Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Nothing brings my family more joy than to learn we are having spaghetti and meat sauce for dinner. It is comfort food to the extreme: warm, filling, and each bite tastier than the last. But this is no gratuitous plate of comfort food. This is a recipe made with complex flavors that will please children and adults alike and remind you just how good good food can be.

I first got the inspiration to craft a meat sauce in the middle of winter when I was craving something hearty and warm. And while it generally makes sense during the colder months, I have since made this dish in the middle of summer and enjoyed it just as much. I have also crafted a vegan version with white beans that is equally hearty and comforting, albeit slightly lighter.

I like to use the best quality ground beef I can find since I don’t eat it very often. In my spirit of moderation, red meat gets the fewest allotments, so I like to make it count. For me that means purchasing grass-fed beef from a local rancher at my farmers market, but there continue to be increasing options to find high-quality meat in more parts of the country and world. But, this is a no judgment blog so as long as you are happy with your ingredients, that’s all that matters.

Ingredients, serves 4-6

For the meat sauce

  • 1-2 tablespoons butter, oil, or coconut oil
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped (or some combination of shallot and onion that produces 1 1/2 cups of onion)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (if serving to children you can omit or be very sparing depending heat preference)
  • 3/4 cups red wine, split (I use Bogle Petit Syrah)
  • 1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • salt to taste

For the pasta

  • 1-2 lbs pasta depending on audience. Pasta shape is all about your preference. My family likes spaghetti, but linguine, shells, or any other shape works too. The meat sauce will go a long way and could be spread out over more pasta to serve more people. Cook the amount of pasta that is right for the number of people. If you are serving more than eight people, I suggest doubling the meat sauce
  • Grated parmesan, reggiano, or pecorino to sprinkle generously on top

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil / butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the shallots and onions and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 – 7 minutes. I like to add a little of my salt to the onions.
  2. When the onions are soft, add the garlic. But have the ground beef ready as you’ll only simmer the garlic for 1 minute
  3. Add the ground beef and salt generously with kosher salt. Sear a little on each side, then break up with your spoon or spatula. Cook the ground beef for 5-7 minutes, stirring and turning the meat so most of it has started to brown and there are minimal spots of pink meat.
  4. Once the meat has mostly started to brown, sprinkle in the oregano and red pepper flakes, if using.
  5. Add 1/2 cup of the red wine and stir gently. Let simmer for 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste, again stirring gently to combine. Bring everything to a boil then reduce the heat slightly and let simmer for at least 15 minutes.
  7. After 15 or so minutes, add the remaining 1/4 cup of red wine and the nutmeg. Taste and add salt as needed. Let it simmer again while you prepare the pasta.
  8. Cook and drain the pasta, returning it to the pot you cooked it in or another large pot.
  9. At this point, the sauce should have thickened and be ready to serve. Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss to spread the sauce around. Transfer to a serving bow or serve directly from the pot.
  10. Sprinkle each bowl of spaghetti with the grated cheese, and enjoy!
Oodles of Zoodles!

Oodles of Zoodles!

Zoodles took over our house last summer when zucchinis were abundant at the farmers’ markets, and a beloved house guest gifted us our first spiralizer. The spiralizer was surprisingly easy to use, and once we got the hang of it, we were making zoodles in about 15 minutes.

Zoodles, or zucchini spiralized into noodles, are amazingly versatile. They will take on whatever flavors you decide to impart on them; we’ve done several variations of an italian-inspired tomato sauce, a zoodle pad thai, and even just a simple veggie, onion, and herb recipe with a fried egg. Once you get the basics down, you can experiment and find your favorites.

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I start with 2-3 zucchinis per person, more or less depending on the specific people I’m cooking for.

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Using my spiralizer, I magically turn my zucchini into long, noodle-like strands. They are so long I use my chef’s knife to cut them into still long but more manageable pieces. Creating the zoodles leaves behind the inner core of the zucchini, what we call zucchini bolts in my house. The kids love these bolts and their novelty makes them a handy and healthy snack for hungry kids while dinner is being made.

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Then it’s time to saute the zoodles. I heat my large saute pan with olive or coconut oil, and usually add onions or shallots to start. Then I add my zoodles, in batches if needed, being sure to toss the zoodles with the oil and onions. Season with salt to taste. Zoodles cook really quickly, and I find less is more when cooking zoodles. I find 3-5 minutes is all I need to get them warm and flavorful; any longer and they start getting soggy. When they are done the zoodles will have turned slightly translucent.

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When done, top with your favorite sauce and enjoy!

