Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mom's Spaghetti and Meat Sauce

September has been a brutal month. No dates and barely enough time for any fun cooking projects or lavish meals. Such is the end of a quarter for a political fundraiser.

Naturally, I have managed to developed a cold and a minor stress related disorder. What better to soothe the nerves and enjoy my bundled up couch time than to make up a pot of my favorite meal - my mothers' spaghetti and meat sauce. This is a rich, simple meat marinara dish that is hearty and comforting. I pull out my le creusette pot about once a month and make a huge batch.

It took me until I entered college to realize my mom made hers with a spice packet from McCormicks - a minorly depressing realization. I use fresh and/or dried herbs that I regulate in my version of this meal. Mom also makes hers much more saucy than i normally choose to, although I vary mine depending on the noodle I am pairing it with. Sometimes mine is pretty close to chili!
  • 1 large onion (I vary the type i use and the cut of the onion. I think my favorite is a very small dice on a yellon onion)
  • 1 green pepper (finely diced)
  • Mushrooms, about two large handfuls- optional. I typically use your typical run of the mill mushrooms and chop them up coursely.
  • 1-2 cloves garlic - pressed or finely chopped
  • 1 pound (or a little less depending on your preference for chunky-ness) ground sirloin. I try to find the 90% lean/10%fat one as its a little richer. (my mom uses Ground Chuck or Ground Round, but i can't bring myself to use it ... i must say her sauce is a lot richer than mine and i'm pretty sure this is the reason)
  • 1 and 1/2 can tomato sauce
  • Aprox 1/2 to 1 cup heavy red wine (zinfindel or cabernet)
  • 1 tbs butter
  • Red chili flakes if you want a little heat
  • Fresh or dried Basil, Oregano and Bay Leaf
  • Fresh Parsley - chopped for taste and garnish
  • 1 package spaghetti noodles (or other substantial noodles of your choice. Note that this sauce needs something more substantial than capellini or angel hair)
I use a le crusette pot because i like to simmer the sauce for a good long time and the cast iron heats it thoroughly. Really any large sauce pan will work though.

  1. Cook Pasta - reserve a little of the pasta water. Cook ground sirloin on medium-high heat, constantly stirring and separating so you get nice crumbles. Cook until you don't see anymore pink meat and immediately take off the stove. Remove meat from pot and set aside.
  2. In the same pot (keep drippings) add butter and melt. Add pressed garlic and cook, stirring, for a minute. Add chopped onions and green peppers and cook over moderately high heat until the peppers start to look a little opaque. About 7 minutes.
  3. Add the mushrooms and cook down until they have released their juices and look pretty thoroughly cooked. About 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add in red wine and stir so the vegies are saturated. Return meat to the pot.
  5. Stir in tomato sauce. Add more red wine or some of the pasta water if you would like a more saucy sauce. Add the bay leaf.
  6. Season with basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for just about as long as you want it. the longer it cooks the richer it will be. My suggestion is an hour. Stir frequently.
Serve with fresh parmesan and chopped parsley.

Mmmmm comfort food.

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