsalted butter, about 40 g (3 Tbsp)
- Dried Oregano, to taste
- Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- Garlic powder, to taste
- Chili powder, to taste
- Optional: Parmesan cheese
Add butter and oil to a large skillet. Dice onion, mince garlic, rough-chop mushrooms and add to pan. Sautée until onions start to caramelize and mushrooms shrink, or until you think everything looks good. Add ground beef to pan and turn the heat up to get everything sizzling. Brown the beef.
Start the pasta water and add the pasta to it when it’s boiling. There’s no need to salt the water, but you can do so if you are a traditionalist.
When the beef, onion, garlic, and mushrooms start to get nice and brown, pour in the pasta sauce. Add oregano, garlic powder, lots of pepper, and chili powder and stir, stir, stir for a few minutes. The pasta water should be ready by now, so add the pasta and cook it until it’s al dente.
Meanwhile, back at the skillet, roughly chop up the tomatoes and add them to the pan. There should be lots of liquid now, so let everything bubble merrily while the pasta cooks. When it’s done, drain the pasta. If the sauce looks ready and tastes great, then it’s ready. It should look like this:
(If you’re drooling, then you know you succeeded.)
Not much could be simpler here: put some pasta in a bowl, pour some sauce over it, sprinkle some cheese (or a lot of cheese), and go to town.
LET’S GET CRAZY
What’s that? You say you have lots of time on your hands? Great! Let’s get creative. Try adding some stewed tomatoes, or diced tomatoes, that are pre-seasoned. Add multiple kinds of mushrooms. How about finely-diced celery and carrots? They’d be mighty fine additions, in my opinion. Want to make it heartier still? Toss in some zucchini and summer squash. Maybe some bell pepper, too, for a little zing. Add a lot of chili powder to make it hot, then cool it down a notch with some sour cream. The options are endless…