Farmers’ Market Sunday Dinner

Farmers’ Market Sunday Dinner

There is nothing like having a full and satisfying Sunday, filled with something fun and something outdoors, but not so busy that there isn’t a moment to breathe and rest for a little bit too. And then following up the fun-fulled day with a hearty and wholesome meal. Yesterday we had such a day. We started the day with a run – the longest run we had done in a while so it was both daunting, exhilarating, and tiring – and then came home to make homemade pizza. Then there were various activities, including a trip to the driving range, a nap, and some writing. And before we knew it, it was time for dinner!

Dinner was an especially festive occasion because my mom was here. That coupled with the sense of satisfaction we all had from a day well lived (and the wine we opened), gave the meal a merry mood. Halfway through the meal I realized it was almost entirely a Farmer’s Market meal: everything except one or two small ingredients had come from the Farmers’ Market the day before.

Menu:

  • Whole pasture-raised chicken from Fogline Farm
  • Potatoes from Windmill Farm
  • Salad with lettuce, golden nuggets, avocado, and sunflower seeds from various other farm vendors
  • Wildhorse Pinot Noir wine

Needless to say it satisfied our hearts and our hunger.

For the chicken

  • one 2-4 lb whole chicken
  • salt
  • optional herb such as thyme or rosemary
  • butcher twine to truss

My favorite roast chicken recipe comes from Thomas Keller and it is amazingly simple and so delicious. The hardest part is trussing the chicken, but some chickens come already trussed so you practically just put it in the oven.

To prepare, pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. To get the best, crispiest skin you’ll want the chicken to be dry so pat it down with a paper towel. I don’t rinse my chickens anymore as that just spreads germs around your sink and kitchen, and rinsing won’t do anything cooking the chicken won’t. Then you’ll want to truss your chicken if it didn’t already come that way. I have made this recipe without trussing and it will still be delicious. But it will cook more evenly and be less likely to dry out if you truss. If you need to truss and haven’t before your best bet is to watch a youtube video to learn.

Once the chicken is trussed (or not), it’s time to salt your chicken. This is the key to this delicious chicken. If you are usually reserved in your salting approach, don’t be shy and step it up for this recipe. You’ll want to shower salt over it so a nice coating develops. If you’re more into precise measurements you’ll want to use about 1 tablespoon of salt. Once it cooks, you’ll be left with the tastiest, crispiest skin ever and the meat will have just the right amount of seasoning too.

Then just put it in your oven. I like to cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil to make for easier cleanup. In our oven the chicken is done after about 45 minutes, but it could take as long as 50 or 60 minutes so check yours with a meat thermometer. At 165 degrees your bird is done.

When it’s done, you can add your optional herb and baste it with any of the delicious chicken juice that has collected at the bottom of your pan. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes then carve it up!

For the potatoes

  • 1-2 lbs farm fresh potatoes
  • olive oil
  • sea salt

To prepare, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Then rinse and scrub your potatoes to get any lingering dirt off them. Slice them into 1/2 inch rounds and toss them in a bowl with a little olive oil and sea salt. Then you’re ready to put them on your baking sheet and put them in the oven. They will take 30-40 minutes to cook depending on how big your rounds are. I like to check them halfway through and toss them so they cook evenly and don’t stick to my baking sheet. When you can pierce them easily with a fork they are done. Add some of the leftover thyme or rosemary from your chicken.

For the salad

  • one bunch red leaf lettuce
  • one large golden nugget (or other mandarin orange)
  • one medium avocado
  • optional: sunflower seeds and/or dried cranberries
  • olive oil, one lemon, and Bragg liquid aminos for the dressing
  • salt to taste

To prepare, wash and dry your lettuce and put in salad bowl. Open, cut, and add your golden nugget and avocado, and sprinkle with sunflower seeds and/or dried cranberries if desired. I am pretty loose with my dressings and rarely make them to any specific measurement. I also love the acid flavor in vinegar and lemon and will put way more than any traditional recipe will call for. For this dressing I used about 1/4 cup of olive oil, juice from one whole lemon, and 5-6 sprays from Bragg liquid aminos, put all those ingredients into a small jar with a lid and shook them up. If you’re not so bold with your acid ratios, you might prefer 2 tbs of lemon juice instead as a start and add a little more until you find the taste that suits you well. Pour your dressing over your salad, add some salt, toss, and you’re good to go.

What is this Bragg liquid aminos you may be asking? It is a soy alternative seasoning and it is delicious (if you like soy-like flavors). I get it at my local health food store but honestly don’t know how common it is. If you don’t have it, can’t find it, or don’t really care to get some random ingredient, no problem! Lemon and olive oil and a little salt will be a perfectly delicious, simple, and satisfying dressing to this citrus oriented salad.

So that was our Sunday dinner. The meal comes together pretty easily since most of the prep time is spent waiting for the chicken and potatoes to cook, the perfect time to make your salad, open some wine, and enjoy your company. Then you can sit back and bask in the pleasure that comes from living a great day.